Strategic high:India-U.S. ties and strategic cooperation

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    In Context

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent U. S. visit will boost bilateral ties and deepen strategic defence & technology collaboration.

    Defence & technology collaboration between India & USA

    • The recent announcements that will take the defence ties between the countries to a new high:
      • Potential joint manufacture of General Electric (GE) Aerospace’s F414 engines in India by GE and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to power India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft MK2 & the twin-engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft MK1
      • The purchase of 31 high-altitude, long-endurance Predator-MQ-9B armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
    • Deepened Military cooperation:
      • India has bought from the U.S. 
        • The C-130 and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, 
        • AH-64E Apache attack helicopters 
        • CH-47 Chinook and MH-60R multi-role helicopters
        • P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 
        • M777 ultra light howitzers, among others. 
      • The U.S. has been aggressively pitching its fighter jets, the F-16 and F/A-18, for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. 
      • India and the U.S. had tried and shelved an earlier engine development effort under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative some years ago. 
        • But now, the new jet engine deal is an investment in each other to address the shared security concerns, while continuing to navigate the disagreements.

    Significance

    • Geopolitical:
      • Top among their shared concerns is China and its expansion in the Indo-Pacific. 
      • The U.S. also wants to wean India away from its defence partnership with Russia in the long term. 
    • Technological:
      • From a technological perspective, the newly announced joint initiatives in jet engine production, semiconductors and space technology present an opportunity for India to develop a defence industry of its own, and improve its technological competence across the board.

    India-USA Relations

    • About:
      • India and the US share values of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and religious freedom that bind the countries together.
    • Bilateral engagement:
      • India and the United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic  partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavour, driven by  shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues,  and vibrant people-to-people contacts.
      • Regular exchanges at the leadership-level have been an integral  element of the expanding bilateral engagement.
      • Despite COVID-19 pandemic, India-U.S. cooperation witnessed  intense engagement under various bilateral dialogue mechanisms in a wide  range of areas including defence, security, health, trade, economic, science  & technology, energy and people-to-people ties.
    • Defence and Security: 
      • India-US defence cooperation is based on “New Framework for IndiaUS Defence Cooperation”, which was renewed for a period of ten years in  2015. 
      • In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major  Defence Partnership (MDP). 
        • The MDP recognizes a shared desire to build  a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defence partnership. 
      • Several defence agreements have also been signed in recent years.
      • Bilateral military exercises and defence exchanges are important  aspects of deepening military-to-military cooperation.
    • Quad: 
      • The four Quad partners (India, Japan, United States & Australia) first formed a “Core Group” in 2004, to swiftly mobilise aid during the joint response to the 2004 Tsunami. Since 2017, Quad engagements have increased and intensified.
      • In 2019, the first Quad Foreign Ministerial Meeting was held in New York (December 2019).
    • Counter Terrorism Cooperation:
      • Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable progress with information exchange, operational cooperation and sharing of counterterrorism technology and equipment. India-U.S. Joint Working Group on  Counter-Terrorism oversees the expanding CT cooperation.
    • Cyber Security Cooperation:
      • The India-US Cyber Framework signed in September 2016, provides for expanding cooperation in the cyber domain.
    • Trade & Economic Relations: 
      • The rapidly expanding trade and commercial linkages form an important component of the multi-faceted partnership between India and the United States. 
      • The U.S. is India’s second largest trading partner and a major destination for our exports of goods and services. 
      • The US is one of the top 5 investment destinations for Indian FDI.
    • Indian Diaspora: 
      • About 4.2 million Indian Americans/Indian origin people reside in the US. The Indian Americans [3.18 million] constitute the third largest Asian ethnic group in the US.

    Challenges

    • India’s preference to its strategic autonomy:
      • While its embrace with the U.S. is getting stronger, deeper and more comprehensive, India is also cognisant of the need to maintain its strategic autonomy. 
      • U.S. strategy at the moment is focused on creating a new bipolarity in the world, which India is not comfortable with.
    • Conflicting positions:
      • India’s position on Ukraine war:
        • 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.
        • Even with converging Indo-US strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific, differences persist between Washington and New Delhi.
      • Position on Indo-Pacific region:
        • The US views the Indo-Pacific as a region where rules-based liberal international order needs to be preserved vis-à-vis China’s assertive rise and even the Russian threat
        • By contrast, India does not see the Indo-Pacific as an exclusive group of actors in a region that is against any country. 
          • New Delhi considers it an “inclusive” region and has, at times, even signalled the inclusion of China and Russia within its definition of the Indo-Pacific.

    Way ahead

    • Overall, India-US strategic and security ties are not perfect and are unlikely to be so in the coming future. 
    • The spectre of divergences will continue to exist within the role compatibility the two enjoy. 
    • India’s desire to protect its borders and sovereignty aligns with U.S. interests. This is a new era of mutual trust between the two countries, and it should act as a force for stability in the region.

     

    Daily Mains Question

     

    [Q] What is the significance of India’s deepening strategic, defence & technology collaboration with the USA? What are the spectres of divergence between them?