India-US Relations

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  • 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

    Vipin Garg asked: What are the implications of US’ Asia pivot strategy for India?

    Saroj Bishoyi replies: As the global power shifts to Asia, the US’ Asia pivot strategy aims to maintain a dominant strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific by reinforcing its long held supremacy in the region. This strategy comes at a time when rising China’s military assertiveness in Asia is growing, America’s economic and political power is relatively declining, and the US eagerly looks forward to extricating itself from various conflicts in the greater middle east – Iraq and Afghanistan. India is seen as a lynchpin of this pivot strategy which is quite clear from the US department of defense guideline and also from various official statements.

    This pivot strategy offers both opportunities as well as challenges for India. It will help further enhance its burgeoning strategic relationship with the US as well as with the Asia-Pacific countries on a range of issues. But the key differences between the two countries are likely to emerge regarding the political endgame in Afghanistan, and any US attempt to push India into making a choice of “with us or against us” on important strategic issues in Asia. India would rather prefer its own rebalancing strategy by not allying against any country (China) where its friendly relationship with all the major powers (including China and Russia) holds key to its rise in the coming decades. Besides, its own foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific region has been evolving over the last two decades. It will thus adopt a very cautious approach towards this pivot strategy.

    Meanwhile, India would like to develop a multilateral security architecture wherein all the Asian powers can work together and cooperate on vital economic and political issues for achieving their common interests. The US’ economic condition also demands a cooperative approach towards the Asian powers, including China. In addition, the US recognises that India and the US may not agree on every issue but would continue to enhance their strategic partnership. It also emphasises respect for India’s strategic autonomy. Perhaps, there is need for an intensive Indo-US strategic dialogue on the future of Indo-Pacific order.

    Vipin asked: Is US' pivots to Asia nothing but a strategy to contain china? How should India play out in this?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: Asia vis-à-vis Asia-Pacific is the central focus in American foreign policy strategy currently. Often seen as the “centre of gravity” by many, Asia-Pacific has been in the news for some time, particularly for the renewed American focus on the region. While most countries in Asia vis-à-vis in Asia-Pacific, such as Australia, Japan and smaller South-East Asian countries do hold strategic relevance to America’s broader Asian strategy, it is perhaps India that tops currently the priority list in its strategic calculus.

    Among the countries in Asia, India has frequently been seen as a pro-Western country by many in the US. Whether among the Republicans or the Democrats, there has been greater focus on India in the US strategic circles in the last decade. The Indo-US relationship has seen greater ascendancy on every account, be it at the economic front or on various strategic issues. On Asia-Pacific policy as well, greater convergence of interest has emerged between the two recently.

    The recent set of events in the South China Sea, where the Chinese seem to be gaining ground as a central power, the ever-increasing vitality of the Indian Ocean in terms of energy resources, routes and power rivalry, and the non-traditional security threats in Asia-Pacific including terrorism, are some of the factors that have prompted the Americans to renew the focus on Asia vis-à-vis Asia-Pacific afresh, while taking India seriously. This renewed American focus is a result of the post-Afghanistan strategy, where it seems to focus its military resources more towards the Asia-Pacific.

    With India’s growing influence in Asia vis-à-vis the Asia-Pacific region, the US sees India as an alternative to the growing Chinese power and hegemony in the Asia-Pacific and in the broader Asian geo-politics. Indian economy is also seen in the American diplomatic circle as a beneficial economy for greater Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In these emerging situations, India must take serious note of the American strategy, and prioritize its foreign policy not only towards individual powers but also towards the sub-regional bodies and respective sub-regions. Indian interest does not always have to converge with the American strategy. Rather, Asia’s emerging situation and its various regional facets and politics should be the priority in India’s foreign policy approaches. That calls for some reordering of priorities. South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Afghanistan are indeed vital regions for India and require robust attention. But the (sub) regional bodies like the ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, SCO and the SAARC needs equal priorities. The geo-politics of the current century is more than a zero-sum game. Power rivalry and competing cooperation are the two most important aspects of Asian politics today. It would be best for India to aim for pan-Asian leadership at the regional level without conceding much of an option to others, at least not to a power like China.

    India and US Rebalancing Strategy for Asia-Pacific

    In the light of the US rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific, the Indian dilemma is how to boost its relationship with the US that can provide an impetus to its economy and defence capability building without antagonising China.

    July 09, 2012

    The Politics of the New Global Architecture: The United States and India

    The nature of international politics is changing with respect to two key developments: the relative decline of the United States and the gridlock in major global international institutions like the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation. The emerging strategies of two different countries, the United States and India, suggest that international relations will increasingly take place in other arenas, specifically in regional groupings, bilateral networks and transnational ties.

    July 2012

    The US–India Nuclear Agreement: Revisiting the Debate

    The 2005 US—India nuclear pact created ripples of controversy and debates within in a short period of time. In the US, the nuclear agreement was weighed vis-à-vis the non-proliferation regime—does it strengthen or weaken the regime? On the contrary, in India concerns were raised regarding the implications for India's strategic as well as civilian nuclear programmes. This article highlights the disjuncture in the concerns raised in the US and India.

    July 2012

    Panetta’s Prescription for New Directions in US-India Defence Relations: Cyber and Space Security

    There is an ongoing global competition to gain dominance in the space and cyber domains; while going it alone might be the best policy, collaboration with clearly laid out guidelines and end-goals is not without its benefits.

    June 08, 2012

    India and the US: Squaring the Circle on Iran

    Attempts by India and the US to square the circle on the nature of India’s energy cooperation with Iran have hit high gear in the aftermath of Clinton’s visit.

    May 10, 2012

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