What Is Hampering The India-US Relationship

What Is Hampering The India-US Relationship

by Nishtha Anushree - Tuesday, July 12, 2022 01:23 PM IST
What Is Hampering The India-US RelationshipFlags of the United States and India (Manpreet Romana/AFP via Getty Images)

While India and the US are working together both in a bilateral capacity and in multilateral groupings such as the QUAD, a lot still needs to be done.

The barrier: India remains very much part of the US’s South Asia policy and not a specific India policy.

  • The Cold War mentality still remains, as the US still doubts India’s compatibility with America’s values, interests, and goals for the Indo-Pacific.

  • Pakistan is America’s non-NATO strategic ally and the US draws false moral equivalences between India and Pakistan, despite stark differences.

What fuels this thinking: The scepticism against India is nourished by several 'south Asia' experts at think tanks, 'progressives' in elected office, and professors of international relations, political science, history, anthropology, and other social sciences at major American universities.

  • Most government funding for think tanks went towards building the US-Pakistan relationship. India is too big to ignore; so, it was just included in the South Asia programmes without being given its due diligence.

  • For several decades, think tanks in Washington and government-funded institutions hosted several track 1.5/2.0 dialogues. These witnessed active participation of Pakistani government officials and both former and active-duty military generals.

Pakistan over India: Washington stuck to Pakistan during its war in Afghanistan. The countless exposés of corruption and dubious practices of Pakistani military generals went unchecked.

  • The US turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s war crimes in 1971 and gave it a free ride over prosecuting minorities for blasphemy. But Hindu- and Jewish-majority states were put under a special scanner.

  • Both the neo-liberal policies of the past and recent progressive policies prioritise Pakistan over India in the region. As a result, India becomes an easy target for virtue signalling.

Recent events: While the US’s pivot to Asia through its Indo-Pacific initiatives signal a growing interest in recalibrating the US-India relationship, from India being a South Asian partner to an Indo-Pacific partner, the US still tried to target India over the Russia-Ukraine war.

  • Since the start of the conflict, the US has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade India to reconsider its relationship with Russia.

  • India, on the other hand, has continued to trade with Russia and find ways to circumvent sanctions.

  • American media houses such as The New York Times have been unrelenting in their propaganda about India underwriting Vladimir Putin’s war chest.

  • Adding fuel to fire were bureaucrats who made veiled threats to India over its purchases of Russian oil, despite the relatively low quantity compared to the amount European countries have purchased.

  • Several south Asia experts at neo-liberal think tanks, for their part, parroted these officials and made moral arguments on India’s position on the conflict.

What should be done: The US surpassed China to become India’s largest trading partner. It should be taken care that America’s neo-liberal internationalism does not hamper this upward trajectory.

  • America and India should have realistic expectations of each other and choose pragmatic realism; that is, developing synergies through strategic and economic interests over liberalism.

  • The economically and politically influential Indian diaspora can play an important role. They can be involved in key issues.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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