India-US Relations

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  • Hiddayat Dar asked: What are the trends in India-US relations post-Devyani Khobragade episode? What could be its possible negative fallout?

    Saroj Bishoyi replies: Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest, strip search and indictment by the US authorities, has negatively impacted what otherwise has been a burgeoning Indo-US strategic relationship. The immediate impact was on regular bilateral engagements, such as the postponement of the India-US Energy Dialogue initially scheduled to be held in January 2014, on account of rising adversarial perceptions. Perhaps, this also led to the resignation of the US Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, on March 31, 2014.

    However, on March 11, 2014, India and the US resumed their energy dialogue in New Delhi where the two sides expressed their strong commitment to promoting greater technological and scientific collaboration on energy issues. The two sides also expressed their strong desire to further strengthen the strategic relationship based on mutual interests on other areas too, such as trade, climate change, defence, health, education as well as on regional and global security issues. Earlier, on January 22, 2014, India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had met the US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Geneva II meeting in Montreux. Reviewing the recent development in India-US relations, they not only underscored its significance but also recognised the necessity to set up institutional arrangements to address issues relating to the privileges and immunities for diplomats.

    In a positive development, the US court dismissed the January 9 indictment against Khobragade on March 12, 2014. But the American prosecutors immediately thereafter, on March 14, filed another indictment against her on charges of visa fraud and accused her of underpaying her domestic maid, which was again resented by New Delhi. So far the issue has not been resolved to the satisfaction of New Delhi.

    However, efforts to normalise the relations continued as the two sides held the sixth round of India-US East Asia Consultations on March 28, where senior government officials from both sides discussed maritime security, combating nuclear proliferation, and expanding regional trade in the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor and beyond.

    While in India general elections are underway, the US too is looking forward to mid-term elections due later this year. This means that there will not be any substantive development in the bilateral relationship until the next government takes over in both the countries. However, the two countries cannot afford to overlook the relationship for a long time, given the congruence in their strategic interests on a wide range of issues. In addition, both the countries have heavily invested in diplomatic and political capital over the last one decade in improving the relationship.

    Though the relationship is clearly going through a tough time, yet it remains a very important one for both the nations. Despite existing differences over trade, visa rules, nuclear liability, security and other issues, the core objective of India-US strategic relationship remains very strong. The differences can be resolved through established joint mechanisms, such as the India-US Strategic Dialogue. Once the dust settles down both in New Delhi and Washington, the two sides will most likely sharpen their focus on key issues of shared interest, and make vigorous and substantive efforts to take the relationship to its rightful place. It is in the respective national interests of both the US and India to build a strong strategic relationship in the twenty-first century.

    Posted on April 21, 2014

    Asian Strategic Review 2014: US Pivot and Asian Security

    Asian Strategic Review 2014: US Pivot and Asian Security
    • Publisher: Pentagon Press

    The “Pivot to Asia” strategy qualifies to be called Obama Doctrine: a part of Obama’s “grand strategy”. This policy may radically redefine not only the US engagement with Asia but also the Asian strategic dynamics. This book looks at various facets of the pivot strategy, to include US, Chinese, regional and country specific perspectives with an aim of providing greater clarity and understanding.

    • ISBN 978-81-8274-769-2,
    • Price: ₹. 995/-
    • E-copy available

    India–US Strategic Dialogue: An Assessment

    India–US strategic dialogue was initiated in 2009, and is organised annually in different capitals. The first round of dialogue took place against the backdrop of pessimism in the bilateral relationship. For about six months after the new Obama administration was formed, strategists in Delhi were suspicious about the durability of an India–US strategic partnership that had been painstakingly nurtured by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    November 2013

    US-India Defence Technologies for Transfer: Cultural Change

    India-US defence ties are shifting away from a ‘buyer-seller’ path to one of co- development and co-production. In Washington this is viewed as a change from a ‘culture of presumptive no to one of presumptive yes’.

    October 15, 2013

    Digvijay Singh asked: What are the implications of the June 2013 India-US Strategic Dialogue for India?

    Saroj Bishoyi replies: The fourth India-US Strategic Dialogue, held in New Delhi on June 24-25, 2013, provided an opportunity for both India and the US to take stock of the overall strategic relationship and to rethink what further needs to be done to take it forward. It also provided an opportunity for India to highlight and discuss various pertinent issues. The successful conclusion of the Strategic Dialogue seems to have cleared the ambiguity on some issues which had arisen in recent times.

    The two sides discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, such as, energy, education, science and technology, trade and investment, nuclear, defence, counterterrorism, etc. They also discussed regional and global security issues, such as, Afghanistan, maritime security and climate change. Importantly, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid launched a Climate Working Group (CWG) to strengthen their partnership on climate change as an important area of bilateral cooperation. India’s Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju and Secretary Kerry co-chaired the India-US Higher Education Dialogue to further build on the cooperation in the higher education sector. On the implementation of the nuclear deal, Kerry announced that Westinghouse would sign a ‘commercial agreement’ to sell nuclear reactors to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India by September 2013.

    On India’s concern over the Washington’s negotiations with Taliban and the power transition in post-2014 Afghanistan, Kerry asserted that any political settlement must result in the Taliban breaking ties with the al-Qaeda, giving up violence and accepting the Afghan Constitution. Appreciating India’s constructive role in Afghanistan, he assured that India’s security interests will not be neglected while making any such settlement in future. The two sides also reviewed their close cooperation on the issue of India joining the four international export control regimes: the NSG, MTCR, WA and AG. Secretary Kerry reaffirmed US’ support for India’s full membership in these groups. He also reiterated US’ support for India’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

    The India-US Strategic Dialogue was inaugurated in 2009 with the primary aim of building a strong partnership between the two countries, based on their shared values and interests. At present, the India-US strategic partnership covers almost the entire field of human endeavour and the dialogue process has helped in building mutual trust and confidence between the two countries. Unlike the past, however, the two sides now realise that though they may not agree on every aspect of the strategic relationship, they do agree that building a strong partnership in the 21st century is in their national interests.

    The June 2013 dialogue, thus, provided a good opportunity for both the nations to reassess and discuss on how to take the relationship forward from the current plateau.

    Ashish Mehta asked: What are the US’ interests in furthering India's candidature in the export control regimes?

    S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: The US first expressed its intention to support India’s candidature in the export control regimes (NSG, MTCR, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arrangement) during President Barack Obama’s November 2010 visit to New Delhi. The Joint Statement between President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is instructive in this regard. The Statement noted that such a move would be ‘commensurate with India’s non-proliferation record and commitment to abide by multilateral export control standards’. It indicated that the move was part of efforts to expand cooperation between the two countries in ‘civil space, defence and other high-technology sectors’. The Joint Statement further indicated that the US wanted India to play a leadership role in promoting global non-proliferation objectives, to strengthen global export control framework, further transform bilateral export control regulations and policies as well as ‘realize the full potential of the strategic partnership between the two countries’.

    The process has however not been smooth given the consensus-based approach to get membership in these regimes and the case of countries like Pakistan and Israel (the other non-NPT members who are nuclear weapon states) which want similar treatment. It is, however, pertinent to note that while Pakistan has a poor proliferation record ranging from North Korea to Iran to the A.Q. Khan network, Israel is yet to acknowledge that it possesses nuclear weapons. China has also carried out nuclear commerce with Pakistan in contravention of the NSG guidelines.

    For an analysis of the issues surrounding India’s NSG membership, refer to the IDSA Issue Brief, “India and NSG: Approaches to Indian Membership”.

    Arnab Sen asked: How US 'Asia' Pivot policy is going to help India?

    Reply: Refer to an earlier reply by Saroj Bishoyi to a similar query, at

    Also, refer to the following:
    Speech of Leon E. Panetta, U.S. Defence Secretary, at IDSA, “Partners in the 21st Century”, June 6, 2012.
    Arvind Gupta, “America’s Asia Strategy in Obama’s Second Term”, March 21, 2013.
    Arun Sahgal, “India and US Rebalancing Strategy for Asia-Pacific”, July 9, 2012.
    Jeffrey W. Legro, “The Politics of the New Global Architecture: The United States and India”, Commentary, Strategic Analysis, 36 (4), July 2012.
    Abhijit Singh, “The US Pivots to the East: Implications for India”, January 16, 2012.

    America’s Asia Strategy in Obama’s Second Term

    Indian planners would be cautious about an open US embrace as India does not want to be drawn into a US containment policy, which is how China perceives US rebalancing.

    March 21, 2013

    Shaif Tazir asked: What will be the impact of the new US immigration policy on India?

    Saroj Bishoyi: The new US immigration policy is expected to benefit Indians in a number of ways. President Barack Obama, in a major policy speech in Las Vegas on January 29, 2013, laid out the broad principles for a comprehensive immigration reform where he proposed to eliminate the annual country caps in the employment category, increase the number of family-sponsored immigrants, create start-up visas for entrepreneurs, and fast track the green cards for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Diplomas, Ph.D and Masters Degree graduates from US Universities who have found employment in the country.

    President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal broadly includes a legal way to earn citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, enhanced enforcement at borders and in workplaces, and changes to make legal immigration system more simple and efficient, especially for families, workers, and employers. President Obama’s proposal is quite similar to the blueprint released on January 28, 2013 in Washington by a bipartisan group of eight senators, four from each party, which called for tougher border security, a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, more green cards to more foreign STEM graduates of US universities, and an effective employment verification system to prevent illegal foreigners.

    A separate bipartisan group of four Senators on January 29, 2013 introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (IIA) which focuses on employment-based immigration reforms that would be favourable to the American employers in terms of attracting and retaining highly educated and skilled foreigners. The main components of the Act are: the annual H-1B worker visa cap would be increased from the current 65,000 to 115,000; establish a market based flexible H-1B cap, with a ceiling of 300,000 H-1B visas per year; authorise employment for spouses of H-1B visa holders; uncap the existing US advanced degree exemption, under the current law this group is limited to 20,000 per year; allow dual intent for foreign students at US colleges and universities to ensure their future in the country; facilitate the movement of foreign workers between employers; increase the number of employment-based green cards from the current limit of 140,000 per year; numerical caps on green cards would be exempted for outstanding researchers and professors; the per country green card limit, which causes persons born in India and China to wait for a longer time for getting green cards, would also be eliminated, etc. These reforms in the US immigration policy are more likely to benefit Indians.

    Finally, the reform proposals put forward by the Senate and President Obama are expected to have a vote before the August 2013 recess. The Indian-Americans, who have contributed significantly to the US economy as well as to research and innovation, are among the fastest growing Asian American communities in the US. The population of Indian-Americans, as per the 2010 US census, is over 2.8 million, making them the second largest Asian American community after Chinese Americans. The Indian students, families and employers are thus more hopeful about President Obama’s commonsense and pragmatic legal immigration policy which could address their concerns. Calling immigration reform ‘a top priority’ of his second term, the US President also stated that he is committed to completing the reform process by the end of this year.

    Logistics Support Agreement: A Closer Look at the Impact on India-US Strategic Relationship

    Logistics support between the armed forces of India and the US will be a vital aspect for enhancing cooperation in capability development to respond to natural disasters and address emerging security threats of the twenty-first century. As the 2005 India-US New Framework Defence Agreement highlights the broader areas of convergence of security interests, the exchange of logistics support facilities would further enhance bilateral defence cooperation as well as India’s strategic role, keeping in view the projected expansion of the Indian Navy’s role beyond the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

    January 2013