India–United States relations

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Indo-American relations
Map indicating locations of India and USA


United States
Diplomatic Mission
Indian Embassy, Washington, D.C. Embassy of the United States, New Delhi
Arun Kumar Singh
Richard Verma
PM Modi of India, during Joint Press Interaction with President Obama of US, 2015.
US Embassy in New Delhi.

India–United States relations (or Indo-American relations) refers to the international relations that exist between the Republic of India and the United States of America.

Prominent leaders of India's freedom movement had friendly relations with the United States of America which continued well after independence from Great Britain in 1947. In 1954, United States of America made Pakistan a Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) treaty-ally. India cultivated strategic and military relations with the Soviet Union to counter US-Pakistan ties.[1] In 1961, India became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement to avoid involvement in the Cold War power-play between the USA and USSR. The Nixon administration's support for Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 affected relations till the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the 1990s, Indian foreign policy adapted to the unipolar world and developed closer ties with the United States.

In the 21st.century, Indian foreign policy has sought to leverage India's strategic autonomy in order to safeguard sovereign rights and promote national interests within a multi-polar world.[2][3][4] Under Presidents Bush and Obama, the USA has demonstrated accommodation to India's core national interests and acknowledged outstanding concerns.[5]

Increase in bilateral trade & investment, cooperation on global security matters, inclusion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (United Nations Security Council), upgraded representation in trade & investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC), admission into multilateral export control regimes (NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and joint-manufacturing through technology sharing arrangements have become key milestones and a measure of speed and advancement on the path to closer US-India relations.[6][7]

According to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, India is perceived by Americans as their 6th favourite nation in the world, with 71% of Americans viewing India favourably in 2015.[8]


To 1947[edit]

Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions with Virchand Gandhi, Hewivitarne Dharmapala

Swami Vivekananda promoted Yoga and Vedanta in America at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, during the World's Fair in 1893.

Mark Twain visited India in 1896[9] and described it in his travelogue Following the Equator with both revulsion and attraction before concluding that India was the only foreign land he dreamed about or longed to see again.[10] Regarding India, Americans learned more from English writer Rudyard Kipling.[11] Mahatma Gandhi had an important influence on the philosophy of non-violence promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s.

The relationships between India in the days of the British Raj and the US were thin.[12] In the 1930s and early 1940s the United States gave very strong support to the Indian independence movement in defiance of the British Empire.[13][14] The first significant immigration from India before 1965 involved Sikh farmers going to California in the early 20th century.[15]

World War II[edit]

American GIs at a market in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1945.

Everything changed in World War Two, when India became the main base for the American China Burma India Theater (CBI) in the war against Japan. Tens of thousands of American servicemen arrived, bringing all sorts of advanced technology, and money; they left in 1945. Serious tension erupted over American demands, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that India be given independence, a proposition Prime Minister Winston Churchill vehemently rejected. For years Roosevelt had encouraged Britain's disengagement from India. The American position was based on principled opposition to colonialism, practical concern for the outcome of the war, and the expectation of a large American role in a post-colonial era. However, in 1942 when the Indian National Congress launched a Quit India movement, the British authorities immediately arrested tens of thousands of activists. Meanwhile, India became the main American staging base for aid to China. Churchill threatened to resign if Roosevelt pushed too hard, so Roosevelt backed down.[16][17]

Post-independence (1947-1997)[edit]

President John F. Kennedy and President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan of India in Car Before Motorcade
President Harry Truman and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, with Nehru's sister, Madame Pandit, waving from their limousine as they leave Washington National Airport, during Nehru's visit to the United States, 1949.

After Indian independence and until the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the US and India was cold and often thorny. This was due to the closeness of the US towards India's arch-rival Pakistan during the War, with Pakistan joining the US-led Western Bloc in 1954. The relations worsened further with India pursuing a policy of being not aligned with either the US or the Soviet Union, but maintaining close ties with the latter to counter Pakistan.

In the late 1948s, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected American suggestions for resolving the Kashmir crisis. His 1949 tour of the US was "an undiplomatic disaster" that left bad feelings on both sides.[18] India rejected the American advice that it not recognise the Communist conquest of China, but it did back the US when it supported the 1950 United Nations resolution condemning North Korea's aggression in the Korean War. India tried to act as a broker to help end that war, and served as a conduit for diplomatic messages between the US and China. Meanwhile, poor harvests forced India to ask for free American food, which was given starting in 1950.[19] In the first dozen years of Indian independence (1947–1959), the US provided $1.7 billion in gifts, including $931 million in food. The Soviet Union provided about half as much, largely in the form of steel mills.[20] In 1961, the US pledged $1.0 billion in development loans, in addition to $1.3 billion of free food.[21]

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru receiving President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Parliament House, before the President's address to a joint session of Parliament, 1959.

In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first US President to visit India to strengthen the staggering ties between the two nations. He was so supportive that the New York Times remarked, "It did not seem to matter much whether Nehru had actually requested or been given a guarantee that the US would help India to meet further Chinese Communist aggression. What mattered was the obvious strengthening of Indian-American friendship to a point where no such guarantee was necessary."[22]

John Kenneth Galbraith (far left), as US ambassador to India, with President John F. Kennedy, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, 1961

During John F. Kennedy's Presidency (1961–63), India was considered a strategic partner and counterweight to the rise of Communist China. Kennedy said,

"Chinese Communists have been moving ahead the last 10 years. India has been making some progress, but if India does not succeed with her 450 million people, if she can't make freedom work, then people around the world are going to determine, particularly in the underdeveloped world, that the only way they can develop their resources is through the Communist system."

The Kennedy administration openly supported India during the 1962 Sino-Indian war and considered the Chinese action as "blatant Chinese Communist aggression against India".[23][24] The United States Air Force flew in arms, ammunition and clothing supplies to the Indian troops and the United States Navy even sent the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier from the Pacific Ocean to protect India, only to recall it back before it reached the Bay of Bengal.[25][26] In a May 1963 National Security Council meeting, the United States discussed contingency planning that could be implemented in the event of another Chinese attack on India. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor advised the president to use nuclear weapons should the Americans intervene in such a situation. Kennedy insisted that Washington defend India as it would any ally, saying, "We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India."[27][28] Kennedy's ambassador to India was the noted liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who was considered close to India.[29] While in India, Galbraith helped establish one of the first Indian computer science departments, at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. As an economist, he also presided over the (at the time) largest US foreign aid program to any country.

President Nixon at the arrival ceremony for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on the South Lawn of the White House, 1971.

Following the assassination of Kennedy in 1963, Indo-US relations deteriorated gradually. While Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson sought to maintain relations with India to counter Communist China,[30] he also sought to strengthen ties with Pakistan with the hopes of easing tensions with China and weakening India's growing military buildup as well.[30] Relations then hit an all-time low under the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. Richard Nixon shifted away from the neutral stance which his predecessors had taken towards Indo-Pakistani hostilities. He established a very close relationship with Pakistan, aiding it militarily and economically, as India, now under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, was seen as leaning towards the Soviet Union. He considered Pakistan as a very important ally to counter Soviet influence in the Indian subcontinent and establish ties with China, with whom Pakistan was very close.[31] The frosty relationship between Nixon and Indira worsened the relations further.[32] During the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, the US openly supported Pakistan and even deployed its aircraft carrier USS Enterprise towards the Bay of Bengal, which was seen as a show of force by the US in support of the beleaguered West Pakistani forces. Later in 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, Smiling Buddha, which was opposed by the US, however it also concluded that the test did not violate any agreement and proceeded with a June 1974 shipment of enriched uranium for the Tarapur reactor.[33][34]

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, at far left, President of India, with President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Prime Minister Morarji Desai and External Affairs Minister A.B. Vajpayee, 1978

In the late 1970s, with the anti-Soviet Janata Party leader Morarji Desai becoming the Prime Minister, India improved its relations with the US, now led by Jimmy Carter, despite the latter signing an order in 1978 barring nuclear material from being exported to India due to India's non-proliferation record.[35]

After the return of Indira Gandhi to power in 1980, the relations between the two countries continued to improve gradually, despite India not supporting the United States' role in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The Reagan Administration provided limited assistance to India. India sounded out Washington on the purchase of a range of US defence technology, including F-5 aircraft, super computers, night vision goggles and radars. In 1984 Washington approved the supply of selected technology to India including gas turbines for naval frigates and engines for prototypes for India’s light combat aircraft. There were also unpublicised transfers of technology, including the engagement of a US company, Continental Electronics, to design and build a new VLF communications station at Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, which was commissioned in the late 1980s.[36] Despite these achievements, it was not until the late 1990s that there was a significant effort by both countries to improve relations with each other.[37]

1998-2004 NDA government[edit]

Prime Minister Vajpayee with President Bush in the White House, 2001.

Soon after Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Indian Prime Minister, he authorised nuclear weapons testing at Pokhran. The United States strongly condemned this testing, promised sanctions, and voted in favour of a United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning the tests. President Bill Clinton imposed economic sanctions on India, including cutting off all military and economic aid, freezing loans by American banks to state-owned Indian companies, prohibiting loans to the Indian government for all except food purchases, prohibiting American aerospace technology and uranium exports to India, and requiring the US to oppose all loan requests by India to international lending agencies.[38] However, these sanctions proved ineffective - India was experiencing a strong economic rise, and its trade with the US only constituted a small portion of its GDP. Only Japan joined the US in imposing direct sanctions, while most other nations continued to trade with India. The sanctions were soon lifted. Afterward, the Clinton administration and Prime Minister Vajpayee exchanged representatives to help rebuild relations.

India emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core US foreign policy interests. India, a dominant actor in its region, and the home of more than one billion citizens, is now often characterised as a nascent Great Power and an "indispensable partner" of the US, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to the growing clout of China.

In March 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton visited India, undertaking bilateral and economic discussions with Prime Minister Vajpayee. During the visit, the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum was established.[39]

Over the course of improved diplomatic relations with the Bush Administration, India agreed to allow close international monitoring of its nuclear weapons development, although it has refused to give up its current nuclear arsenal.[40] In 2004, the US decided to grant Major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status to Pakistan. The US extended the MNNA strategic working relationship to India but the offer was turned down.[41][42]

After the September 11 attacks against the US in 2001, President George W. Bush collaborated closely with India in controlling and policing the strategically critical Indian Ocean sea lanes from the Suez Canal to Singapore.

2004-2014 UPA I & II governments[edit]

During the tenure of the George W. Bush administration, relations between India and the United States were seen to have blossomed, primarily over common concerns regarding growing Islamic extremism, energy security, and climate change.[43]

After the December 2004 tsunami, the US and Indian navies cooperated in search and rescue operations and in the reconstruction of affected areas.

Since 2004, Washington and New Delhi have been pursuing a "strategic partnership" that is based on shared values and generally convergent geopolitical interests. Numerous economic, security, and global initiatives - including plans for civilian nuclear cooperation - are underway. This latter initiative, first launched in 2005, reversed three decades of American non-proliferation policy. Also in 2005, the United States and India signed a ten-year defence framework agreement, with the goal of expanding bilateral security cooperation. The two countries engaged in numerous and unprecedented combined military exercises, and major US arms sales to India were concluded. An Open Skies Agreement was signed in April 2005, enhancing trade, tourism, and business via the increased number of flights, and Air India purchased 68 US Boeing aircraft at a cost of $8 billion.[44] The United States and India also signed a bilateral Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation in 2005.[45] After Hurricane Katrina, India donated $5 million to the American Red Cross and sent two planeloads of relief supplies and materials to help.[46] Then, on 1 March 2006, President Bush made another diplomatic visit to further expand relations between India and the US.[47]

The value of all bilateral trade tripled from 2004 to 2008 and continues to grow, while significant two-way investment also grows and flourishes.[48]

The influence of a large Indian-American community is reflected in the largest country-specific caucus in the United States Congress, while between 2009-2010 more than 100,000 Indian students have attended American colleges and universities.[49]

In November 2010, President Barack Obama visited India and addressed a joint session of the Indian Parliament,[50] where he backed India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.[51]

Between 2004 and 2014 Western think-tanks, especially in the US and UK, failed to foresee the swing in electoral voting patterns of the growing middle-class and anticipate the scale of political change in India brought about by improvements in basic education and freedom of the press. According to Michael Kugelman, South and Southeast Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the US was unprepared to meet new challenges in India because of its "inability to keep pace with the transformations."[52]

Strategic and military determinants[edit]

In March 2009, the Obama Administration cleared the US$2.1 billion sale of eight P-8 Poseidons to India.[53] This deal, and the $5 billion agreement to provide Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft and General Electric F414 engines announced during Obama's November 2010 visit, makes the US one of the top three military suppliers to India (after Israel and Russia).[54] Indians have raised concerns about contract clauses forbidding the offensive deployment of these systems.[55] India is trying to resolve performance-related issues on the Boeing P-8I that have already been delivered to India.[56][57]

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen has encouraged stronger military ties between India and the United States, and said that "India has emerged as an increasingly important strategic partner [of the US]".[58] US Undersecretary of State William Joseph Burns also said, "Never has there been a moment when India and America mattered more to each other." [59] The Deputy Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, during his address to the Asia Society in New York on August 1, 2012, said that India–US relationship has a global scope, in terms of the reach and influence of both countries. He also said that both countries are strengthening the relations between their defence and research organisations.[60]

Revelations about US spying operations against India[edit]

India, in July and November 2013, demanded that the US respond to revelations that the Indian UN mission in New York City and the Indian Embassy in Washington had been targeted for spying.[61]

On 2 July 2014, U.S. diplomats were summoned by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to discuss allegations that the National Security Agency had spied upon private individuals and political entities within India.[62][63] A 2010 document leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the Washington Post revealed that US intelligence agencies had been authorised to spy on the Indian Prime-Minister Narendra Modi.[64][65]

WikiLeaks revelations that Western intelligence agencies have used foreign aid workers and staff at NGOs as non-official cover prompted the Government of India to step-up the monitoring of satellite phones and movement of personnel working for humanitarian relief organisations and development aid agencies in the vicinity of sensitive locations.[66][67]

Foreign policy issues[edit]

According to some analysts, India-US relations have been strained over the Obama administration's approach to Pakistan and the handling of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.[68][69] India's National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, criticised the Obama administration for linking the Kashmir dispute to the instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and said that by doing so, President Obama was "barking up the wrong tree."[70] Foreign Policy in February 2009 also criticised Obama's approach to South Asia, saying that "India can be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem" in South Asia. It also suggested that India take a more proactive role in rebuilding Afghanistan, irrespective of the attitude of the Obama Administration.[71] In a clear indication of growing rift between the two countries, India decided not to accept a US invitation to attend a conference on Afghanistan at the end of February 2009.[72] Bloomberg has also reported that, since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the public mood in India has been to pressure Pakistan more aggressively to take actions against the culprits behind the terrorist attack, and that this might reflect on the upcoming Indian general elections in May 2009. Consequently, the Obama Administration may find itself at odds with India's rigid stance against terrorism.[73]

India and US governments have differed on a variety of regional issues ranging from India's cordial relations with Iran and Russia to foreign policy disagreements relating to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, dismissed any concerns over a rift with India regarding American AfPak policy. Calling India and the United States "natural allies",[74] Blake said that the United States cannot afford to meet the strategic priorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan at "the expense of India".[75]

India criticised the Obama Administration's decision to limit H-1B (temporary) visas, and India's then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee (Now the President of India) said that his country would oppose US "protectionism" at various international forums.[76] India's Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath, said that India may move against Obama's outsourcing policies at the World Trade Organization.[77] However, the outsourcing advisory head of KPMG said that India had no reason to worry, since Obama's statements were directed against "outsourcing being carried out by manufacturing companies" and not outsourcing of IT-related services.[78]

In May 2009, Obama reiterated his anti-outsourcing views and criticised the current US tax policy "that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York."[79] However, during the US India Business Council meeting in June 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated for stronger economic ties between India and the United States. She also rebuked protectionist policies, saying that "[United States] will not use the global financial crisis as an excuse to fall back on protectionism. We hope India will work with us to create a more open, equitable set of opportunities for trade between our nations."[80]

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Indian delegation at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue reception at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., 2010.

In June 2010, the United States and India formally re-engaged the US-India Strategic Dialogue initiated under President Bush when a large delegation of high-ranking Indian officials, led by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, visited Washington, D.C. As leader of the US delegation, Secretary of State Clinton lauded India as "an indispensable partner and a trusted friend".[81] President Obama appeared briefly at a United States Department of State reception to declare his firm belief that America's relationship with India "will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."[82] The Strategic Dialogue produced a joint statement in which the two countries pledged to "deepen people-to-people, business-to-business, and government-to-government linkages ... for the mutual benefit of both countries and for the promotion of global peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity."[83] It outlined extensive bilateral initiatives in each of ten key areas: (1) advancing global security and countering terrorism, (2) disarmament and nonproliferation, (3) trade and economic relations, (4) high technology, (5) energy security, clean energy, and climate change, (6) agriculture, (7) education, (8) health, (9) science and technology, and (10) development.[84]

In November 2010, Obama became the second US President (after Richard Nixon in 1969) to undertake a visit to India in his first term in office. On 8 November, Obama also became the second US President (after Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959) to ever address a joint session of the Parliament of India. In a major policy shift, Obama declared US support for India's permanent membership on the UN Security Council.[85][86] Calling the India-US relationship "a defining partnership of the 21st century", he also announced the removal of export control restrictions on several Indian companies, and concluded trade deals worth $10 billion, which are expected to create and/or support 50,000 jobs in the US.[87]

2013 Dispute over Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges[edit]

In December 2013, the arrest, strip-search and temporary detention of an Indian diplomat in New York following a domestic labour dispute caused uproar in India.[88] Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade was arrested by US State Department Police on allegations of visa-fraud and handed over to US Marshals for detention.[89][90] The incident occurred a week after US Ambassador Nancy Jo Powell categorically stated that "an Indo-US strategic treaty will never be signed" and clarified that the US preferred a flexible approach to the critical issue of strategic collaboration.[91]

Indian former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the treatment of the female consular official which included repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, DNA swabbing, and placement in a hold-up alongside common criminals and drug offenders as "deplorable".[92] The Government of India took steps to ensure that diplomatic and consular privileges accorded unilaterally to US Government personnel posted to New Delhi are henceforth based on reciprocity.[93][94][95][96][97] External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said : "We’re not hostile, this is an arrangement based on reciprocity,".[98] Shashi Tharoor, India's minister of human resource development commented : "The cardinal principle of diplomatic relations is reciprocity, and India realized that it had been naive in extending courtesies to the U.S. that it was not receiving in return,"[99]

The American Community Support Association (ACSA) club and American Embassy Club in New Delhi were ordered to cease all commercial activities benefiting non-diplomatic personnel by 16 January 2014.[100] The ACSA club operates a bar, bowling alley, swimming pool, restaurant, video-rentals club, indoor gym and a beauty parlour within the embassy premises.[101][102][103] Tax-free import clearances given to US diplomats and consular officials for importing food, alcohol and other domestic items were revoked with immediate effect. US embassy vehicles and staff are no longer immune from penalties for traffic violations. American diplomats were asked to show work contracts of all domestic help (cooks, gardeners, drivers and security staff) employed within their households.[104]

Indian income tax and immigration authorities are investigating allegations of work-permit, visa and income tax fraud at the American Embassy School.[105][106][107]

Analysts predict that the incident has caused long-term damage to the relationship. Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington said, "The Indians have taken an extremely tough line on this. They are bracing for a full-fledged fight" if the case against the diplomat goes forward. Former diplomat and foreign-policy commentator K.C.Singh opined : "If they are going to throw their rule book at us, then we are saying we, too, have a rule book in India, (...) "Of late, there has been a growing feeling here that the U.S. has lost interest in India,[108] that it is no longer the special friendship [...] The relationship is still fragile and is resting on a crag. Till we put it on flat ground, episodes like this can cause major damage to the ties."[109] Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha called for the arrest of same-sex companions of US diplomats, citing the Supreme Court of India's upholding of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code whereby homosexuality is illegal in India.[110][111]

Reacting to the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries, which had been seen as cordial and improving in the recent past, John Bellinger, a former State Department legal adviser said : "Whether it was wise policy to actually arrest and detain someone for a non-violent crime like this, even if technically permissible under the Vienna Convention, is questionable to me. It's really quite surprising,". Robert D. Blackwill, the former US ambassador to India from 2001 to 2003 and currently a Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) opined that the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade and the subsequent impact of the incident on US-India relations as giving a "new meaning to the word stupid".[112][113]

Speaking at Harvard Law School during its 2014 Class Day ceremony, US attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, the Indian-born prosecutor in the Devyani Khobragade case revealed that it was the US Department of State who initiated and investigated proceedings against the Indian official : "(It was) not the crime of the century but a serious crime nonetheless, that is why the State Department opened the case, that is why the State Department investigated it. That is why career agents in the State Department asked career prosecutors in my office to approve criminal charges,".[114][115][116]

Relationship between US Government and Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi (2001-2014)[edit]

Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat between 2001 and 2014, became the Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014 after the Bharatiya Janata Party decisively won the 2014 Indian General Elections. The US Government completely failed to anticipate the political rise of Narendra Modi to the office of Prime Minister of India.

Sectarian violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots damaged relations between the US Government and Narendra Modi, the then incumbent Chief Minister of Gujarat. Human rights activists accused Modi of fostering anti-Muslim violence. New-York based NGO Human Rights Watch, in their 2002 report directly implicated Gujarat state officials in the violence against Muslims.[117]

In 2012, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Indian Supreme Court found no "prosecutable evidence" against Modi.[118][119] The Supreme Court of India absolved Narendra Modi of any criminal wrongdoing during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Prior to Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India, the US Government had made it known that Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat would not be permitted to travel to the US. Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center opined that although technically speaking there was no US 'visa ban' from 2005 to 2014, the US government policy of considering Modi as persona non grata had resulted in a defacto travel-ban.[120] After the US revoked his existing B1/B2 visa in 2005 and refused to accept his application for an A2 visa, the US State Department affirmed that the visa policy remained unchanged : "(Mr Modi) is welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant".[121][122]

Exploring opportunities on how to move the relationship out of a state of morose, Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation, says that "the U.S. must first signal its willingness and commitment to collaborating with the new government—and that it will not dwell on the controversy of the 2002 Gujarat riots, which led the U.S. to revoke Modi’s visa in 2005."[123]

On 11 June 2014, Robert Blackwill, the former Coordinator for Strategic Planning and Deputy US National Security Advisor during the presidency of George W. Bush, spoke at length about India-US relations and said : "Mr Modi is a determined leader. He is candid and frank. I also worked with him during the Gujarat earthquake when I was posted as (the US) ambassador to India. (...) It was mistake by the current Obama administration to delay engagement with Mr Modi. I do not know why they did so but definitely, this did not help in building relationship. (...) The old formula and stereotypes will not work if the US administration wants to engage with Mr Modi. The Indian prime minister is candid, direct and smart. He speaks his mind. The US administration also has to engage in candid conversation when Mr Modi meets President Obama later this year. They have to do something innovative to engage with him." [124]

2005 Denial of Visa Application and Revocation of Visa[edit]

In 2005, the US Department of State used a 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) provision to revoke Modi’s tourist/business visa citing section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act.[125] The IRFA provision "makes any foreign government official who ‘was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ ineligible for a visa to the United States."

David C. Mulford, the US Ambassador to India from 2003 to 2009, justified the rejection of a diplomatic visa to Modi in a statement released on 21 March 2005 stating that the US State Department re-affirmed the original decision to revoke Modi's tourist/business visa to which India's highest judiciary abstained all the charges from Modi later on the particular issue:[126]

This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department's detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state." [127]

Modi remains the only person ever to be banned to travel to the United States of America under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) provision of US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) due to political interest.[128][129]

Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India opined : "I think it was a serious mistake on the part of the last (Bush) administration to do that (deny Modi a visa) and the current (Obama) administration to keep it in place... all the way till the 2014 Indian elections,".[130] Blackwill highlighted the decision to deny Modi a visa as "absolutely unique" involving private political interest saying that the people who made the decision "thought, it’s pretty safe, because, he’s never going to be Prime Minister".[131] Modi was found not guilty of the charges by India's judiciary.[132]

Nicholas Burns, former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008, has spoken about the visa denial by saying : "Bush administration officials, including me, believed this to be the right decision at the time."[133][134] and has opined that "Now that it looks like Modi will become prime minister, it’s reasonable for the Obama administration to say it’s been 12 years [since the 2002 riots], and we’ll be happy to deal with him"[135]

2009 USCIRF visa black-list[edit]

In 2009, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report [136] after ignoring the views and decision of independent body (SIT) set up by India's highest judiciary[137] vehemently alleged that there was "significant evidence" linking Narendra Modi to communal riots in the state in 2002 and asked the Obama administration to continue the policy of preventing him from travelling to the United States of America .[138][139]

The Obama administration maintained the 2005 decision taken by the George W. Bush administration to deny Narendra Modi entry into the United States of America.[140] The US Government says that Modi can circumvent the USCIRF sanctions regime by visiting Washington on a Heads of government A1-visa as long as he is the Prime Minister of India.[141] According to US State Department Spokesperson, Jen Psaki : "US law exempts foreign government officials, including heads of state and heads of government from certain potential inadmissibility grounds,". The visa refusal came after some Indian-American groups and human rights organizations with political view campaigned against Modi, including the Coalition Against Genocide.[142]

2014-current BJP government[edit]

At present, India and the US share an extensive and expanding cultural, strategic, military, and economic relationship[143][144][145][146][147] which is in the phase of implementing confidence building measures (CBM) to overcome the legacy of trust deficit - brought about by adversarial US foreign policies [148][149][150][151] and multiple instances of technology denial [152][153][154][155][156] - which have plagued the relationship over several decades [157][158] Unrealistic expectations after the conclusion of the 2008 U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which underestimated negative public opinion regarding the long-term viability of nuclear power generation and contractual guarantees on safeguards and liability, has given way to pragmatic realism and refocus on cooperation areas which enjoy favourable political and electoral consensus.

Key recent developments include the rapid growth of India's economy, closer ties between the Indian and American industries especially in the Information and communications technology (ICT), engineering and medical sectors, an informal entente to manage an increasingly assertive China, robust cooperation on counter-terrorism, the deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations, easing of export controls over dual-use goods & technologies, and reversal of long-standing American opposition to India's strategic program.

Income creation through knowledge-based employment by Asian Indians has outpaced every other ethnic group according to U.S. Census data.[159] Growing financial and political clout of the affluent Asian Indian diaspora is noteworthy. Indian American households are the most prosperous in the USA with a median revenue of US$88000, followed by Chinese Americans at US$65000. The average household revenue in the USA is US$50000.[160]

US and India continue to differ on issues ranging from trade to civil liberties. The Indian Home Ministry, through an affidavit submitted to the Delhi High Court on 13 February 2015, claimed that Country Reports on Rights & Practices have become instruments of foreign policy: "The US, UK and EU have clearly mentioned in government documents and pronouncements that these reports are made for the purpose of their being used as instruments of foreign policy." The affidavit also claimed that the reports by US, UK and European Parliament were biased since they "do not provide opportunity to the Government of India or the local embassy/high commission to record their opinion and are heavily biased against the targeted country".[161] The 2014 State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report appeared to classify the Khobragade incident as an example of human trafficking, stating: "An Indian consular officer at the New York consulate was indicted in December 2013 for visa fraud related to her alleged exploitation of an Indian domestic worker."[162] In response, India has shown no urgency to allow visits to India by the newly appointed US anti-people trafficking ambassador Susan Coppedge and the US special envoy for LGBT rights Randy Berry. Under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code homosexuality is illegal in India. Indian Ambassador to the USA, Arun K.Singh reiterated India's committment to work within an international framework to tackle the problem of trafficking but rejected any "unilateral assessments" by another country saying "We will never accept it" and downplayed the importance of the visits: "When you ask a U.S. official when somebody will be given a visa, they always say ‘we will assess when visa is applied for.’ ... I can do no better than to reiterate the U.S. position."[163]

Relationship between US Government and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (2014 onwards)[edit]

Modi's visit to America, 2014[edit]

During the run-off to the general election there was wide ranging scepticism regarding future of the strategic bilateral relation under Modi’s premiership as in 2005 he was, while Chief Minister of Gujarat, denied a US visa[164] during the Bush administration for his alleged poor human rights records.[165] However sensing Modi’s inevitable victory well before the election, the US Ambassabor Nancy Powell had reached out to him as part of greater re-approachment from the west. Moreover, following his 2014 election as the Prime Minister of India President Obama congratulated him over telephone and invited him to visit the US.[166][167] US Secretary of State John Kerry visited New Delhi on 1 August to prepare the grounds for Modi's first ever US visit as Prime Minister. In September 2014, days before visiting the US in an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Modi said that "India and the United States are bound together, by history and culture" but acknowledged that there have been "ups and downs" in relations.[168] Modi travelled to US from 27–30 September 2014,[169] beginning with his maiden address in the United Nations general assembly followed by attending a gala public reception by the Indian American community in New York’s Madison Square Garden before heading Washington, D.C. for the bilateral talk with Obama. While there, Modi also met several American business leaders and invited them to join his ambitious Make in India program in a bid to make India a manufacturing hub.[170][171][172]

Barack Obama's visit to India, 2015[edit]

President Barack Obama became the first US president to be the chief guest of the 66th Republic Day celebrations of India held on 26 January 2015.[173] India and the US held their first ever bilateral dialogue on the UN and multilateral issues in the spirit of the "Delhi Declaration of Friendship" that strengthens and expands the two countries' relationship as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[174]

The conspicuous absence of major announcements, a key indicator of the state of US relations with the host country, led political commentators in both countries to highlight the confidence-building aspects of the visit[175][176][177][178][179]

Paradigm of Emerging Markets and Global Geopolitical Reconfiguration[edit]

The importance of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in redefining what are the poverty drivers for India. A. K. Shiva Kumar development economist.

India views the ongoing global power shift [180] from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean as an opportunity to lift millions of persons out of extreme poverty and a March to Modernity.[181] Indians, observing the Chinese geopolitical ascension,[182] have concluded the their country can only be taken seriously in 21st.century world affairs if it can speak from a position of economic strength. Investors and companies have been encouraged to tap the aspirations of the 1.2 billion strong[183] Indian market for goods & services and profit from Indian Ocean trade through the Make in India initiative launched by the Government of India.[184][185] The challenge facing India is to successfully leverage the country's youth dividend[183][186][187][188][189] towards achieving the Indian Century [190][191][192] and to avoid hubris that India's economic growth is inevitable.[193][194][195][196]

The global contribution to world's GDP by major economies.[197] Before the 18th century, China and India were the two largest economies by GDP output.
Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) valuation of top 10 countries and trade blocks (Source: IMF 2014)

India just as other Indo-Pacific regional powers (Japan & Indonesia), no longer content with peripheral influence in global discussions,[198][199] are seeking a radical reordering of the post-WWII global hierarchy of power.[200][201] Minor powers have grown enough in self-confidence to form new partnerships in order to further national interests and political goals.[202] The consensual view in Asia is that America will continue to remain relevant in world affairs for the foreseeable future, but already no longer enjoys uncontested supremacy.[203][204][205][206][207][208] Reflecting upon the extent to which the stakes have risen in the power politics at the global high table, US President Barack Obama implored Americans to "win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world".[209] Relentless efforts by American think-tanks and government officials to reassure alliance partners about American primacy in global affairs flies in the face of a steady stream of setbacks and challenges from Central Europe right through to the Indo-Pacific region (EU nations joining the AIIB, Russian annexation of Crimea, dismemberment of Ukraine, redrawing of colonial borders by loosely affiliated non-State entities,[210] clandestine nuclear programmes of Israel, Iran & North Korea, stalled Israeli–Palestinian peace process, forceful assertion on maritime claims by China).[211][212][213] The traditional dynamics of electoral politics in the USA has evolved as the American political spectrum has mutated out of its Eurocentric mould and gone global alongside the rising significance of the Latino-Hispanic American, African American and Asian American[214][215] voices within the US administration and political elite resulting in a reordering of ideas, priorities and strategies.[216][217][218][219][220][221][222][223]

The European Union - still reeling from the combined effects of the global economic slowdown, European sovereign debt crisis, a re-assertive Russia,[224] European migration crisis and several high-profile corporate scandals - appears rudderless in trying to find solutions to reverse the surge of Euroscepticism and anti-globalization movements.[225][226][227][228][229] Uncertainties in Brussels over the future state of the European Union are directly reflected in EU-India relations. India's publicly stated positions on security cooperation with the USA, Japan & Australia and trade prioritization efforts aimed at ASEAN, Japan and the USA have clearly been at the expense of the European Union. In October 2015, Hans Kundnani a senior fellow of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) observed that Europeans were increasingly "out of sync" with India.[230] Washington's pivot to Asia has exposed intrinsic weaknesses in the Europe Union's foreign (CFSP) and defence (CDSP) policies. Robust US-India strategic entente has moved India closer to the transatlantic perspective of the European Union coming out of Washington.[231][232] The new European Union leadership at Brussels, far from fostering an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, has succumbed to political interference from bilateral relations and allowed lobbyists to drive the EU-India dialogue into irrelevance.[233] In Asia, the effectiveness or acceptance of Europe's discourse and self-portrayal as a global political norm-setter in doubtful.[234][235][236][237][238] Acceptance of the European Union as a normative power in a multi-polar world is challenged by emerging powers.[239][240][241][242][243][244][245][246][247][248][249] Apart from trade, developmental aid, maritime escort duties against pirates and symbolic military exercises; European countries have little else to show in the Indo-Pacific region due to budgetary and geopolitical constraints. Niche high quality-price exports from Europe are steadily being squeezed out of traditional market segments. In India, product substitution of manufactured goods from domestic and regional suppliers, has seen the European Union's market-share drop by more than 50% over the past decade.[250]

For the 2012-2013 (April–July) period, India's top 10 trading partners according to data published by the Indian Ministry of Commerce:[251][252]

Rank Country Total Trade bn US$ Trade Share %
1  China 49.5 8.7
2  United States 46.0 8.1
3  United Arab Emirates (UAE) 45.4 8.0
4  Saudi Arabia 36.3 6.4
5   Switzerland 16.7 2.9
6  Iraq 15.5 2.7
7  Singapore 15.4 2.7
8  Indonesia 14.8 2.6
9  Germany 14.7 2.6
10  Hong Kong 14.6 2.6

On 7 October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande made a rare joint address at the European Parliament to recognise the seriousness of the ongoing socio-political turmoil within Europe and warned that the European Union was on the verge of breakdown. Francois Hollande cautioned European member-states to show solidarity in jointly solving common problems both within Europe and in its immediate neighbourhood, failing which “end of Europe” and “total war” could become inevitable.[253] Angela Merkel urged European lawmakers not to “succumb to the temptation of falling back into acting in nationalistic terms”. Francois Hollande laid out the stark choice that faced British voters through the Brexit referendum: "There is no other way. It's a horrible path, but it's a logical path. Leave Europe, leave Schengen and leave democracy.(...) Do you really want to participate in a common state? That's the question."[254][255][256] It had been 26 years since the leaders of France and Germany jointly addressed the European Parliament: Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl made a joint appeal for solidarity towards East Germans just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.[257][258]

Controversial actions on migrants, sovereign debt and engine exhaust control by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Volkswagen respectively have boomeranged out of control and severely compromised Germany's arduous 70-year long image makeover.[259][260][261][262][263][264][265][266][267][268] Europe-wide acceptance of Germany's leadership role of the European Union hangs in the balance after widespread dismay at the rigid political stance adopted by the German government and perceptions that the harsh conditions which Germany sought to impose upon Greece during the Greek sovereign debt crisis were overbearingly punitive.[269][270][271][272][273] Portrayal of Germany as a normative model of honesty, efficiency and ethics (incessantly repeated by German officials, mass media and private citizens during the Greek sovereign debt crisis)[274] came undone following revelations of fraud at a global level on an industrial scale by Volkswagen.[275][276][277][278][279][280][281][282] Time Magazine termed the actions of Volkswagen as "superbly engineered deception, with 11 million VW diesel cars fitted with special software that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests.(...) German industry was supposed to be above this sort of thing–or at least too smart to get caught."[283] A reality-check of the geopolitical power of individual members of the G4 nations at the 2015 UN General Assembly and practical aspects of Asian geopolitical compulsions have influenced India's choice to refocus on strategic bilateral engagements with France and UK who are UNSC P5 member States. The inevitability of a security reordering in Eurasia, impending transformation of the political landscape within the European Union due to the unchecked rise of Euroscepticism, fast deteriorating security situation on the Eastern and Southern periphery of the European Union, assertive manoeuvring by Russia & China in their traditional areas of influence, eventuality of alliances to counterbalance and prevent German dominance of Western Europe, and the improbability of Germany acceding to the UNSC have already been factored in by Indian strategic planners.[284][285][286][287][288]

Map of overland route from India to Britain. (Source: "A journey from Merut in India, to London, through Arabia, Persia, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, and France, during the years 1819 and 1820", Thomas Lumsden 1822.)
Geopolitical map of the Eurasian region

Perpetuation of State borders in the Eurasian continent - which contain several hotly contested demarcation lines which date back from the European Colonial period in Asia: (Nine-dotted line, Sykes–Picot Agreement,[289][290] Durand Line, McMahon Line, Radcliffe Line); appear increasingly elastic [291][292][293] in the face of geopolitical, socio-economic and technological transformations.[290][294][295][296][297][298] Colour revolutions and the Arab Spring have destabilized the Caucasus and Western Asia respectively setting-off unintended repercussions right across the Eurasian continent: revival of historic rivalries between Turkey (Ottoman Empire) & Iran (Persia),[299][300][301] emergence of the Daesh[302] and a proxy war involving regional and global powers.[303][304][305][306][307][308][309][309] India has been reluctant to get involved in the Middle-Eastern turmoil due to ethnic Persianate roots and historic cultural influence of India's 172 million Muslim population (14.2% of the country's population according to the 2011 census).[310][311][312] The Government of India has prohibited Indian nationals from traveling to Syria & Iraq and issued directives allowing police to detain persons suspected of having served as mercenaries.[313][314]

Dr.Manmohan Singh, India's former Prime Minister, observed that the concurrent geopolitical re-emergence of China and India has initiated a period of "cooperation and competition" in the Indo-Pacific region: "it is an era of transition and consolidation. Inclusive economic growth remains the bedrock of our country's future. Infrastructure, education, development of skills, universal access to healthcare must be at the core of our national policies. Being a strong and diversified economy will provide the basis for India playing a more important global role. Hence the primary focus of India's foreign policy has to remain in the realm of economic diplomacy,". Commenting on the ongoing turmoils in Ukraine, West Asia and North Africa, Dr.Singh observed: "Competing and conflicting interests among Western and regional powers have led these countries to support rebel groups in countries like Iraq and Syria. These rebel groups have joined hands with extremist Jihadist groups to create the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Chaos and civil war have been the bitter harvest of the flawed policies of regime change in Arab countries, leading to unprecedented violence and human suffering, forcing Arab and Afghan refugees to flee in hundreds of thousands to Europe. The impact of these developments on a weak European economy will only add to the doubts about sustained economic recovery in the EU,".[315]

The primacy of Western-led post-World War II supranational institutions and Bretton Woods system in shaping the outcomes of Asian affairs is no longer a given.[316] Asian countries having not forgotten their colonial past and bitter lessons learnt from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, are unwilling to negotiate with external powers on matters affecting state sovereignty. The BRICS are committed to building a multipolar world order and have agreed to coordination on core interests of individual members.[317][318][319][320][321][322] Western sanctions against Russia prompted China to conclude a $400 billion energy accord,[323] effectively neutralizing efforts to drain Russian finances.[324][325][326][327] BRICS are wooing investors with the allure of best potential for economic growth.[328] Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), North–South Transport Corridor, Asian Highway Network, New Eurasian Land Bridge and Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has received increased attention at Track-2 initiatives of the RIC (Russia, India & China) countries.[329][330]

Muscle flexing by China on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC)[331] against the backdrop of prominent displays of military might (live test of an ASAT weapon in 2007 by China in response to a 1985 satellite-kill by the USA) and challenges (the Hainan Island incident where the President of the USA was forced to apologise to China to ensure the safe return of the crew of a US Navy intelligence gathering aircraft which was intercepted by PLAN fighter planes) has rekindled an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.[332]

India has staked a claim to playing a central role in the Asian Century [333][334][335][336] by embarking upon a programme to modernise and diversify assets of the Strategic Forces Command, raise the profile of the Andamans and Nicobar Command (ANC), build strategic petroleum reserves, and renew civilizational ties with regional countries. India has prioritized the strengthening of strategic partnerships - with Russia, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore & Iran - in order to offset and forestall an irrecoverable shift in strategic balance of power in Asia emanating from a resurgent China seeking to advance its One Belt, One Road initiative.[337][338][339] Agreements to install ocean surveillance capabilities in Madagascar, Fiji, Seychelles (Assumption Island),[340] Mauritius (Agaléga) & Maldives seeks to shelter India's strategic interests and diaspora.[341][342][343][344][345] India's national security planners have sought to consolidate India's presence and extend influence in countries which are key to China's One Road, One Belt with special focus on Oman, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam. India has increased security dialogues and military exercises with Japan, Australia and USA while concurrently undertaking confidence building measures with China with the aim of maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.[346][347][348][349][350][351][352][353]

The tendency of Indians to get either enraged or swooned by lofty rhetoric when it comes to China prompted Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, to advise unwavering attention to the improvement of societal aspirations and caution against over-reach : "it is in India's interest to bide its time, remain calm, not get distracted by geopolitics and instead focus on core strengths. India has the advantage, even on China, because of a young population. Put aside the border for now, engage China, take advantage of their competencies".[354] Speaking out against a distorted portrayal of China in the Western media, Chandran Nair of South China Morning Post deplored journalism which betrayed deep-rooted ideological biases.[355] His view are echoed by Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who during the 2014 Hong Kong protests said: "There has been much anti-China bias in Western media's reporting".[356]

Jaguar Cars on display at 2012 Delhi Auto Expo. Jaguar Cars was acquired by Indian conglomerate Tata Motors to rapidly enter the global mid-size luxury/executive car market.

The scale and speed of economic development in the Asia-Pacific region,[357][358] in both absolute and relative terms,[359] has profoundly shaken public self-confidence in Western countries[360][361][362] and stunned observers.[363][364] In 2014, Asia-Pacific (+29%) accumulated wealth faster than Europe (+6.6%) and North America (+5.6%). However, America leads in absolute numbers with $370,000 (including life and pension assets) per household and Europe follows with $220,000.[365] US sub-prime credit default related to student debt and auto loans stands unresolved and has been flagged as a significant bubble risk.[366][367]

The merging of an "economic Asia" - wherein corporations are easily wooed with the pan-Asian win-win logic of cooperation and integration - and a "security Asia" structured upon delicately balanced zero-sum reasoning of competition and disintegration; has presented unique scenario for the future according to Evan Feigenbaum and Robert Manningan: "economic Asia" could become "an engine of global growth", while "security Asia" could, in the worst-case scenario, lead to great power war.[368] Recent developments indicate that while India and China are increasingly competing on geopolitical matters, the two countries are simultaneously willing to bridge differences and cooperate on trade.[369][370][371][372]

North–South Transport Corridor (NSTC) showing terrestrial and maritime trade routes
Historic terrestrial and maritime trade routes of Asia

China-India driven economic growth, fresh opportunities to develop new geographical zones due to improved Sino-Indian relations,[373] observed collateral consequences on local populations & economies caused by recent US-led military interventions in Iraq & Afghanistan, conspicuous absence of the US President at the APEC Indonesia 2013 summit due to the United States federal government shutdown of 2013,[374][375][376] budgetary constraints of the US military,[377] improvements in anti-access area denial (A2/AD) capabilities by littoral States to counter maritime power projection assets,[378] limitations in the US air-sea battle doctrine,[379] risks of conflict escalation,[380] historic intra-regional rivalries,[381][382][383][384] the fact that post-WWII American interventions in major conflicts in Asia have not been victorious (stalemate in the Korean peninsula, Vietnam debacle, ineffectual US-led COIN operations in Afghanistan) and the unconvincing US pivot to Asia, dissolved the appetite amongst Asian countries to support a US-led China containment policy.[385][386][387][388][389][390][391][392] US economic, political and military dominance is in relative decline compared to emerging powers.[393][394][395] Asian countries increasingly view the US primarily as a market for manufactured goods and as a highly capable provider of security infrastructure.[396][397][398]

Geopolitical map of the Heartland theory from Halford Mackinder's 1904 The Geographical Pivot of History

Geopolitical re-balancing by regional powers has allowed several Asian microstates and LDCs to extract significant economic advantages and concessions while staying on the sidelines of regional power-play.[399][400][401][402][403][404] Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, had a word of caution regarding strategic hedging in the regional power-play and pointed to Singapore's proximity to India and China: "Singapore knows it's place in the world".[405]

Asia's emerging economies have enthusiastically embraced clever, innovative, frugal and shrewd market-access strategies to face-up to global competition.[406] The 2015-2016 Indian budget foresees co-development of manufacturing hubs in Southeast Asian countries.[407] In March 2015, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj announced that India's 2015 target for trade with ASEAN is $100 billion and both sides are aiming to double it to $200 billion by 2022.[408] India has accelerated initiatives to resolve insurgency in Northeast India[409] to promote economic development within the Seven Sister States.[410][411]

The improvement and optimization of inter-Asian trade through future mega infrastructure projects, like the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor and Thai Kra Isthmus Canal,[412] are increasing seen as viable and vital to the continuation of economic integration of regional markets.[413][414][415][416][417][418] In May 2014,[419] India announced prioritization of Asian Highway Network regional cross-border connectivity programmes like the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project with Myanmar and the Trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand Friendship Highway to Thailand.[420][421][422] Bangladesh and Myanmar, both fast emerging as nodal road and rail connectivity transit routes, have received special attention in India's foreign and trade development policies.[423]

Heads of State and Government from BRICS nations join hands to express cooperation and solidarity ahead of the 2014 G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Inadequate representation in global security and governance architectures and the tendency of the G7 to pre-emptively set the agenda for the G20[424][425][426][427][428] has led India to complement traditional international forums such as the United Nations Security Council, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) with special interest groupings such as BRIC/BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), East Asia Summit (EAS), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM), Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).[429][430]

India aspires to an incontournable role in the Asian pivot to Asia.[431][432][433] Between 2004 and 2014 Western think-tanks, especially in the US and UK, failed to pick-up on tell-tale signs of impending transformations to the Indian political scene : swings in electoral voting patterns in rural areas (60% of India's 1.2billion population live outside urban population centers), large-scale nationwide citizen-led protests around specific societal agendas (anti-corruption, right to information), and rapid changes in priorities of the growing middle-class electorate. The association of improvements in basic education, vibrant & unrestricted mass media journalism, penchant for political debate in Indian society,[434] and the huge increase in Indians working and studying abroad has changed how Indians perceive themselves in the global arena in general and Asia in particular. Proximity to Dubai and Singapore - both immensely popular business and tourism destinations besides hosting huge Indian diaspora - has influenced the imagination of Indians in terms of possibilities for wealth creation through trade & infrastructure development.

Academics have raised concerns about the relaxed institutional attitude in the West to rapid metamorphosis in Asia.[435][436][437] In 2010, John Doggett of McCombs School of Business, University of Texas issued a wake-up call: "China and India are beating us at our own game".[438][439] Highlighting the "inability to keep pace with the transformations" in Asia by Western countries, Michael Kugelman - South and Southeast Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center - advocated a change in mind-set and the necessity for Western countries to make their presence felt in India.[52][440][441] Explaining the need for a review of available expertise on India centric matters, Jakob De Roover of University of Ghent in Belgium opined: "India and the West could together look for solutions to the problems that we share. Instead, Western commentators reproduce old colonial stories about India as an immoral culture. This gives them a twisted relationship to the Indian people. On the one hand, they keep turning towards the same class of Indian journalists, activists, and intellectuals for ‘local knowledge’. But these native informants merely talk the talk of the West to the West."[442] Western think-tanks have morphed into political place-holders employing armies of lobbyists instead of analysts who are real researchers or academics.[443]

Asian regional powers are unwilling to forfeit any notion of an independent foreign policy and thereby become a tool in the global exercise of power.[444][445] Speaking at the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue, the Indian Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh postulated that Asian countries will increasingly attend to their national security and internal markets through structured dialogue within Asian multilateral structures like ASEAN and SCO rather than be over-reliant on formal alliances with external powers.[446]

American capacity to shape global outcomes (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine) has been ineffectual. Recent US rebalancing and alliance-building activities in the Indo-Pacific region have demonstrated that Asian states are unwilling to settle for a Western-dominated global order and blindly acquiesce to an American-led construct of geopolitical frameworks, rules-based trade and mobility mechanisms which do not adequately address the interests of Asian countries.[447][448][449]

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were officially established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. All 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve these goals by the year 2015.

The rise of authoritarian capitalism has dealt a blow to assumptions that political systems, in the post-Cold War era, will converge as liberal democracies and be shaped along Western values.[450][451][452][453][454] The majority of Asian states have had autocratic leaders who curtailed civil liberties and imposed restrictions on democratic institutions within their countries. Asian populations have accommodated authoritarian leaders (Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore being a classic example),[455] showing preference for stable socio-economic development, progressive reduction of wealth-gap and continuation of nuclear family structures over principled stands on human-rights and democracy promotion.[456][457][458][459][460][461][462] Philosophical and religious beliefs play an important role in the acceptance by Asian populations of slow-paced economic growth spanning over several generations at a time when the lives of their Western contemporaries are driven by quarterly financial results and speculative financial markets.[463][464][465][466][467][468][469][470][471][472][473][474][475][476][477][478]

Social engineering of Asian societies along western values of liberalism and individualism has seen mixed results across Asia.[479][480][481][482][483] In Asia, many aspects of the 'American way of life' and the 'European social model' have been adopted as economic benchmarks concurrent to demands for stricter statutory controls on indecent exposure, public nudity, pornography, etc.[484][485][486][487][488] “A permanent feature of American opinion and action in foreign policy is the wish, the hope, that other nations might turn from the 'error of their ways' and become democracies,” says historian Jacques Barzun and spelt out limitations to democracy promotion: “it cannot be fashioned out of whatever people happen to be around in a given region; it cannot be promoted from outside by strangers; and it may still be impossible when attempted from inside by determined natives.” Former US deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, who heads the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace opined: “Our own preachiness and lecturing tendencies sometimes get in the way, but there is a core to more open democratic systems that has an enduring appeal,” (...) “respect for law and pluralism creates more flexible societies, because otherwise it’s hard to hold together multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies.”[489] India's former finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram identified the fundamental error in US foreign policy: “Believing that there is a U.S.-imposed solution to every problem.”[490]

Interviewed by The Hindu in the context of the 25th anniversary of German reunification, Mathias Rust the iconic German aviator who contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union by landing a small aircraft near the Red Square in Moscow on 28 May 1987, surmised that institutional failures in Western countries to preserve moral standards and uphold the primacy of democratic ideals was creating mistrust between peoples and governments. Pointing to the genesis of a New Cold War between Russia and the Western powers, Mathias Rust suggested that India should tread with caution and avoid entanglement: “India will be better served if it follows a policy of neutrality while interacting with EU member countries as the big European powers at present are following the foreign policy of the U.S. unquestioningly,”. Mathias Rust drew attention to the casus belli which is fuelling Euroscepticism: “Governments have been dominated by the corporate entities and citizens have ceased to matter in public policy,”.[491][492]

The non-Western rational of Asian diplomacy in the post-Colonial era appears to balance nationalist aspirations, developmental opportunities, shared cultural roots and historical legacies.[493][494] Asia’s future is powerfully shaped by "History and nationalism, not ideology," according to Nayan Chanda.[495][496][497]

Paucity of senior-most bureaucrats from India, China and Russia within Western think-tanks has left Western nations struggling to identify the ever-evolving dynamics of decision-making and fully comprehend Asian perspectives on geopolitical issues; determinants which are fundamental to assessing key trends and anticipating policy shifts. The Government of India through its Official Secrets Act places strict constrains on practitioners of foreign policy and proscribes unauthorised biographies and unvetted publications by serving and retired senior civil servants and defence personnel. The United States diplomatic cables leak damaged careers and reputations and has instilled a sense of reticence within the political and diplomatic establishment to express divergent ideas and opinions or share privileged information.

The appointment in January 2015 of former Indian Ambassador to the US, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, as Foreign Secretary [498][499][500] seeks to reassure Western countries about Indian strategic intentions in Asia.[501][502][503] Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is the father of Dhruva Jaishankar - a German Marshall Fund (GMF) Transtlantic Fellow in Washington.[504]

Military relations[edit]

Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) stand in ranks as the Indian navy destroyer Satpura (F-48) pulls alongside Halsey during a Malabar 2012 exercise.
U.S. Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and Indian Army soldiers with the 6th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment, fire each other’s weapons during Yudh Abhyas 2015 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
USAF F-15C Eagles (middle of V formation) from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, fly with Indian air force SU-30K Flankers (rear) and Mirage 2000 aircraft over the Indian landscape during Cope India 04, the first bilateral fighter exercise between the two air forces in more than 40 years.

US-India military relations derive from a common belief in freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and seek to advance shared security interests. These interests include maintaining security and stability, defeating violent religious extremism and terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated materials, data, and technologies, and protecting the free flow of commerce.

Harsh V. Pant, professor of International relations at King's College London, highlighted the importance of India to US strategic planning by saying: "India is key to the US’ ability to create a stable balance of power in the larger Indo-Pacific and at a time of resource constraints, it needs partners like India to shore up its sagging credibility in the region in face of Chinese onslaught." Robert Boggs, Professor of South Asia Studies at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, opines that the US "overestimates both India’s desire to improve the relationship and the benefits doing so would bring".[505] Neelam Deo, director of foreign policy at Gateway House, underscored the importance that India attaches safeguarding its national interests by saying: "India is a big country, with its own strategic objectives and imperatives and it will act on opportunities where interests converge, as it has done in the past."[52]

Recognising India as a key to its strategic interests, the United States has sought to strengthen its relationship with India. The two countries are the world's largest democracies, and both are committed to political freedom protected by representative government. The US and India have a common interest in the free flow of commerce and resources, including through the vital sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. In recent years, India has conducted large joint military exercises with the US in the Indian Ocean.[506]

There have been some differences, however, including US concerns over the nuclear weapons programmes and the pace of economic reforms in India. In the past, these concerns may have dominated US thinking, but today the US views India as a growing world power with which it shares common strategic interests.[citation needed] A strong partnership between the two countries will continue to address differences and shape a dynamic and collaborative future.

In a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee in November 2001, the two leaders expressed a strong interest in transforming the US-India bilateral relationship. High-level meetings and concrete cooperation between the two countries increased during 2002 and 2003. In January 2004, the US and India launched the "Next Steps in Strategic Partnership" (NSSP), which was both a milestone in the transformation of the bilateral relationship and a blueprint for its further progress.

In July 2005, Bush hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, D.C. The two leaders announced the successful completion of the NSSP, as well as other agreements which further enhanced cooperation in the areas of civil nuclear, civil space, and high-technology commerce. Other initiatives announced included a US-India economic dialogue, the fight Against HIV/AIDS, disaster relief, technology cooperation, an agriculture knowledge initiative, a trade policy forum, energy dialogue, CEO Forum, and an initiative to assist each other in furthering democracy and freedom.[507] President Bush made a reciprocal visit to India in March 2006, during which the progress of these initiatives were reviewed, and new initiatives were launched.

Nuclear cooperation[edit]

In late September 2001, President Bush lifted sanctions imposed under the terms of the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act following India's nuclear tests in May 1998. A succession of non-proliferation dialogues bridged many of the gaps in understanding between the countries.

In December 2006, the US Congress passed the historic Henry J. Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Cooperation Act, which allows direct civilian nuclear commerce with India for the first time in 30 years. US policy had been opposed to nuclear cooperation with India in prior years because India had developed nuclear weapons against international conventions, and had never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). The legislation clears the way for India to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel for civilian use.

The India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement also referred to as the "123 Agreement", signed on 10 October 2008 is a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation which governs civil nuclear trade between American and Indian firms to participate in each other's civil nuclear energy sector.[508][509] For the agreement to be operational, nuclear vendors and operators must comply with India’s 2010 Nuclear Liability Act which stipulates that nuclear suppliers, contractors and operators must bear financial responsibility in case of an accident.

Economic relations[edit]

The United States is one of India's largest direct investors. From 1991 to 2004, the stock of FDI inflow has increased from USD $11.3 million to $344.4 million, and totaling $4.13 billion. This is a compound rate increase of 57.5 percent annually. Indian direct investments abroad began in 1992, and Indian corporations and registered partnership firms are now allowed to invest in businesses up to 100 percent of their net worth. India's largest outgoing investments are in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for 54.8 percent of the country's foreign investments. The second largest are in non-financial services (software development), accounting for 35.4 percent of investments.

Trade relations[edit]

U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting with Indian and American business leaders in New Delhi.

The US is one of India's largest trading partners. In 2011, the US exported $21.50 billion worth of goods to India, and imported $36.15 billion worth of Indian goods.[510] Major items imported from India include information technology services, textiles, machinery, gems and diamonds, chemicals, iron and steel products, coffee, tea, and other edible food products. Major American items imported by India include aircraft, fertilisers, computer hardware, scrap metal, and medical equipment.[511][512]

The United States is also India's largest investment partner, with a direct investment of $9 billion (accounting for 9 percent of total foreign investment). Americans have made notable foreign investments in the Asian country's power generation, telecommunications, ports, roads, petroleum exploration and processing, and mining industries.[512]

In July 2005, President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created a new programme called the Trade Policy Forum. It is run by a representative from each nation. The United States Trade Representative was Rob Portman, and the Indian Commerce Secretary then-Minister of Commerce Kamal Nath. The goal of the programme is to increase bilateral trade and investment flow. There are five main sub-divisions of the Trade Policy Forum, including:

  • The Agricultural Trade group has three main objectives: agreeing on terms that will allow India to export mangoes to the United States, permitting India's Agricultural and Process Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to certify Indian products to the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and executing regulation procedures for approving edible wax on fruit.
  • The goals of the Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers group include agreeing that insecticides manufactured by US companies can be sold throughout India. India had also agreed to cut special regulations on trading carbonated drinks, many medicinal drugs, and lowering regulations on many imports that are not of an agricultural nature. Both nations have agreed to discuss improved facets of Indian regulation in the trade of jewellery, computer parts, motorcycles, fertiliser, and those tariffs that affect American exporting of boric acid. The group has also discussed matters such as those wishing to break into the accounting market, Indian companies gaining licenses for the telecommunications industry, and setting policies regarding Indian media and broadcasting markets. Other foci include the exchange of valuable information on recognising different professional services, discussing the movement and positioning of people in developing industries, continuation of talks on financial services markets, limitation of equities, insurance, retail, joint investment in agricultural processing and transportation industries, and small business initiatives.

The majority of exports from the US to India include: aviation equipment, engineering materials and machinery, instruments used in optical and medical sectors, fertilisers, and stones and metals. Below are the percentages of traded items (India to US), which have increased by 21.12 percent to $6.94 billion:

  1. Diamonds & precious stones (25 percent)
  2. Textiles (29.01 percent)
  3. Iron & Steel (5.81 percent)
  4. Machinery (4.6 percent)
  5. Organic chemicals (4.3 percent)
  6. Electrical Machinery (4.28 percent)

Major items of export (US to India) for the year 2006 (up to the month of April) were $2.95 billion USD:

  1. Engineering goods & machinery (including electrical) (31.2 percent)
  2. Aviation & aircraft (16.8 percent)
  3. Precious stones & metals (8.01 percent)
  4. Optical instruments & equipment (7.33 percent)
  5. Organic chemicals (4.98 percent)

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  499. ^ The Jaishankar I know
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Further reading[edit]

  • Aspen Institute India. The United States and India: A Shared Strategic Future (Council on Foreign Relations, 2011) online
  • Ayres, Alyssa and C. Raja Mohan, eds. Power Realignments in Asia: China, India and the United States (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Barnds, William J. India, Pakistan, and the Great Powers (1972)
  • Chary, M. Srinivas (1995). The Eagle and the Peacock: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward India Since Independence. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-27602-6. 
  • Brands, H. W. India and the United States: The Cold Peace (1990)
  • Brands, H. W. Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire 1918-1961 (1991) pp 196–230; Loy Henderson was US Ambassador, 1948–51
  • Chary, M. Srinivas. The Eagle and the Peacock: U.S. Foreign Policy toward India since Independence (1995) online edition
  • Chaudhuri, Rudra. Forged in crisis: India and the United States since 1947 (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Clymer, Kenton J. Quest for Freedom: The United States and India's Independence (1995) online
  • Govil, Nitin. Orienting Hollywood: A Century of Film Culture Between Los Angeles and Bombay (NYU Press, 2015)
  • Hart, David M., and Zoltan J. Acs. "High-tech immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States." Economic Development Quarterly (2011) 25#2 pp: 116-129. online
  • Isaacs, Harold R. Scratches on Our Minds: American Views of China and India (1980) online
  • Karl, David J. "U.S.-India Relations: The Way Forward," Orbis (2012) 56#2 pp 308–327 online
  • Kux, Dennis. India and The United States: Estranged Democracies 1941 - 1991 (1993)
  • McMahon, Robert J. Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India and Pakistan (1994) excerpt and text search
  • Merrill, Dennis (1990). Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947-1963. UNC Press. 
  • Pant, Harsh V. "The US-India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process, and Great Power Politics," Asian Security (2009) 5#3 pp 273–95 doi:10.1080/14799850903179012
  • Rani, Sudesh. "Indo-US Maritime Cooperation: Challenges and Prospects," Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India, Vol. 8, No. 2, (December 2012) Pages: 123-43 doi:10.1080/09733159.2012.742664
  • Rotter, Andrew J. Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964 (2000)
  • Roy, Dr. P. C. Indo-U.S. Economic Relations. Rajouri Garden, New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1986. 73–125.
  • Schaffer, Teresita C. India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership (2010)
  • Sharma, G. D. Indo Us Defence Cooperation (Vij Books, 2012), excerpt and text search
  • Sokolski, Henry. United States and India Strategic Cooperation (2010)

Primary sources[edit]

  • Bowles, Chester (1969). A View from New Delhi: Selected Speeches and Writings, 1963-1969. Yale U.P. ISBN 978-0-300-10546-9. , US ambassador 1951-53 and 1963–69
  • Bowles, Chester. A View From New Delhi (1969) excerpt and text search
  • Bowles, Chester. Promises to Keep (1972), autobiography; pp 531–79 by US ambassador 1951-53 and 1963–69
  • Galbraith, John K. Ambassador's journal: a personal account of the Kennedy years (1969) online, he was US ambassador to India 1961-63
  • U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), many volumes of primary sources; the complete texts of these large books are all online. See Guide to FRUS. For example, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971 was published in 2005 and is online here. The most recent volumes are Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume E–7, Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972 (2005) online here and Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume E–8, Documents on South Asia, 1973–1976 (2007) online here.

External links[edit]