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India-USA Relations

2023 NOV 14

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Global Powers   >   India-USA


  • The fifth India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was concluded successfully in New Delhi recently and focused, among other subjects, on bilateral ties and the evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region, West Asia, and Ukraine.


  • The 2+2 meetings signify the participation of two high-level representatives, Ministers holding Foreign and Defence portfolios, from each of the two countries who aim to enhance the scope of dialogue between them.
  • The US is India’s oldest and most important 2+2 talks partner. Additionally, India has held 2+2 meetings with ministers from Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia.


  • For decades, the US was unwilling to consider key areas for deepening bilateral and regional cooperation, largely due to India’s possession of nuclear weapons.
  • In the early 2000s, however, Washington began to view an active and constructive relationship with India as essential to making progress in a range of issues.
  • Over the past two decades, the India–US relationship has expanded in almost every conceivable dimension—political, diplomatic, economic and military.


  • Political & Diplomatic:
    • Regular exchanges at the leadership-level have been an integral element of the expanding bilateral engagement. Eg: PM Modi made his first State Visit to the US in June 2023 at the invitation of President Biden.
    • India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
    • Parliamentary exchanges: There have been regular parliamentary exchanges to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation.
  • Trade & Economic Relations:
    • USA is India’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade in goods and services crossing USD 191 billion in 2022.
    • In 2020-21, the US replaced Mauritius as second largest source of foreign direct investment into India with inflows of USD 13.82 billion. US is one of the top 5 investment destinations for Indian FDI. 
  • Defence Cooperation:
    • India-US defence cooperation is based on “New Framework for India US Defence Cooperation”.
    • Several defense agreements have been signed in recent years. These include Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
    • The two countries now conduct more bilateral exercises with each other than they do with any other country. Eg: Tiger Triumph, Yudh Abhyas (Army); Vajra Prahar (Special Forces); RIMPAC and MALABAR Naval Exercise.
  • Defence procurements:
    • In 2018, India gained Tier-1 status in US Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorization license exception, aligning it with top U.S. allies for trade. The U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) aims to boost India's defense sector and strengthen U.S.-India business ties.
  • Strategic cooperation:
    • Together with Australia and Japan, the United States and India convene as the Quad to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific and provide tangible benefits to the region.
    • India is also partnering with the United States on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) to make the economies more connected, resilient, clean, and fair.The I2U2, dubbed as West Asian Quad, comprising Israel, India, United Arab Emirates, and the US, is another strategic dialogue mechanism.
  • Strategic Energy cooperation:
    • The bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement (also called the 123 agreement) was signed in 2008. It gave India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state.
    • India has also signed MoU on Strategic Petroleum Reserves for cooperation on Strategic Petroleum Reserves operation and maintenance.A public-private Hydrogen Task Force was launched to help scale up technologies to produce hydrogen. 
  • Diaspora/People-to-People ties:
    • About 4.4 million Indian Americans/Indian origin people reside in the US. The Indian Americans (3.18 million) constitute the third largest Asian ethnic group in the US.
    • The Indian diaspora has been a catalyst in cementing closer ties between India and the U.S. There are five persons of Indian origin in the U.S. Congress.
  • International Cooperation:
    • India and the United States cooperate closely at multilateral organizations, including the UN, G-20, ASEAN Regional Forum, IMF, World Bank, and WTO.
    • The United States welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in 2021 for a two-year term and supports a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.
  • S&T and Space Cooperation:
    • The Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) bolsters cooperation in science and technology. ISRO collaborates with NASA, NOAA, USGS, and U.S. academic institutions on civilian space projects. ISRO and NASA are jointly developing the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite for Earth observation.
  • Health Cooperation:
    • India and US collaboration under Vaccine Action Program (VAP) resulted in development of ROTAVAC vaccine against rotavirus causes severe diarrhea in children.
  • Education Cooperation: 
    • The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) promotes mutual understanding between India and the U.S. through educational exchanges.
    • The "21st Century Knowledge Initiative" enhances collaboration between higher education institutions, and the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) brings U.S. educators to teach in India annually.
  • Combating climate change:
    • In 2021, the US joined the International Solar Alliance headquartered in India. India and U.S are also members of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
  • Cyber Security Cooperation:
    • The India-US Cyber Framework signed in September 2016, provides for expanding cooperation in cyber domain. The fourth India-US Cyber Security Dialogue was held in Washington in February 2018.
  • Cooperation in combating Covid-19 pandemic:
    • In 2020, India provided the U.S. with pharmaceuticals, PPE, and medical supplies. During India's COVID-19 second wave in April 2021, the U.S. government and private sector supported India's response efforts.


  • Relationship with rivalling countries:
    • India’s ties with Russia and Iran are a concern for USA, while USA’s ties with Pakistan is a concern for India.
  • Role in Indian ocean region:
    • By encouraging the United States to assume a dominant role in South Asia, India might be on a path to relinquish its status as a net security provider in the region.
  • US Sanctions:
    • US sanctions are increasingly affecting India’s national interests. The CAATSA law has been a part of the discussion on India’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia. Also, US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela are putting India’s energy security at stake.
  • Mistrust against India:
    • Unlike US allies, India does not always vote in line with the United States at the United Nations. This, along with India’s frequent multilateral alignment with Russia and China has led some experts believe that India is part of a counterhegemonic bloc that can jeopardize many US interests.
  • On India’s IP regime:
    • India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for lack of adequate intellectual property (IP) rights protection and enforcement, the USTR said in its Annual Special 301 Report.
  • Revoking Generalised System of Preferences:
    • GSP is a preferential tariff system that provides tariff reduction on various products for developing countries. India’s GSP benefits were terminated in June 2019, which is affecting India’s export-oriented sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles and automotive parts.
  • Slow pace of nuclear deal:
    • While the US has been discussing the sale of nuclear reactors to India since the 2008 pact, progress of greenfield projects has been tardy. At present, Russia is the only country setting up imported Light Water Reactor-based nuclear projects in India.  
  • Question over Afghan:
    • With the recalling of armed forces, the US strategy towards Afghanistan has changed. The void left by the US in Afghan is being filled by the Taliban, Pakistan and China, all of which is detrimental to India’s interests.
  • US questioning India’s religious freedom:
    • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its ‘2021 Report on International Religious Freedom’ alleged "repression" of critical voices, especially religious minorities in India. This has been criticised by MEA for its “biased” and “inaccurate” comments.
  • On India’s data localisation:
    • The US has criticised India’s proposed data localisation requirements, under which firms need to store data within India. USA argues that it would serve as significant barriers to digital trade between the US and India.


  • Collaborate for a multipolar rule-based world:
    • US and India have common interests when it comes to rivalry with China: human rights, rule of law, rights of self-determination and sovereignty, freedom of navigation in the seas, a free internet, free flow of data across borders, climate action responsibility, and so on. Hence, they should continue to collaborate towards creating a multipolar rule-based world order.
  • Enhance counter terrorism cooperation:
    • USA’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan has reduced its dependence on Pakistan. India should utilise this opportunity to promote counterterrorism cooperation and apply pressure on the Pakistan to abandon support for terrorist groups.
  • Cooperate in digital ecosystem:
    • The United States and India should pursue a “digital handshake” to address policy differences and create institutional structures to drive progress in emerging technologies, artificial intelligence and cyber security.
  • Attract investments:
    • So far, the idea of American firms diversifying out of China, towards India, has not materialised. Hence, India and the US must look toward strengthening two-way foreign direct investments and provide incentives for the private sector to make investments.


Q. “The India-U.S. relationship is marked by a balance between cooperation and competition, with an understanding of the inherent differences and disagreements “.Discuss with examples. (15 marks, 250 words)