India-US Relations

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  • 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

    Competing Exceptionalisms: US-India Defence Relationship

    This article analyses US-India strategic relations and the potential role of defence trade. First, it argues that cooperative relations between the two countries are hindered by “competing exceptionalisms” and the lack of a pre-existing model for the relationship. At the same time, bilateral relations are being strengthened by a convergence of interests and increasing societal linkages. Even on issues that have historically divided New Delhi and Washington-such as relations with third countries-there is a more nuanced understanding of differing perspectives in both capitals.

    April 2012

    Shubhda Chaudhary asked: What are the implications of accepting the US-sponsored sanctions against Iran by India?

    S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: It is not mandatory on the part of India to follow the US-sponsored sanctions against Iran given that these are unilateral measures primarily applicable to the US companies or companies that do/intend to do business with the US-based companies. These sanctions have certain requirements – like prohibiting an investment exceeding $20 million in a year in Iran’s petro-chemical industry, restrictions on loans that can be provided by the US financial institutions ($10 million over a 12-month period), among others. The above are part of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) of January 2010. The Obama administration further tightened such measures by targeting Iran’s Central Bank in December 2011, making it difficult for others to carry out business transactions with Tehran.

    India has been negatively affected by these unilateral measures, and has had to find alternative mechanisms to pay for Iranian crude. The percentage of Iranian oil though has been declining relative to the overall imports. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during his recent visit to the US remarked that India was buying 14 million tonnes of Iranian oil, as against total imports of 170 million tonnes (for a little over 8 per cent).

    The US 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act urges countries to cut their imports from Iran ‘significantly’. President Obama recently gave 11 nations (10 European and Japan) exemption from US sanctions which could be effective from July 2012 after making the consideration that they have reduced their imports ‘significantly’. While India has not applied for such exemption, it could still meet the criterion by not paying in ‘hard currency’ for the crude it buys, sourcing its requirements from others like Saudi Arabia (which is to supply 32 million tonnes in 2012-13, which is 5 million tonnes more than the previous year) among other pertinent steps.

    The US–India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process and Great Power Politics by Harsh V. Pant

    The Indo-US nuclear deal not only opened the gates of international nuclear trade for India, but it also showed that India was ready to take its rightful place among the comity of nations as an emerging power. For three long years from 2005 to 2008, the world's strongest and largest democracies were involved in intense diplomatic parleys. At stake in these negotiations was not only the normative order in the form of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), but also the very existence of the ruling political dispensation in India.

    March 2012