Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

US Secretary of state Visit to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CAATSA

Mains level: Paper 2- India-U.S. relations

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo makes his way to India next week, exactly a week before the election. This article discusses the various aspects that could form the part of the discussion.

Difference in U.S’s and India’s position on Quad

  • He has stated that meeting in India “would include discussions about how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.
  • Just a few weeks ago, at the Quad Foreign Ministers meeting, U.S. Secretary of State had called for collaboration to protect people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.
  •  In contrast, India has maintained that its membership of the Quad is aligned to its Indo-Pacific policy, and by no means directed against any country.
  • While Chines aggression is changing India’s priorities, any shift in India’s position on the Quad at the U.S.’s prompting must also benefit India.

What should be the part of U.S.-India collaboration

  • It is critical to study just how India hopes to collaborate with the U.S. on the challenge that Beijing poses on each of India’s three fronts: at the LAC, in the maritime sphere, and in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region surrounding India.
  • On the maritime sphere, discussions will include strengthening ties in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing joint military exercises like the ‘Malabar’ and completing the last of the “foundational agreements” with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA).
  • In Male, the U.S. has announced a defence agreement that will pave the way for a strategic dialogue.
  • And unlike in the past, India has not objected this agreement with Male for entering in its area of influence in the Indian Ocean Region, as it will allow the U.S. to counter Chinese influence there.
  • With Sri Lanka the U.S. is in discussions on infrastructure projects, and progress on its “Millenium Challenge Corporation” (MCC) offer of a five-year aid grant of about $480 million.
  • At a time when India is delaying Sri Lanka’s requests for debt relief, given its own economic constraints, the U.S. aid offer will be seen as one way of staving off China’s inroads into Sri Lanka.
  • Most important will be how the U.S. and India can collaborate on dealing with India’s most immediate, continental challenge from China: at the LAC.
  • Apart from enhancing and expediting U.S. defence sales to India, there is must the U.S. could promise to India.
  • The U.S. must also commit to keeping the pressure on Pakistan on terrorism, despite the U.S. need for Pakistan’s assistance in Afghan-Taliban talks.
  • A firm U.S. statement in this regard may also disperse the pressure the Indian military faces in planning for a “two-front” conflict with China.

Resolving other key issues with the U.S.

  • Resolution of Trade issues, an area the Trump administration has been particularly tough, and restoration of India’s Generalised System of Preferences status for exporters should also be priority.
  • The government could press for more cooperation on 5G technology sharing, or an assurance that its S-400 missile system purchase from Russia will receive an exemption from CAATSA sanctions.


By inviting Secretary of State this close to the U.S. elections, New Delhi has taken a calculated and bold gamble, however, our leaders must drive a harder bargain to consolidate the pay-offs from the visit.

Back2Basics: What is CAATSA?

  • The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is a U.S. federal law that imposes economic sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.
  • The bill came into effect on August 2, 2017, with the intention of countering perceived aggressions against the U.S. government by foreign powers.
  • It accomplishes this goal by preventing U.S. companies from doing business with sanctioned entities.

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