Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Unfurling India’s foreign policy concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Impact of the next U.S. President's policies on India's two major concerns

The article analyses two major concerns of India which would be influenced by the policies adopted by the next U.S. President. 

Concern for India

  • What policy President-elect Joe Biden will adopt in its foreign policy will has bearing on India.
  • There are two foreign policy issues which are of great concern and interest — China and Iran in that order.
  • For the world, the equation between the United States and China may be the relationship of the greatest consequence.
  • For India, the most consequential relationship is not with the U.S. — as is sometimes claimed — but one with China.
  • What happens in greater West Asia will always remain of concern, but those interests will not be affected one way or the other by who is the President of the U.S.

Quad dynamics and China

  • In the Trump years, India signed all the ‘foundational’ agreements with America.
  • India also bought billions of dollars worth of military hardware from them.
  • India resisted converting the Quad into a primarily military or strategic grouping, and is in fact aimed solely at containing China.
  • The Quad is an anti-China coalition.
  • How far it can be successful in containing the Dragon remains to be seen.
  • India’s External Affairs Minister has stated, India will not join any military alliance.
  • However, given the fact that all the other three, and perhaps five or six in future, are already in strategic alliance with one another and with the U.S., it is highly likely that India too will be forced to agree to some form of military alliance at a future date.
  • But no external power would want to get involved on our side in case of major hostilities with China.
  • On the other hand, if there is a major skirmish or worse in the South China Sea, the other members of the Quad will expect us to join them in fighting China, in an area far removed from our shores.

Approach towards China

  • If Mr. Biden adopts a more conciliatory approach towards China, India may find ourselves in a difficult situation.
  • We do not want China to be permanently hostile to us; it will absorb huge resources, human and material.
  • The strong rhetoric employed in relation to China will need to be tempered.
  • Public opinion which has been worked up against China may make it difficult to do so immediately but the government is efficient in managing and moulding public opinion.

Approach toward Iran

  • It may be difficult for Mr. Biden to quickly reverse Mr. Trump’s adventurist policy towards Iran.
  • It may not be possible for him given the domestic compulsions, to readopt JCPOA in its original form.
  • But he will surely, if slowly, engage Tehran in talks and negotiations through Oman or some other intermediary, to reduce tensions in the region.
  • India may be able to buy Iranian oil, and sell our pharma and other goods to that country.
  • The government may also feel less constrained in investing openly in oil and other infra projects in Iran, including the rail project in which Indian Railways Construction Ltd has been interested.


While India can’t expect the reversal of all Trump era policies, there will be certain changes in the stance adopted by the new U.S. President and India should be prepared to deal with it.

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