The State of India-US Ties


    Syllabus: GS2/International Relation

    • The recent visit of the Prime Minister of India to the United States led to a significant development in the field of military aerospace technology. The US administration offered to restart the decade-old plan to transfer jet engine technology to India. This move aims to strengthen bilateral defense ties and enhance India’s military capabilities.
    • Since India’s independence, ties with the United States have weathered the Cold War era distrust and estrangement over India’s nuclear program. 
    • Relations have warmed in recent years and cooperation has strengthened across a range of economic and political areas.
    • Bilateral Trade: The bilateral trade between the two countries has risen by 72 percent between 2017-18 and 2022-23.
      • The US accounted for 18% of the gross FDI inflows into India during 2021-22, ranking second behind Singapore.
    • Defence and Security: India and the US have signed a troika of “foundational pacts” for deep military cooperation, beginning with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, followed by the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) after the first 2+2 dialogue in 2018, and then the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020.
      • In 2016, the United States elevated India to a major defence partner.
    • Space: Artemis Accords signed by India established a common vision for the future of space exploration for the benefit of all humankind.
    • Multilateral Cooperation: India and the United States cooperate closely in multilateral organisations and forums, including the United Nations, G20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
      • Together with Australia and Japan, the United States and India convene as the Quad, a diplomatic network, to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
    • Post-Pokhran Turnaround: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous Asia Society speech in New York in 1998, hailed India and the US as ‘natural allies in the quest for a better future’ in the 21st century.
    • Nuclear Cooperation: Civil Nuclear Deal was signed in 2005, under the agreement, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place all its civil resources under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
      • In exchange, the United States agrees to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India.
    • Strategic Trust: Over the past decade, strategic trust has grown, with foundational agreements, military exercises, and coordination on maritime operations. Shared concerns over China’s aggression have brought Delhi and Washington increasingly on the ‘same page’ internationally.
    • New initiatives: Several new initiatives have been announced like GE-HAL deal to manufacture jet engines in India and the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), to bring revolution between the relations of the two nations.
    Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET)

    – It was announced by India and USA on the sidelines of the Quad Summit in Tokyo in 2022 and was launched by the NSAs in 2023.
    – It comprises key technology sectors such as space, semiconductors, advanced telecommunications, artificial intelligence, quantum, biotechnology, and clean energy. 
    – Subsequently, new areas were included: biotechnology, critical minerals and rare earths processing technologies, digital connectivity and digital public infrastructure and advanced materials.

    Key Takeaways

    – These include setting up a research agency partnership to drive collaboration in areas like AI, and developing common standards in AI; developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation for joint development and production; developing a roadmap to accelerate defence technological cooperation and ‘innovation bridge’ to connect defence startups; supporting the development of a semiconductor ecosystem; strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight; advancing cooperation on development in 5G and 6G; and adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.

    Significance of iCET

    Depth to the relationship: iCET could lend a new strategic depth and breadth to the expanding engagement between India and the United States. 
    Against the rising and assertive China: Lending urgency to the iCET is the growing convergence of Indian and US interests in managing the security, economic, and technological challenges presented by a rising and assertive China. 
    Reducing dependence on Russia: India is also looking to reduce its over-dependence on Russian weapons and military technology and to produce more weapons at home in partnership with western countries.
    • Conflicting positions: India’s muted criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 expectedly led to some frustration in the West, raising questions over India’s credibility as a security partner.
    • Limited Utility: India’s utility to the US in an Indo-Pacific conflict, such as a Chinese invasion or naval blockade of Taiwan, is likely limited.
      • In the event of US military involvement in Taiwan’s defence, India would likely avoid entanglement in such a US-China conflict.
      • The US seeks greater alignment from its allies against Russia. While countries like South Korea and Australia have sent military aid to Ukraine, India is viewed by the US and the West as opportunistically buying more oil from Russia amid the war.
    • Defence Relations with Russia: The US is concerned about India’s acquisition of arms like the S-400 air defence system, as it strengthens Russian power, hinders interoperability and secure communications between US and Indian forces, and prevents sharing of sensitive weapons technologies.
    • Strategic Trust and China: India and the U.S. have made significant strides in strategic cooperation, particularly in countering China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific. However, concerns persist about India’s reliance on Russian military imports and its perceived reluctance to unequivocally condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
      • Balancing these interests remains a challenge.
    • Dependency on China: US aid in the Russia-Ukraine war strengthens Ukraine’s defence and counter offensives, forcing Russia to rely more on China for support.
      • It diminishes Russian autonomy and potentially its ability to honour defence agreements with India in an India-China conflict.
    • Democratic Values and Friction: While the partnership is anchored in shared democratic values, there are areas of friction. The U.S. expresses concerns about India’s treatment of minorities, especially Muslims, and its illiberal policies. The revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and religious freedom issues have raised eyebrows.
    • Trade and Structural Agreements: Despite steady growth in trade, disagreements over critical issues and the lack of structural trade agreements have hindered realising the full potential of the relationship.
      • Addressing trade challenges and enhancing economic ties is crucial.
    • Securing Interests and Promoting Values: The U.S. and India must balance securing their interests with promoting democratic values. India’s trajectory as a secular and tolerant nation is closely watched, especially given recent developments.
    • Multilateral Cooperation: While bilateral engagement thrives, multilateral cooperation on global conflicts remains a challenge.
    • Complexities and Priorities: The future path of U.S.-India relations depend on navigating complexities, fostering trust, and prioritising mutual interests for a stable and prosperous partnership.
    • India-U.S. relationship is at a crucial juncture, with significant potential for growth but also substantial challenges to overcome. As leaders engage once again, they must chart a course that balances ambition with pragmatism, ensuring a robust and enduring partnership.
    • The strategic convergence of India and the US is because of the common threat posed by China. The more the US focuses on Russia or any other adversary and India focuses on Pakistan, the more their strategic convergence weakens. 
    Daily Mains Practice Question
    [Q] How do you perceive the current state of diplomatic relations between India and the United States? What factors contribute to the strength or challenges in this bilateral relationship?