Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] India and the U.S. — it’s complicated


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 2+2 talks

Mains level: India-US partnership in recent years


2 + 2 dialogue

  1. The first round of the India-U.S. 2+2 talks at the level of External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister of India and their counterparts Secretary of State and Defence Secretary of the US is scheduled for September 6 in Delhi
  2. It appears perfectly logical when seen against the two-decade-old trend line of India-U.S. relations
  3. The trend line has not been smooth but the trajectory definitively reflects a growing strategic engagement

Strategic convergence between India & the US

  1. The end of the Cold War provided an opportunity to both countries to review their relationship in the light of changing global and regional realities
  2. With the opening of the Indian economy, the American private sector began to look at India with greater interest
  3. Another factor is the political coming of age of the three-million-strong Indian diaspora

Defense dialogues & cooperation

  1. The defence dialogue began in 1995 with the setting up of the Defence Policy Group at the level of the Defence Secretary and his Pentagon counterpart and three Steering Groups to develop exchanges between the Services
  2. The strategic dialogue covering nuclear issues shifted gears following the nuclear tests of 1998 and imposition of sanctions by the U.S.
  3. A decade later, this was formalised and enlarged into the India-U.S. Defence Framework Agreement which was renewed for 10 years in 2015
  4. Today, the U.S. is the country with which India undertakes the largest number of military exercises which have gradually evolved in scale and complexity
  5. In 2016, India was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ country
  6. Another step forward in the middle of this year was the inclusion of India in the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) category, putting it on a par with allies in terms of technology access

Foundational agreements remain a challenge

  1. Acquiring U.S. high technology comes with its own set of obligations in terms of ensuring its security
  2. These take the form of various undertakings often described as foundational agreements
  3. The first of these was GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement) which India signed in 2002
  4. The other three related to logistics support, communications compatibility and security, and exchanges of geospatial information
  5. Now the India-specific Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) is likely to be signed
  6. It makes it possible to install high-end secure communication equipment on U.S. platforms that we have been acquiring

Further challenges

  • The first is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) enacted last year which enables the U.S. government to sanction countries that engage in ‘significant transactions’ with Russian military and intelligence entities
  1. The proposed purchase of the S-400 missile defence system would attract CAATSA sanctions
  2. A waiver provision has now been introduced to cover India, Indonesia and VietnamIt requires certification by the U.S. that the country concerned is gradually reducing its dependency on Russian equipment and cooperating with the U.S. on critical security issues
  3. Indian concerns on this need to be addressed
  • The second relates to U.S. sanctions on Iran after its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal
  1. Iranian crude imports have grown significantly in recent years and India also stepped up its involvement in developing Chabahar port
  2. The port provides connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia
  3. The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act (2012) contains a waiver provision in case of activities for reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan, which is a U.S. priority too

Way Forward

  1. Creative thinking will be needed in the 2+2 dialogue to overcome these challenges
  2. In order to realise the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region (2015), both countries will have to nurture the habit of talking and working together to diminish some of the prickliness in the partnership
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