Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Reappraising India-US: Defence cooperation


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FMS scheme, foundational agreements, “2+2” dialogues, etc.

Mains level: The positive outcomes of the long standing Indo-US relationship and future expectations of India from the US.


Concern for India

  1. For India it is the emerging Moscow-Beijing axis and Russia’s courtship of Pakistan that should ring alarm bells
  2. Given that nations have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests, it is perhaps time for us to consider an agonising policy reappraisal

The US was acted at the right time

  1. After the cold war, the US, with an excellent sense of timing, reached out with proposals for military-to-military cooperation in 1991
  2. The Indian Navy, keen to shed its isolation, initiated the first Indo-US naval exercises to be named “Malabar” in May 1992
  3. The professional respect and bonhomie generated by a quarter century of naval engagement has acted as a catalyst in Indo-US relations

Other positive outcomes of the Indo-US relationship

  1. The unprecedented US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which followed in 2008, accorded India the “de facto” status of a nuclear weapon state without signing the Non Proliferation Treaty
  2. In 2016, India was accorded the status of Major Defence Partner by the US Congress
  3. The 2004 Agreement on Next Steps in Strategic Partnership was followed by a Defence Framework Agreement in 2005 and the 2012 Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), envisaging the transfer of advanced technologies to India
  4. The DTTI has, however, made little actual progress because of divergent objectives
  5. While India seeks technology, the US remains focused on trade

The issue of “foundational agreement”

  1. A major impediment in the Indo-US defence relationship has been India’s reluctance to sign the “foundational agreements” required by the US to enhance defence ties
  2. A delay in signing these will deprive India of high-tech equipment that should accompany US hardware, and prevent the sharing of useful geospatial information between the two militaries

The Chinese way of containing India

  1. China, with five times India’s GDP, is surging ahead to attain economic, military and technological parity with the US
  2. Aiming to be Asia’s sole hegemon, China has armed Pakistan and enlisted it as a surrogate, thereby containing India within a South Asian “box”

Issue of defence industrial base

  1. India’s military, in terms of size, capability and professionalism, is no doubt third or fourth in the world pecking order
  2. However, one would hesitate to call it as the “world’s greatest” because it lacks a military-industrial support base and is abjectly dependent on imported weaponry

Recent step taken by India and the US: “2+2” dialogue

  1. In order to elevate the Indo-US relationship to a strategic level and resolve many outstanding bilateral issues, Trump and Modi had agreed to establish a “2+2” dialogue between the respective defence and foreign ministers
  2. As and when the “2+2” dialogue does take place, the Indian side would do well to remind their US interlocutors that in the past three decades the USSR and Russia have, amongst other items, leased two nuclear submarines, sold an aircraft-carrier, and transferred technology for a supersonic cruise missile to India
  3. So, if the US is to deliver on tall promises, some serious re-thinking may be required on Capitol Hill
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