India-US Bilateral Relations: All You Need To Know

Eliminating the hesitations of history, India and the United States have built a strong and strategic bilateral relationship and continues to contribute the stability and prosperity of the world. The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru likened American Imperialism to that of British. He propounded and propagated the Non-Alignment Principle whereby India refused to join either the capitalistic US or the communist Soviet Union.

India’s socialistic economic principles and deep scepticism to the US hegemony resulted in its predilections towards USSR much to the ire of the West. As the ideological Cold War ended after a myriad of international convergences and divergences, India was forced to look West given the paradigm shift in the geopolitics of the world and in Francis Fukuyama’s words “End of History”. Today both India and US are among the most vibrant foreign cohorts and strategic partners.

India-USA: History of Relations

  • The birth of Indian Republic was accompanied by Pakistan’s occupation of Kashmir. Nehru’s efforts to garner support from the international community was fruitless.
  • India declined the American offer to accept a seat at the United Nations Security Council and rather pushed for the membership of the People’s Republic of China which it has immediately recognized as a sovereign nation. (Reference – TheHindu)
  • In the year 1950, India abstained from a US-sponsored resolution calling for UN’s military involvement in the Korean War. India even voted against UN forces crossing the 38th Parallel and naming China as an aggressor.
  • 1955: Pakistan officially aligned with the United States via the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CEATO) also known as Baghdad Pact. Meanwhile, India, being the chief proponent of Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), held the first Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, Indonesia.
  • The rogue state of Pakistan became an important ally to the US in the containment of the Soviet Union, giving rise to strategic complications with India.
  • In the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the US extended help to India against China’s belligerence by sending an American carrier- The Enterprise- to the Bay of Bengal. China, however, had declared unilateral ceasefire the next day. Indian leaders and public welcomed American intervention.
  • 1966: In response to India’s criticism of the US intervention in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson restricted the supply of grain shipments to India under Public Law 480 programme.
  • 1967: A predominantly Anti-American worldview led India to reject a founding membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
  • 1968: India rejected the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) proposed by the world’s leading nuclear powers.
  • 1971: The USA had maintained a studious silence on Pakistan’s repressive policies in East Pakistan. The then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Delhi to make India comply to not support liberation movements in East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi’s intransigence was met with diplomatic muscle-flexing. Next month, India signed a Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation with the Soviet Union, seen as a blatant shift from India’s Non-Alignment policies. US President Richard Nixon in a retaliatory move chose to explicitly tilt American policy in favour of Pakistan and suspended $87 million worth of economic aid to India. American naval fleet USS Enterprise traversed the Bay of Bengal, issuing mild threats. India won the Bangladesh Liberation War as the Pakistani Army embarrassingly surrendered more than 90,000 troops.
  • 1974: India conducted its first nuclear weapon test at Pokhran, and it came as a major jolt to the USA who made plans to upgrade its presence at Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian ocean.
  • 1975: India faced considerable domestic turmoil and entered into a state of Emergency.
  • 1977: The Emergency ended and the US immediately eased restrictions it has placed on World Bank loans to India and approved direct economic assistance of $60 million.
  • 1978: US President Jimmy Carter and Indian Prime Minister Desai exchanged visits to each other’s nations.
  • The 1980s: Large amounts of military aid was pumped into Pakistan by the USA in order to fight a proxy against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This created significant repercussions in the internal security of India as the Pakistani mujahedeen fighters infiltrated into Kashmir as militants.
  • 1988: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made a historic visit to China which led to normalization of relations between India and China.
  • 1990: India hesitatingly provided a brief logistical support for American military operations in the Gulf War.
  • Post-1991: The Soviet Union disintegrated into independent nations and the United States emerged as the single largest hegemon, making the world unipolar. It coincided with India opening doors to foreign private capital in its historic Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization move.
  • Trade between India and the US grew dramatically and is flourishing today.

Why India Matters to the USA?

  • India is an indispensable partner for the United States. Geographically, it sits between the two most immediate problematic regions for U.S. national interests. The arc of instability that begins in North Africa goes through the Middle East, and proceeds to Pakistan and Afghanistan ends at India’s western border.
  • The Indian landmass juts into the ocean that bears its name. With the rise of Asian economies, the Indian Ocean is home to critical global lines of communication, with perhaps 50 percent of world container products and up to 70 percent of ship-borne oil and petroleum traffic transiting through its waters.
  • India’s growing national capabilities give it ever greater tools to pursue its national interests to the benefit of the United States. India has the world’s third-largest Army, fourth-largest Air Force, and fifth largest Navy. All three of these services are modernizing, and the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy have world-class technical resources, and its Army is seeking more of them.
  • India is an important U.S. partner in international efforts to prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  • India’s broad diplomatic ties globally (most importantly in the Middle East), its aspirations for United Nations (UN) Security Council permanent membership, and its role in international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency makes New Delhi an especially effective voice in calls to halt proliferation.
  • India’s position against radicalism and terrorism corresponds with that of the United States.
  • India’s English-speaking and Western-oriented elite and middle classes comfortably partner with their counterparts in U.S. firms and institutions, including more than 2.8 million Indian Americans. The U.S. higher education system is an incubator of future collaboration, with more than 100,000 Indian students in American universities.
  • As India modernizes and grows it will spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure, transportation, energy production and distribution, and defence hardware. U.S. firms can benefit immensely by providing expertise and technology that India will need to carry out this sweeping transformation.
  • India-USA cooperation is critical to global action against climate change.
  • India is genuinely committed to a world order based on multilateral institutions and cooperation and the evolution of accepted international norms leading to accepted international law.
  • Indian culture and diplomacy have generated goodwill in its extended neighbourhood. New Delhi has positive relations with critical states in the Middle East, in Central Asia, in Southeast Asia, and with important middle powers such as Brazil, South Africa, and Japan—all of the strategic value to the United States. India’s soft power is manifest in wide swaths of the world where its civil society has made a growing and positive impression.
  • Indian democracy has prospered despite endemic poverty; extraordinary ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity; and foreign and internal conflicts.

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