Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Strengthening U.S.-India Defence Partnership: A Path Towards Greater Cooperation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India-U.S. relations and latest developments, ICET, I2U2 etc

Mains level: India-U.S. relationship and Growing cooperation and Indo pacific imperative


Central Idea

  • The recent visit of United States Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, to India has bolstered the already robust relationship between the two countries. This visit, focused on technological innovation and military cooperation, marks a significant step forward in the bilateral defence partnership.

Significance of the visit

  • Strengthening Defence Partnership: The visit reinforces the already strong defence partnership between the United States and India. It demonstrates the commitment of both nations to deepen cooperation and collaboration in critical defence domains.
  • Defence Industrial Cooperation: The establishment of a road map for defence industrial cooperation is a significant outcome of the visit. It aims to enhance defence manufacturing in India through technological collaboration, aligning with India’s self-reliance mission and reducing import dependence.
  • Technology Sharing: India’s recognition as a “Major Defence Partner” of the United States, along with the signing of foundational agreements, allows for increased technology sharing between the two countries. This facilitates the exchange of sensitive technologies without India becoming a formal ally, fostering greater collaboration and advancement in defence capabilities.
  • Indo-Pacific Focus: The discussions during the visit highlight the strategic importance of the U.S.-India defence partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. Both nations share concerns over China’s assertive actions, and the visit underscores their commitment to address shared security challenges and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • Space Sector Cooperation: The launch of the Indus-X initiative and the existing Space Situational Awareness arrangement strengthen cooperation in the space sector. These initiatives enhance information-sharing, collaboration, and innovation in space-related technologies between the United States and India.
  • Economic Impact: The visit emphasizes broader industrial cooperation between Indian and U.S. companies in the defence sector. It highlights the significant investments made by American companies in India and the U.S. government’s support for India’s defence modernization.

Facts for prelims

Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET)

  • Launched by PM Modi and President Joe Biden: The ICET initiative was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden in May 2022.
  • Goal to elevate and expand Indo-US Partnership: Strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries.
  • Directly monitored by PMO and White house: The Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi and the White House in Washington will oversee and direct the ICET.
  • Six focus areas of co-development and co-production: Strengthening innovation ecosystems, defence innovation and technology cooperation, resilient semiconductor supply chains, space, STEM talent, and next generation telecom


Outcomes of the visit

  • Road Map for Defence Industrial Cooperation: One of the major outcomes of the visit was the establishment of a road map for defence industrial cooperation. This road map aims to boost defence manufacturing in India through greater technological collaboration between the two nations. It outlines specific measures and initiatives to expedite co-development and co-production projects, fostering stronger connections between the defence sectors of India and the United States.
  • Launch of the Indus-X Initiative: The visit witnessed the launch of the Indus-X initiative, which provides a new impetus to defence innovation engagement between the two countries. Building upon the existing bilateral Space Situational Awareness arrangement, the Indus-X initiative enhances information-sharing and cooperation in the space sector. It sets the stage for collaborative advancements and joint initiatives in space-related technologies.
  • Strengthened Defence Partnership: The visit further solidified the U.S.-India defence partnership, emphasizing the “Major Defence Partner” status of India. This recognition allows for increased technology sharing and more frequent cooperation between the two countries. It reflects the trust and confidence placed in India and strengthens the foundation for deeper collaboration in the future.
  • Indo-Pacific Security Cooperation: Discussions during the visit reaffirmed the strategic importance of the U.S.-India defence partnership in addressing common security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries recognize the shared concerns regarding China’s assertive actions and aim to work together to ensure a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific. The visit underscores their commitment to strengthening security cooperation in the region.
  • Advancement in Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI): The visit injected new momentum into the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which aims to enhance co-production and co-development in the defence sector. The elevation of the India-U.S. strategic partnership through the iCET (Critical and Emerging Technology) agreement has been instrumental in revitalizing the DTTI and providing specific momentum to collaborative efforts in the defence industry.
  • Preparation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State Visit: The visit of the U.S. Defence Secretary set the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming state visit to the United States. It paved the way for potential major announcements and agreements, especially in the area of defence cooperation, further strengthening the partnership between the two nations.

What is The Indo-Pacific Imperative?

The Indo-Pacific imperative refers to the shared interests and concerns of India and the United States in the region, particularly regarding regional security challenges, economic connectivity, and freedom of navigation.

  • Common Threats: Both India and the United States recognize the challenges posed by China’s assertive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. The combined threat assessments by both countries point to China as a common and conspicuous challenge. This includes China’s expanding military capabilities, including its growing naval presence and subsurface activities in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • Regional Security Cooperation: The discussions during the visit focused on countering coercive actions by China and addressing other regional security concerns, such as Russia’s aggressive actions and transnational issues like terrorism and climate change.
  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific: India and the United States share a vision of a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. They are committed to upholding the principles of freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for international law.
  • Regional Cooperation Mechanisms: The U.S.-India defence partnership serves as a crucial pillar in various regional cooperation mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific. Through bilateral and multilateral engagements, including the Quad (comprising the United States, India, Japan, and Australia), India and the United States aim to enhance coordination, interoperability, and capacity-building efforts to address regional challenges effectively.
  • Counterbalance to China: As China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific grows, the U.S.-India defence partnership plays a significant role in providing a counterbalance to China’s assertiveness. By strengthening cooperation, sharing information, and developing shared capabilities, India and the United States can collectively address common security challenges and maintain regional stability.



  • The visit of the U.S. Defence Secretary to India and the impending state visit of PM to the United States lay a strong foundation for an enduring U.S.-India defence partnership. The potential future prospects encompass various aspects, including enhanced defence cooperation, technological advancements, regional security collaborations, and the strengthening of defence industry partnerships. These prospects herald a promising future for two nations committed to forging a robust and mutually beneficial relationship.

Also read:

India-U.S. relationship: Critical Next Six Months


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