Why 2022 won’t see India and the United States become global strategic partners


The United States is a world power – the strongest militarily, the most technologically advanced, in addition to being the largest economy in the world. She shaped the post-WWII order based on her needs. It believes in the universality of its values ​​and its exceptionalism, is interventionist and in many ways controls international political and financial institutions. It extends its domestic law to foreign countries as necessary to achieve its foreign policy objectives, using the threat of sanctions to achieve compliance. The status of the US dollar as a global reserve currency gives the United States enormous financial clout through its control over all global dollar financial transactions. It can block foreign funds, limit access to its capital markets and impact the world with its monetary policies.

American military might was challenged by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian challenge diminished. The United States views Russia today as a regional power, not a global one, and has humiliated it with repeated sanctions and more threats if its conduct does not meet American approval. The United States has abandoned many of the critical Cold War-era disarmament agreements, such as the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) and INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaties, implying that they will not see them more as a strategic equal. NATO was extended to Russia’s borders despite its opposition.

China is now challenging American might in a way the Soviet Union could not. China is now the second largest economy, the largest exporting country and the world’s manufacturing center. It is the largest trading partner of the United States, which limits the ability of the United States to deal with it, unlike the case of the Soviet Union or Russia with which the United States had or is linked. minimal economic. America has created dependencies on China that it cannot get rid of. China controls many critical global supply chains for raw materials and manufactured goods, a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought back to the United States and the rest of the world. China is using its enormous financial resources and infrastructure building capabilities to expand its international reach through the Belt and Road Initiative. It now possesses military deterrence capabilities and is expanding them with space technology, maritime power and nuclear arsenal.

All of this is relevant to India as it rises and aspires to play a leading role in international governance in the years to come. To what extent can India’s ambitions be met by relying more and more on the United States, which will inevitably result in restricting India’s foreign policy choices, or maintaining as much Whether its foreign policy independence can be achieved at the cost of a dilution of US support for the achievement of our political, economic and security objectives remains a key question. Is it possible to maintain a balance between our ties with the United States and other centers of power so that we can gain the most and lose the least?

Charting a new course

Since 2005, our relations with the United States have moved in a new direction and have been gradually strengthened. With no other country are our ties so extensive today. The United States is our largest national trade, investment, and technology partner. Our knowledge economy is closely tied to the United States. Ideas for economic management, regulation and reform come to us from the United States. On the defense side, a major transformation has taken place, with massive Indian acquisitions of American defense equipment, the signing of fundamental agreements, the expansion of military exercises – bilateral as well as plurilateral – easier access to military technologies. American and dual-use, shared strategic concepts such as the Indo-Pacific and membership in forums like the Quad. Both countries stress the shared values ​​of democracy and human freedoms as constraining factors, which resonate against the backdrop of the growing threat of authoritarianism to the international system. People-to-people ties to the United States run deep with the Native American community of over 4 million people, nearly 200,000 Indian students at American universities, and strong academic ties.

At the same time, there are underlying currents in our relationships that cause irritation, raise doubts and negatively affect relationships. The liberal press in the United States helps create negative perceptions about India through its biased reporting. US human rights organizations target India on issues relating to minorities, religious freedom and democracy. US laws have interfered with our relations with Russia and Iran. US policy in Afghanistan has ignored our security interests, while its policy of gentleness towards Pakistan remains a cause for concern.

While the United States has supported our confrontation with China in Ladakh on a diplomatic level as well as through the provision of certain necessary equipment and the sharing of intelligence, the main axis of our strategic ties is in the maritime domain. This undoubtedly serves our interests because the maritime challenge of China is set to grow and must be met bilaterally and through the Indo-Pacific concept and the Quad as well. We must continue this cooperation, knowing that US support for our ground confrontation with China will be limited.

The signals from Afghanistan are clear. The United States takes no position on sovereignty issues in Ladakh. Even in the East and South China Seas, the United States does not take a position on these issues even if it involves its allies, while India is not one of them. In the Indian Ocean, the United States is seeking burden-sharing that India can provide, given its geographic location and the strength of its navy. India has broadened its choices in this regard, as it is already cooperating with France in the Indian Ocean. With the EU, UK and Germany also developing their Indo-Pacific strategies, broader cooperation in this area to deter Chinese expansionism is taking shape.

Maintain freedom of choice

Whether the United States is leading the way in 2022 over India as a global strategic partner suggests that India is ready to be one across the board, but the United States is reluctant. The reality is that both countries want to retain their freedom of choice in this regard. The United States does not want to take responsibility for India’s defense, and India does not seek it either. For the United States, this would mean a fundamental change in its policy towards Pakistan and increase the risks of a direct conflict with China. For us, the management of our relations with Russia, which remains our greatest defense partner, with longer-term relations being built in this area, would become unmanageable, given the deepening of the conflicting relations between it. and the United States. Already, the Russian-Chinese strategic link is strengthening. If India and the United States strengthen their ties to levels that effectively allow the development of an alliance-type situation, strengthening the Russo-Chinese axis may well become an answer.

American and Indian policies are also not congruent in all areas. Becoming a global strategic partner would involve India partnering on policies, areas and issues, including the UN, on which our interests as a regional power and developing country differ from those of the United States. as a world power and an advanced economy. In any case, if one assumes that we need the United States to counter China, with whom our relations have entered a period of prolonged uncertainty and tension due to its open hegemonic leadership, we would be in the process of make a strategic mistake. We must take into account the growing opposition in the United States to involvement in wars abroad and the perceived need there to devote more attention to solving problems at home.

Until now, India has preserved its strategic options quite effectively by strengthening its ties with the United States without loosening them with Russia and by effectively seeking ways to expand these ties in the economic field, and by keeping the same ties. channels of dialogue open with China despite the military confrontation. at the border. India is already behaving like a great power in a certain sense, demonstrating its ability to deal with conflicting relationships. It subscribes to the Indo-Pacific concept, deepened its commitment to the Quad, instituted 2 + 2 dialogues (Foreign and Defense Ministers) with the United States, Japan and Australia (now also with the Russia), is developing another Quad eastward with the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and is, at the same time, a member of the BRICS and the SCO and still participates in the Russia-India-China dialogue. This policy is best suited to advancing the interests of India as an emerging country in which all other great powers have a stake in the future. With this policy, India can further strengthen its ties with the United States in areas of mutual interest and interest. Despite the differences, the nature of ties with the United States has shifted from a lack of trust and feelings of resentment to a friendly and constructive engagement.

A global strategic partnership between the United States and India means a solid understanding of global issues and a sharing of global responsibilities. If India supports multipolarity, wants reform of the international system hitherto dominated by the West, has developing country perspectives in negotiations on various issues facing the international community, wishes international inequalities to be reduced , such a comprehensive strategic partnership is an unrealistic proposition. What can be achieved and is becoming a reality is closer alignment on issues of common interest and a friendly, non-contentious dialogue on issues on which we still have different perspectives and interests.

The author is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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