Current Paradigms in India-US Relations

After independence relations between US and India started on a positive note, with Jawaharlal Nehru making multi week trip to US in 1949. It preceded India’s formal proclamation for Non Alignment during late 1950s. During India-China war, US supported India. Strategic and military ties remained close between India and US till 1965 war with Pakistan. During 1971, an axis developed between US-Pakistan-China, which deteriorated the relations and forced India to sign Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Russia for 20 years in 1971. Further relations deteriorated after India conducted its 1st nuclear weapon test in 1974, thus becoming first nations out of permanent 5 to do so. In 1978 US administration under the Presidentship of Jimmy Carter enacted Nuclear Non Proliferation Act which required country not included in the Non Proliferation Treaty to allow inspections of all nuclear facilities by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), to which India refused, thus all nuclear assistance to India was ended by US. Further relations improved during Rajiv Gandhi from 1984 to 1990. In 1990 India took economic reforms and along with disintegration of USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) relations between US and India started improving. Again in 1998 India conducted another nuclear test named ”Operation Shakti” at Pokhran, thus inviting criticism from all over the world. In the same year Pakistan conducted the nuclear test. US recalled its ambassador from India and imposed economic sanctions required under US laws.

India-US relations post 2000: With the US president Bill Clinton visit to India in 2000, relations started on a positive note at the start of 21st century. Further George Bush’s administration in 2001 lifted all sanctions imposed on India in 1999 after India conducted nuclear test. The platform, on which present relations are moving, was provided by several initiatives taken especially after2004. These initiatives are mentioned below:

US-India Energy Dialogue

The U.S.-India Energy Dialogue was launched in 2005 to promote increased trade and investment in the energy sector, through identification of further areas of co-operation and collaboration, while actively working with both the public and private sectors. Work under this dialogue is organised under 6 working groups- Power and Energy Efficiency, New Technology and Renewable, Coal, Oil and Gas, and Civil Nuclear Energy, the Sixth, the Working Group on Sustainable growth was added in 2013..Export of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) from US to India is covered under this dialogue. Other areas like energy from low carbon sources etc are covered. Shale gas assessment in India is also covered under this dialogue.

PACE (Partnership to Advance Clean Energy)

PACE was launched in 2009 under India-US energy dialogue to strengthen energy co-operation between both the countries. It is the flagship program between the U.S. and India to work jointly on energy security and clean energy. PACE focuses on accelerating the transition to high-performing, low emissions, and energy-secure economies. It aims to bolster joint efforts to demonstrate the viability of existing clean energy technologies as well as identify new technologies that can increase energy access and security. PACE also focuses on engaging the private sector, local governments, industries, and other stakeholders in sharing best practices on sustainable low carbon growth. PACE includes both a research component funded by DOE and the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology – the U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy R&D Centre (JCERDC, also referred to as PACE-R) – and an interagency deployment component (PACE-D).

Defence Framework Agreement

It was signed in 2005 for duration of 10 years.
The expiring (2015) defence agreement committed to expanding defence trade, technology transfers, coproduction, and collaboration on counterterrorism, security and stability. 
It covers all aspect related to defence. It includes defence cooperation, military exercises, research, co development and coproduction of military equipment, defence trade, exchanging intelligence information, and maritime security. It has been renewed during recent Obama visit to India on 66th republic day. Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) is an important initiative under defence framework agreement. DTTI represents a US commitment to building indigenous Indian industrial base pre-screening projects for co-production, and eventually co-development. During recent Obama visit on republic day, 4 projects were identified for joint production and development and exploring cooperation for jet engines and aircraft carrier systems. The projects identified under the DTTI include next generation Raven mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), roll on, roll off intelligence kits for C-130 transport aircraft and mobile electric hybrid power source. Since institutionalisation of DTTI in 2012 there has been major project emergence, now there is an attempt to make it result oriented.

Civil Nuclear Deal

It is considered as the greatest achievement of former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. This is also called 123 agreement or Indo-US civil nuclear deal and was signed in 2005. Under this India agreed to separate its civil and nuclear facilities and to place all its civil nuclear facilities under the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards and in exchange US agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India. India signed IAEA additional protocol in 2009 and ratified in 2014. US congress gave final approval to it in 2008. The nuclear deal makes India the only country outside of the Non Proliferation Treaty that has nuclear capabilities and is allowed to participate in nuclear commerce. Further Indian Nuclear Liability law brought hurdles in operationalising the trade in civil nuclear area. Its section 17(b) and section 46, related to claim, in case of nuclear accident, from the supplier and not from the operator. US considered these clauses beyond the compensation required under Convention on Supplementary Compensation. These hurdles have also been resolved during Obama visit to India on republic day when the president announced the ”Breakthrough” in nuclear deal. Enhanced insurance pool of $244 million ( rupees 1500 crores which ceiling under the India nuclear liability law) to be contributed half by Indian insurance companies run by General Insurance Company (GIC) and other half by the government. Some calls it as the burden will be finally born by taxpayers in India.

India-US Strategic Dialogue

It is held annually. India and the U.S. launched a Ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue, co chaired by External Affairs Minister and the U.S. Secretary of State in July 2009, which focuses on bilateral relations along five pillars of mutual interest, namely:

  • Strategic Cooperation;
  • Energy and Climate Change,
  • Education and Development;
  • Economy, Trade and Agriculture;
  • Science and Technology; and Health and Innovation.


Obama-Singh 21st century Knowledge Initiative, cooperation in higher education is held under this initiative. The road map has been laid out for promoting strategic institutional partnerships, deepening collaboration in research and development, fostering partnerships in vocational education and focusing on junior faculty development. India is seriously looking at the U.S. model of Community Colleges to build capacity for vocational education and skill development. Given India’s huge population and geographic spread, India proposes to forge collaborations with U.S. Institutions in the area of Technology Enabled Learning and Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) to extend the reach of education.

Strategic Consultation

India and U.S. have intensified and expanded their strategic consultations in recent years with dialogues covering East Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. The two sides have agreed on strategic consultations covering Latin America and Africa. India and the U.S. have a trilateral dialogue with Japan and a trilateral dialogue with Afghanistan.

Indian PM Narendra Modi visit to USA (September 2014

The main highlights of the visit are mentioned below:

  • ”Chalen sath sath- together we go forward” was mentioned in joint statement, to realise full potential of Indo-US relations in 21st century.
  • Both sides agreed to make “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle safe havens for terror and criminal networks like LeT, JeM, D-company, al Qaeda and Haqqani network.
  • India is not going to join “any coalition” in fight against terrorism in West Asia. A trilateral partnership agreed on Afghanistan, would be developmental in nature and not military cooperation.
  • US said India meets the standards of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and is “now ready” for the membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-member body which controls global nuclear trade. US reaffirmed support for India’s membership of the expanded UN Security Council and backed it for “voice and vote” in international financial institutions like IMF and World Bank.
  • The US will be the lead partner in developing Allahabad, Ajmer and Vishakhapatnam as ‘Smart Cities’.
  • The countries will also cooperate in the Mars Mission.
  • The two sides agreed to set up Water and Sanitation Alliance (WASH).

US extended $1 billion aid in renewable energy to India to finance technologies, products of US origin. US EXIM bank will provide this conditional aid to IREDA (Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency).

US president’s visit to India on Republic Day (2015)

Barack Obama became the 1st US president to visit India twice during his tenure and also 1st to attend Indian republic day. The main highlights of the visit are mentioned below:

  • IndoUS nuclear logjam broken (discussed above in civil nuclear deal heading).
  • US announced $4 billion of new initiatives, trade missions: Out of it $2 billion will be for financing renewable energy investments in India. $1 billion will be used as loans for small and medium business in India. US EXIM bank will finance $1 billion ”Made in America” export to India.
  • High-Level US India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue to monitor progress on the pacts and vision statements laid out by PM Modi and President Obama. This is to cut red tapism.
  • On clean energy front more cooperation is expected, with US agreeing to share more innovative technology, financing with India.
  • Defence Framework Agreement has been reviewed. (discussed above in the defence heading)

Both commit themselves on Bilateral Investment Treaty and taking forward Social Security Agreement. $500 billion trade target has been set from current level of $100. To resolve IPR (Intellectual Property Rights), a mechanism was agreed to be set up.

India and US issued 3 separate documents:

  • Declaration of friendship with a commitment to regular summits.
  • A joint statement called ”Shared Effort, Progress for all”.
  • A joint strategic vision statement for the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean region. It specifically mentions ” we affirm importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea”. This statement has caused concern in China.

GKToday Comment

India and US both are global natural partners now. Both have similar mutual interest. Both are democracies, face fundamentalist threat, both want freedom of navigation in international waters and from strategic point of view both have future threat from China. Today in multipolar world, India faces immediate threat from its neighbours, especially Pakistan, China. With development of close relations between Pakistan and China, it is important for India to have a big ally like US. Although during the last phase of UPA government, relations between both were deteriorating with Devyani Khobragade issue, WTO dispute regarding local content requirement in India’s solar mission etc. But with the coming of new regime in India and visit of Indian PM to US in September 2014 and recent Obama visit on republic day, relations have again started moving on upward trajectory, which clearly shows the maturity in the relations between both the countries. India carries out more military exercises with US forces than those of any other country. There are more Indian students in the US than anywhere else. Indian Diaspora is nowhere more prosperous than in US. From the economic perspective also, India needs US investment in its ” Make in India” initiative, technology transfer in defence & renewable energy. Trade between both the countries holds great potential for which target of $500 billion has been set up. Indian exports are only 2% less than the American imports to India, unlike with China where there is huge trade deficit. Further from strategic perspective, to bring stability in Afghanistan which is vital for both India and US, to contain emerging Chinese threat, partnership between India and US will hold vital importance. It’s not only India that requires US, US also requires India in realising its success in its ”Pivot to Asia” strategy. Also India is huge market for US products and companies. On climate change front too, both needs to develop partnership to mitigate the threat of climate change. In the whole process India should not lose its policy of independent foreign policy and should maintain its relationship with its old time tested ally i.e. Russia, as US is doing with China.

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