Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India and USA: A New Moment in Strategic Partnership

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India and USA: A New Moment in Strategic Partnership

Article excerpt

From being "estranged democracies" to sharing a "Declaration of Friendship", India and the United States have indeed travelled a long distance. The regularity and importance accorded to the annual strategic dialogues (five till date) are testimony to the increasing engagement between the two countries. The evolving Indo-US strategic partnership has been described as a vital component in the foreign policies of both India and the United States and one that is poised to gain increasing importance as Washington seeks to reorient its foreign policy with its rebalancing strategy towards the Asia-Pacific. Numerous reports have concluded that the rise of a powerful and democratic India in the Asian region and on the global stage is in the interest of the United States and also that American influence globally and in Asia in particular is in the interest of India.

US-India strategic partnership has thrived since both India and US have understood the need for transformation of their problematic past relationship. Despite India's recognised historical role in the world and in the region, the two have shared an uncomfortable and fractious past. This has been so owing to a number of factors, such as, India's adherence to non-alignment, differing perceptions on the nuclear issue, on Pakistan and on China, and also due to India's close relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union. However, since the 2005 breakthrough civil nuclear deal, the expectation was that multiple opportunities to improve the bilateral relationship would open up. Yet, during subsequent years, gaps have appeared between expectations and reality.

The end of Cold War freed both countries from geopolitical constraints that had produced distrust, differences, and discontent between them. Positive changes occurred as the Narasimha Rao government and the Clinton administration agreed that India and the USA must value each other as strategic partners. Economic imperatives provided additional ballast. Despite the Indian nuclear tests in 1998, that adversely affected the post cold war transformation of these relations, subsequent dialogue somewhat mitigated the impact. A new era in Indo-US relations began with President Clinton's successful visit to India in March 2000. During the Bush administration, the Agreement to start an energy dialogue underscored an upswing in relations despite tensions over India's possible energy cooperation with Iran and the US sale of fighter jets to Pakistan. The dialogue on the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership produced frameworks of cooperation in critical areas, such as Space, Civil Nuclear Energy, and High Technology Transfer. The signing of the Defence Agreement in 2005, Civil Nuclear Cooperation in 2008, Counter terrorism in 2010 and joint military exercises, continued to broaden the ambit of cooperation. The underlying rationale was the evolving strategic convergence resulting from common interests, especially in Asia. From the US perspective, India was a potential partner in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region, particularly in fighting Islamic fundamentalism and checking Chinese ambitions. Indian perceptions rested on the deteriorating security environment in Southern Asia, the urgency of getting nuclear fuel, and the pursuit of trade, technology and investment.

Despite initial wariness, Obama and Manmohan Singh re-committed themselves to strengthening global consensus on legal regimes against terrorism. Statements by the then Secretaries of Defence and State, Robert Gates and Hilary Clinton, reaffirmed the strategic basis for deepening counterterrorism cooperation and the expansion of an already robust military-tomilitary relationship. Gates' remarks in Delhi in January 2010 that "India can be an anchor for regional and global security", was expanded further by Hillary Clinton during the start of the annual Strategic dialogue in June 2010, when she said "India is a rising global power and already a regional power in Asia. …

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