The relationships between India in the days of the British
Raj and the US were thin. 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 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. Regarding India, Americans learned
more from English writer Rudyard
Kipling. Mahatma Gandhi had an important influence on
the philosophy of non-violence promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s.
In the 1930s and early 1940s the United States gave very
strong support to the Indian independence movement in defiance of the British
Empire. The first significant immigration from India before 1965 involved
Sikh farmers going to California in the early 20th century.
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. India’s policy of being not aligned with
either the US or the Soviet Union, but maintaining close ties with the latter, also impacted
relations. American officials perceived India’s policy of non-alignment
negatively. Ambassador Henry F. Grady told then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the United States did not consider neutrality to
be an acceptable position. Grady told the State Department in December 1947
that he had informed Nehru “that this is a question that cannot be
straddled and that India should get on the democratic side immediately.
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. George W. Bush commented,
“India is a great example of democracy. It is very devout, has diverse
religious heads, but everyone is comfortable about their religion. The world
needs India”. Fareed Zakaria,
in his book The
Post-American World, described
George W. Bush as “being the most pro-Indian president in American
history. At present, India and the US share an extensive and expanding
cultural, strategic, military, and economic relationship 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 and multiple
instances of technology denial – which have plagued the relationship over
several decades. 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 civil-society endorsement for contractual
guarantees on safeguards and liability) has given way to pragmatic realism and
refocus on areas of cooperation which enjoy favourable political and electoral
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 (99% of licenses applied for
are now approved), and reversal of long-standing American opposition to
India’s strategic program.
The U.S. has four
“foundational” agreements that it signs with its defence partners.
The Pentagon describes the agreements as “routine instruments that the
U.S. uses to promote military cooperation with partner-nations”. American
officials have stated that the agreements are not prerequisites for bilateral
defence co-operation, but would make it simpler and more cost-effective to
carry out activities such as refueling aircraft or ships in each other’s
countries and providing disaster relief. The first of the four agreements,
the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), was signed by
India and the U.S. in 2002. The agreement enables the sharing of military
intelligence between the two countries and requires each country to protect the
others’ classified information. The second agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum
of Agreement (LEMOA), was signed by the two countries on 29 August 2016. The
LEMOA permits the military of either country to use the others’ bases for
re-supplying or carrying out repairs. The agreement does not make the provision
of logistical support binding on either country, and requires individual
clearance for each request.
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.
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. 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.
Prominent industrial accidents (1984
Bhopal chemical-gas disaster and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster)
has led to greater scrutiny by civil society into corporate responsibility and
financial liability obligations of vendors and operators of critical
infrastructure. In 2010, the Indian Parliament voted the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act to
address concerns and provide civil liability for nuclear damage and prompt
compensation to the victims of a nuclear incident.
Counter-terrorism and internal security:
Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable
progress with intelligence sharing, information exchange, operational
cooperation, counter-terrorism technology and equipment. India-U.S. Counter-Terrorism
Cooperation Initiative was signed in 2010 to expand collaboration on
counter-terrorism, information sharing and capacity building. A Homeland
Security Dialogue was announced during President Obama’s visit to India in
November 2010 to further deepen operational cooperation, counter-terrorism
technology transfers and capacity building. Two rounds of this Dialogue have
been held, in May 2011 and May 2013, with six Sub-Groups steering cooperation
in specific areas. In December 2013, India-U.S Police Chief Conference on
homeland security was organized in New Delhi. Police Commissioners from India’s
top four metropolis paid a study visit to the U.S. to learn the practices of
megacities policing in the U.S. in November 2015. The two sides have agreed on
a joint work plan to counter the threat of Improvised Explosives Device (IED).
In order to further enhance the counter terrorism cooperation between India and
the U.S., an arrangement was concluded in June 2016 to facilitate exchange of
terrorist screening information through the designated contact points.
India-U.S. Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism held its 14th meeting in
July 2016 in Washington DC.
Energy and Climate Change:
The U.S.-India Energy Dialogue was launched in May 2005
to promote trade and investment in the energy sector, and held its last meeting
in September 2015 in Washington DC. There are six working groups in oil &
gas, coal, power and energy efficiency, new technologies& renewable energy,
civil nuclear co-operation and sustainable development under the Energy
Dialogue. Investment by Indian companies like Reliance, Essar and GAIL in the
U.S. natural gas market is ushering in a new era of India-U.S. energy partnership.
The U.S. Department of Energy has so far given its approval for export of LNG
from seven liquefaction terminals in the U.S., to countries with which the U.S.
does not have a free trade agreement (FTA) – with two of these five terminals,
the Indian public sector entity, Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has
offtake agreements, totaling nearly 6 million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA).
These terminals are expected to be complete and in a position to export cargoes
by late 2016/early 2017. As a priority initiative under the PACE (Partnership
to Advance Clean Energy), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the
Government of India have established the Joint Clean Energy Research and
Development Center (JCERDC) designed to promote clean energy innovations by
teams of scientists from India and the United States, with a total joint
committed funding from both Governments of US$ 50 million.
A bilateral Joint Working Group on Civil Space
Cooperation provides a forum for discussion on joint activities in space,
including (i) exchange of scientists; (ii) OCM2, INSAT3D collaboration; (iii)
Cooperation on Mars mission; (iv) nano-satellites; (v) carbon /ecosystem
monitoring and modeling; (vi) feasibility of collaboration in radio
occultation: (vii) Earth Science Cooperation: (viii) international space
station; (ix) global navigation satellite systems; (x) L&S band SAR; (xi)
space exploration cooperation; (xii) space debris mediation. The last meeting
of the JWG was held in September 2015 in Bengaluru. NASA and ISRO are
collaborating for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and for a dual-band Synthetic
Aperture Radar (NISAR). In June 2016, ISRO successfully launched record 20
satellites onboard PSLV rocket, which included 13 satellites from the United
Science & Technology (S):
The India-U.S. S cooperation has been steadily
growing under the framework of U.S.-India Science and Technology Cooperation
Agreement signed in October 2005. There is an Indo-U.S. Science &
Technology Joint Commission, co-chaired by the Science Advisor to U.S.
President and Indian Minister of S. The U.S. attended as the partner
country at the Technology Summit 2014 at New Delhi. In 2000, both the
governments endowed the India-U.S. Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) to
facilitate mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in science, engineering,
and health. Over the past decade, the IUSSTF has facilitated more than 12,000
interactions between Indian and U.S. scientists, supported over 250 bilateral
workshops and established over 30 joint research centers. The U.S.-India
Science & Technology Endowment Fund, established in 2009, under the Science
and Technology Endowment Board promote commercialization of jointly developed
innovative technologies with the potential for positive societal impact.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Earth Sciences and U.S. National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has been strengthened under the
2008 MOU on Earth Observations and Earth Sciences. A “monsoon desk”
has been established at the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
India’s contribution of $250 million towards Thirty-Meter Telescope Project in
Hawaii and Indian Initiative in Gravitational Observations (IndiGO) with U.S.
LIGO Laboratory are examples of joint collaboration to create world-class
Under the 2010 U.S.-India Health Initiative, four working
groups have been organized in the areas of Non-Communicable Diseases,
Infectious Diseases, Strengthening Health Systems and Services, and Maternal
and Child Health. In order to build up the disease surveillance and
epidemiological capacity in India, Global Disease Detection-India Centre was
established in 2010 and an Epidemic Intelligence Service program launched in
Oct 2012. U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Indian Council of Medical
Research, and India’s Department of Biotechnology have developed a robust
relationship in the biomedical and behavioral health sciences, research related
to HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, eye
disease, hearing disorders, mental health, and low-cost medical technologies.
In the first meeting of the Health Dialogue in September 2015 in Washington DC,
both sides agreed to collaborate institutionally in the new areas of mental
health and regulatory and capacity-building aspects of traditional medicine.
India is in the midst of major and rapid economic
expansion. Many U.S. business interests view India as a lucrative market and
candidate for foreign investment. The United States supports India’s efforts to
transform its once quasi-socialist economy through fiscal reform and market
opening. Since 1991, India has taken steps in this direction, with coalition
governments keeping the country on a general path of reform. However, there is
U.S. concern that movement remains slow and inconsistent.
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. To its east, India shares a
contested land border with the other rising Asian power of the twenty-first
century, China. India—despite continuing challenges with internal violence—is a
force for stability, prosperity, democracy, and the rule of law in a very
For New Delhi, the
principal driver behind the transformation of its relations with Washington
lies in the Indian ambition to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2025
and, consequently, also emerge as one of the key global political and security actors.
This fundamental objective requires two external conditions: first, at the very
least, ensuring a nowar environment, particularly in India’s immediate
neighborhood; and second, the ability to shape global rules in terms of
existing and emerging norms and institutions that have a direct impact on
India’s ambitious development goal and economic well-being—particularly
multilateral norms and institutions related to climate, cyber, energy, food,
outer space, trade, and water (rivers and oceans)policy.
significant progress, India and the U.S. still have a long way to go to reach
their desired goals of enhanced bilateral relation in strategic spheres. In
2015, imports from the U.S. were US$21.4bn while India’s exports to the U.S.,
which totalled about US$40bn in 2015, stood at less than two per cent of total
goods that enter the U.S.
The following three areas
offer a way to focus U.S. efforts in the coming months:
At a time when international
norms and institutions are being tested, the U.S. and India have stood
steadfast in supporting an Indo-Pacific region that protects freedom of
navigation and the sovereignty of states – large or small. The U.S. has
recognized that a defense partnership with India will be critical to
safeguarding these values. As India seeks to modernize its defense capabilities,
Washington should become India’s defense partner of choice by continuing
to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.
Bilateral Economic Deals
In the coming decades, Asia
will be the growth engine for the world, and India will be one of the fastest
growing large economies contributing to that growth. This presents an immense
market for U.S. goods and services, and an opportunity for India to benefit
from greater trade and investment – leading to employment and growth for both
countries. However, this requires being able to put in place the necessary
policy frameworks that give confidence and certainty to the private sector.
It is difficult to find a
concept that has such widespread support such as improving connectivity, both
within India and across the region. Whether it be improving
people-to-people ties, economic and development cooperation, physical
infrastructure, energy security and access, or collaboration to address
transnational threats, greater connectivity can create tremendous security,
economic, and geopolitical value to the United States, India, and countries in