India-USA Relations


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  • The United States is set to take part in a joint military exercise with India near the disputed border with China. The military drills will be held in mid-October at Auli in Uttarakhand and will focus on high-altitude warfare training.


  • 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: US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken travelled to New Delhi in July 2021 and met EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval.
    • India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, led by the heads of Foreign and Defense Ministries of India and the U.S, reviews the bilateral ties in defense, strategic and security domains as well as important regional and global issues.
    • Parliamentary exchanges: There have been regular parliamentary exchanges to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation.
  • Trade & Economic Relations:
    • The United States is India’s largest trading partner and most important export market. In 2021, overall U.S.-India bilateral trade in goods and services reached a record USD 157 billion.
    • 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. Some of the important ones are Exercise Tiger Triumph, Yudh Abhyas (Army); Vajra Prahar (Special Forces); RIMPAC and MALABAR Naval Exercise.
  • Defence procurements:
    • In July 2018, India was moved into the Tier-1 of the US Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorization license exception, providing India with the same trade benefits afforded to the United States’ closest allies.
    • U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) aims include strengthening India’s defence industrial base, exploring new areas of technological development and expanding 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, including exchange of information and best practices.
    • A public-private Hydrogen Task Force was launched to help scale up technologies to produce hydrogen from renewable energy and fossil fuel sources and to bring down the cost of deployment for enhanced energy security and resiliency.
  • Diaspora/People-to-People ties:
    • About 4.2 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.
  • International Cooperation:
    • India and the United States cooperate closely at multilateral organizations, including the United Nations, G-20, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
    • 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), a bi-national autonomous organization plays an important role in strengthening cooperation in this field.
    • ISRO has been actively pursuing civilian space cooperation with the NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Geological Survey (USGS) and academic institutions.
    • The ISRO and NASA are also working together to realize a joint microwave remote sensing satellite for Earth observation, named NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR).
  • 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 the India and the U.S. nationals through the educational exchange of scholars, professionals and students.
    • The “21st Century Knowledge Initiative” aims to strengthen collaboration and build partnerships between U.S. and Indian institutions of higher education.
    • The Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) was launched in 2015 to facilitate visits by 1000 U.S. teachers annually to teach in India.
  • Combating climate change:
    • The Biden administration has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, and this may help countries such as India.
    • 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 responded to the US request for pharmaceuticals, PPEs, masks and other essential medical supplies. As the second wave of pandemic hit India in April 2021, the U.S. Government and its private sector extended their support in India’s efforts to confront the COVID infections.


  • 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–US relationship in the 21st century has been characterised by a pragmatic realism that recognises the major points of divergence and, at times, open friction that remain ever-present”. Elucidate?