India US Relation
About India-US Relations
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNCERTAIN
Trump’s election brought uncertainties for India. Given the investment it has made in the U.S. relationship, the Modi government reached out swiftly to the president-elect and his transition team. It has since kept up that outreach, including with three phone calls between Modi and Trump.
On visits to the United States, the Indian finance minister, petroleum and natural gas minister, national security advisor, and foreign and commerce secretaries have met their counterparts, as well as the secretaries of commerce, defense, homeland security, and state. U.S. national security advisor H.R. McMaster, in turn, has traveled to India. In addition, Congressional engagement has been more of a priority. Indian officials have been meeting regularly with members of Congress, particularly those in leadership positions, and welcoming delegations of members and staffers to Delhi.
Working-level cooperation has continued in a number of spheres. And while a number of India-related positions await nominees, the appointment of Lisa Curtis as senior director at the National Security Council and the potential nomination of Kenneth Juster as ambassador to India—both familiar faces, who know the region—are welcome in Delhi.
Nonetheless, in the absence of a crisis or of Indian relevance to key immediate U.S. concerns (North Korea, Syria) or of a cabinet member with a keen interest in India, it has largely been off Washington’s radar. When the country has been in the American spotlight, the attention has been of the unwanted kind: related to attacks against Indians, criticisms from Trump himself over climate issues, or reports on the president’s businesses in India. There has been some sense of relief that the country has been missing from presidential tweets, but being missing from the priority list is problematic.Eliminating the hesitations of history, India and the United States have built a strong and strategic bilateral relationship and continues to contribute the stability and prosperity of the world. The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru likened American Imperialism to that of British. He propounded and propagated the Non-Alignment Principle whereby India refused to join either the capitalistic US or the communist Soviet Union.
India’s socialistic economic principles and deep scepticism to the US hegemony resulted in its predilections towards USSR much to the ire of the West. As the ideological Cold War ended after a myriad of international convergences and divergences, India was forced to look West given the paradigm shift in the geopolitics of the world and in Francis Fukuyama’s words “End of History”. Today both India and US are among the most vibrant foreign cohorts and strategic partners.
India-USA: History of Relations
The birth of Indian Republic was accompanied by Pakistan’s occupation of Kashmir. Nehru’s efforts to garner support from the international community was fruitless.
India declined the American offer to accept a seat at the United Nations Security Council and rather pushed for the membership of the People’s Republic of China which it has immediately recognized as a sovereign nation.
In the year 1950, India abstained from a US-sponsored resolution calling for UN’s military involvement in the Korean War. India even voted against UN forces crossing the 38th Parallel and naming China as an aggressor.
1955: Pakistan officially aligned with the United States via the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CEATO) also known as Baghdad Pact. Meanwhile, India, being the chief proponent of Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), held the first Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, Indonesia.
The rogue state of Pakistan became an important ally to the US in the containment of the Soviet Union, giving rise to strategic complications with India.
In the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the US extended help to India against China’s belligerence by sending an American carrier- The Enterprise- to the Bay of Bengal. China, however, had declared unilateral ceasefire the next day. Indian leaders and public welcomed American intervention.
1966: In response to India’s criticism of the US intervention in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson restricted the supply of grain shipments to India under Public Law 480 programme.
1967: A predominantly Anti-American worldview led India to reject a founding membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
1968: India rejected the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) proposed by the world’s leading nuclear powers.
1971: The USA had maintained a studious silence on Pakistan’s repressive policies in East Pakistan. The then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Delhi to make India comply to not support liberation movements in East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi’s intransigence was met with diplomatic muscle-flexing. Next month, India signed a Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation with the Soviet Union, seen as a blatant shift from India’s Non-Alignment policies. US President Richard Nixon in a retaliatory move chose to explicitly tilt American policy in favour of Pakistan and suspended $87 million worth of economic aid to India. American naval fleet USS Enterprise traversed the Bay of Bengal, issuing mild threats. India won the Bangladesh Liberation War as the Pakistani Army embarrassingly surrendered more than 90,000 troops.
1974: India conducted its first nuclear weapon test at Pokhran, and it came as a major jolt to the USA who made plans to upgrade its presence at Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian ocean.
1975: India faced considerable domestic turmoil and entered into a state of Emergency.
1977: The Emergency ended and the US immediately eased restrictions it has placed on World Bank loans to India and approved direct economic assistance of $60 million.
1978: US President Jimmy Carter and Indian Prime Minister Desai exchanged visits to each other’s nations.
The 1980s: Large amounts of military aid was pumped into Pakistan by the USA in order to fight a proxy against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This created significant repercussions in the internal security of India as the Pakistani mujahedeen fighters infiltrated into Kashmir as militants.
1988: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made a historic visit to China which led to normalization of relations between India and China.
1990: India hesitatingly provided a brief logistical support for American military operations in the Gulf War.
Post-1991: The Soviet Union disintegrated into independent nations and the United States emerged as the single largest hegemon, making the world unipolar. It coincided with India opening doors to foreign private capital in its historic Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization move.
Trade between India and the US grew dramatically and is flourishing today.
Why India Matters to the USA?
India is an indispensable partner for the United States. Geographically, it sits between the two most immediate problematic regions for U.S. national interests. The arc of instability that begins in North Africa goes through the Middle East, and proceeds to Pakistan and Afghanistan ends at India’s western border.
The Indian landmass juts into the ocean that bears its name. With the rise of Asian economies, the Indian Ocean is home to critical global lines of communication, with perhaps 50 percent of world container products and up to 70 percent of ship-borne oil and petroleum traffic transiting through its waters.
India’s growing national capabilities give it ever greater tools to pursue its national interests to the benefit of the United States. India has the world’s third-largest Army, fourth-largest Air Force, and fifth largest Navy. All three of these services are modernizing, and the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy have world-class technical resources, and its Army is seeking more of them.
India is an important U.S. partner in international efforts to prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction.
India’s broad diplomatic ties globally (most importantly in the Middle East), its aspirations for United Nations (UN) Security Council permanent membership, and its role in international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency makes New Delhi an especially effective voice in calls to halt proliferation.
India’s position against radicalism and terrorism corresponds with that of the United States.
India’s English-speaking and Western-oriented elite and middle classes comfortably partner with their counterparts in U.S. firms and institutions, including more than 2.8 million Indian Americans. The U.S. higher education system is an incubator of future collaboration, with more than 100,000 Indian students in American universities.
As India modernizes and grows it will spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure, transportation, energy production and distribution, and defence hardware. U.S. firms can benefit immensely by providing expertise and technology that India will need to carry out this sweeping transformation.
India-USA cooperation is critical to global action against climate change.
India is genuinely committed to a world order based on multilateral institutions and cooperation and the evolution of accepted international norms leading to accepted international law.
Indian culture and diplomacy have generated goodwill in its extended neighbourhood. New Delhi has positive relations with critical states in the Middle East, in Central Asia, in Southeast Asia, and with important middle powers such as Brazil, South Africa, and Japan—all of the strategic value to the United States. India’s soft power is manifest in wide swaths of the world where its civil society has made a growing and positive impression.
Indian democracy has prospered despite endemic poverty; extraordinary ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity; and foreign and internal conflicts.
on his fifth trip to the United States as Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi will find a very different Washington than the one he visited a year ago. Where does the relationship stand six months into the Trump administration?
ISSUES AT PLAY
The upcoming trip has been action-forcing to some extent, and brought India some attention; Delhi will also hope it’ll bring greater clarity on certain bilateral, regional, and global issues where there is continued uncertainty—and in some cases greater concern—about the administration’s approach.
On the bilateral front, the Indian government is having to adapt to President Trump’s more transactional approach, rather than the more strategic one that prevailed towards India in previous administrations. On economic issues, there continue to be differences on trade, investment, and immigration policies. The Trump administration has highlighted concerns over the trade deficit with India (which, at $30.8 billion is a tenth that with China, but nonetheless is under administration review), tariffs (referring to a country with a 100 percent tariff on motorcycle imports), intellectual property concerns, and market access for American companies. Complaints on these fronts have also come from some members of Congress and the private sector. India, in turn, is concerned about standards and technical regulations that affect its exports to the United States, and potential changes to the high-skilled visa programs (particularly, but not only, H-1Bs). The safety of Indians and, to some extent, Indian Americans in the United States has also been an issue, particularly after the killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas.
On the regional front: To its west, India has been following the administration’s review of Afghanistan policy. Delhi is concerned about the security situation there, the Ghani government’s stability, and what it sees as a China-Pakistan-Russia-Iran tactical tag-team, particularly vis-à-vis the Taliban. It wants to see Washington remain engaged in Afghanistan, but will also be wary if this means a carrots-heavy approach toward Pakistan. In the past, this has meant military aid for Rawalpindi, but also what Delhi has seen as attempts to push it to make concessions to Islamabad. After comments from U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley about the United States potentially taking a more “proactive” role to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan, Delhi stressed that this was a bilateral problem for Delhi and Islamabad to resolve. The State Department subsequently clarified that it encouraged “direct dialogue.”
Indian officials will closely follow the interagency review on Pakistan. They will watch for further indications that the administration is willing to press Pakistan (such as the reported drone strike against targets in Pakistan). Delhi also wants clarity on whether the U.S. counterterrorism approach in the region will be group-specific (against groups like ISIS or the Haqqani network) or more all-encompassing (i.e. including Pakistan-based terrorist groups targeting India, like Lashkar-e-Taiba).
Also to its west, Indian officials have concerns about the deteriorating Iran-U.S. dynamic, which has affected its plans for developing the port of Chabahar (policymakers in Delhi are relieved, at the same time, that the Iran deal has not—yet—been jettisoned).
To India’s east, questions about the U.S. role in the Indo-Pacific remain, and there are concerns about the administration’s approach to China—strategic convergence in this area has been a major driver for the U.S.-India relationship. Delhi was not pleased by the bonhomie on display during and after the Trump-Xi summit, statements by Secretary of State Tillerson on his visit to China, the apparent upgrading of the U.S. delegation to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing (which the Indian government declined to attend), and the perceived utility of China vis-à-vis North Korea. More reassuring was Defense Secretary Mattis’ speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, which quoted Modi on freedom of navigation and acknowledged India’s role in the Indian Ocean region, as well as some recent signals on U.S. freedom of navigation operations. The two sides also went ahead with their maritime security dialogue in May, and the joint India-Japan-U.S. Malabar exercise is scheduled for July.
On the global front, the administration’s attitude on multilateral trade, climate change, and terrorism have raised questions. But more broadly, potential global U.S. disengagement—or as the foreign secretary put it “changes in the terms of engagement between the United States and the world”—will raise crucial challenges, and some opportunities, for Indian policymakers.
Even those in India who had been optimistic about Trump have expressed concern about his approach to countries like China and Saudi Arabia, and his recent criticism of India, as well as the lack of what they’d hoped would be a U.S. rapprochement with Russia, and the prevailing atmosphere in the U.S. for immigrants and minorities. In this context, the upcoming visit is being seen as a chance to reinvigorate the relationship.
The first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sealed with a bear hug Monday, as the two leaders looked to publicly underscore their new found friendship.
Speaking after their meeting in the White House Rose Garden, Trump recalled his previous campaign pledge, that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House. "And that is now exactly what you have -- a true friend," said Trump.
Declaring the official meeting a success, Trump went on to describe the relationship between India and the United States as having "never been stronger, has never been better."
Trump also took time to praise Modi's Twitter prowess, we are "world leaders in social media," said Trump, who has 32.9 million followers on his personal Twitter account, compared to Modi's 31 million followers.
Modi meanwhile, described his White House visit as being "filled with friendliness" from the "opening tweet to the end of our talks."
The apparently jovial tone was in contrast to what had been predicted to be a tough meeting.
Both Trump and Modi have tried to boost domestic manufacturing in their own country.
Modi, under a program titled "Make in India," has been looking for foreign companies to set up production in India. That runs counter to Trump's "America First" messaging, where Trump is looking to punish American companies who ship jobs and production overseas.
Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" executive order, signed in April, overhauled the H-1B visa program primarily used by Indian engineers and developers.
While, earlier this month, Trump singled out India during his announcement declaring the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Trump accused India of receiving "billions" of dollars in return for signing the accord, an allegation that India strongly refuted.
A joint statement issued by both leaders did not mention either issues directly, and instead focused on the two leaders' pledge to "expand and deepen the strategic partnership between the countries and advance common objectives" by providing "strong leadership to address global challenges."
Seeking to downplay potential policy conflicts, Modi suggested that economic growth was not a zero-sum game. "India's interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America," said Modi during their press briefing. "In the same way, India's development and its growing role at the international level are in the USA's interest."
Elements of the Indian media will undoubtedly play this as a largely successful visit, said CNN's New Delhi Bureau Chief, Ravi Agrawal. "Fears that Trump would not be an ally to India, like at least three of his predecessors, have proved unfounded."
The White House did not provide a detailed account of the meeting, however, the official joint statement did make several references to Pakistan, notably a call for the country to "ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries," and to "bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks."
Prior to the meeting, senior US administration officials said Trump was aware of the delicate balance with India and Pakistan, but would look to treat the 1.3 billion person country like the defense ally it is: "I want to make a point here that US relationships with India and Pakistan really stand on their own merits and terms," a senior administration official said.
While the Trump administration hopes to "deepen" its relationship with India, the official added that they are "also interested in continuing our cooperation with Pakistan" and are "concerned about tensions between Indian and Pakistan."
Monday's statement also announced increased cooperation to "prevent terrorist travel and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation." Such moves are likely to be welcomed by US foreign policy chiefs, who have underlined the need for additional information sharing in the ongoing fight against ISIS.
The meeting pointed to other regional security concerns, with both leaders emphasizing the importance of Indian-US relations in helping to stabilize Afghanistan. "India and America have played an important role in rebuilding Afghanistan and ensuring its security," read the statement. "In order to attain our objectives for peace and stability in Afghanistan, we will maintain close consultation and communication."
The two leaders also "strongly condemned" continued provocations by North Korea emphasizing that its "destabilizing pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace," according to the statement.
In May this year, India halted all trade except for food and medicine with North Korea. Prior to the ban, India had been North Korea's second largest trading partner after China. India exported $111 million worth of goods in 2015-2016 to North Korea, and imported about $88 million, according to Indian government data.
Monday's White House visit was Modi's fifth trip to the US since becoming prime minister in 2014.
Unlike the feverish anticipation over past meetings between Modi and former President Barack Obama, expectations for Modi's new relationship with Trump had been lukewarm.
However, the Indian Prime Minister appeared determined to bolster relations, at one point, inviting the President's daughter Ivanka Trump to India for an "Entrepreneurship Summit," scheduled for later this year.
Addressing Trump directly, Modi offered his "deep appreciation" for the President's "strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations."
"Be assured that in this joint journey of our two nations towards development, growth and prosperity, I will remain a driven, determined, and decisive partner," said Modi.