India USA relation

  • “What introduces friction into the ties between India and the United States is that Washington is still unable to find for India a position in its global strategy, which would satisfy India’s National self-esteem and ambitions” Explain with suitable examples

In 2016, the United States designated India as ‘major defence partner’, a status unique to India. However, recently, the US foreign and economic policies have started to appear against India’s self-esteem and ambitions. There are several issues that introduce friction into what US considers its global strategy and what India envisages as its self-esteem and ambitions.

▪️West Asia: The US’ West Asia policy is aligned in line with that of Israel and Saudi Arabia which stands adversarial to that of Iran. But for India, a strong, united and peaceful Iran holds significance not only for its oil imports but also for the Chabahar port and International North-South Transport Corridor (INTC) that will enable India to have a reach to Central Asia and counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, this stands opposed to the US policy of restricting Iran’s influence in the region. The US has pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and subsequently imposed sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Iran.

▪️Afghanistan: Political development in Kabul have always had its implications in New Delhi. Situation in Afghanistan also poses security risks for India given Pakistan’s close proximity to the Taliban. This is more so given India’s huge investments in Afghanistan to bring peace and stability there. But the US policy has moved to focus on its withdrawal of troops. Any peace deal with the Taliban, an insurgent body, will legitimise the terrorist activities and hurt India’s interests.

▪️Russia: India’s strategic relations with Russia have historically been very significant and useful given Russia’s veto power at the Security Council. Russia is also the major defence partner of India. It is also emerging as a major option to meet India’s energy requirements. But, as bequeathed by the Cold War, the US considers Russia as its adversary and it has brought Russia under the CAATSA. This stood opposed to India’s defence deals with Russia involving the S-400 missile systems.

▪️Trade relations: Being a developing country, India wants to bring millions of its masses out of poverty and to have a strong economic footprint globally. The US is a major trade partner in this context and it Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) has been a useful mechanism for India. But the US’ policy to bring back jobs home and to restrict China’s growth trajectory has negative fallout on India. The US has accused India of not opening the Indian economy for American trade by means of tariffs, intellectual property regulations, subsidies, etc. and has clamped tariffs on Indian exports to America.

Moreover, the USA’s National Defense Strategy 2018 marked Russia and China as its central challenge and for the US India is an ideal balancer against rising China. In this context, India must convince the US that a strong India is in concurrence with the US’ interest. Besides, India must follow strategic hedging i.e. simultaneous engagements with major powers because in international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.