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The U.S.-India Relationship: Strategic Partnership or Complementary Interests?

Authored by Dr. Amit Gupta. | February 2005

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SUMMARY

Can India and the United States create a strategic partnership that will further the security and foreign policy interests of both countries? This monograph argues that given the divergent worldviews of the two countries, it would be difficult to develop a strategic partnership. Further, the two countries differ about India?s nuclear status, with the United States not in favor of making India into a de jure nuclear weapons state. Indian analysts also remain concerned about the reliability of the United States as a supplier of high technology, and continued U.S. support to Pakistan is also seen as slowing down the positive growth of the relationship.

The two countries do, however, have complementary interests, and it is in American interests to facilitate the development of a strong India that can play a role in ensuring strategic stability in Asia as well as promoting shared values of democracy and secularism. One needs to qualify this statement by saying that, given the self-imposed limitations on India?s part, any such partnership would only evolve in the long term. In the short term, U.S. interests partially are served by having India work to secure multilateral security initiatives in Asia, particularly in the Indian Ocean littoral.

From an American perspective, the following steps can be taken to enhance the U.S.-India relationship and to make India play a more proactive role in furthering U.S. international security interests. First, the United States could further develop Indian educational capabilities to provide higher technological and managerial education to a growing number of students from West, Southwest, and Central Asia. Second, the Indian Navy could be used to enforce a broader maritime security framework in the Indian Ocean. Third, India has the capacity to provide significant numbers of troops for peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and nation-building efforts. Fourth, the United States should expect India to play a more proactive role in nonproliferation issues. Fifth, Indian diplomatic assets can be used to start a substantive dialogue with Iran. Sixth, the United States must expect India to continue to develop its nuclear and conventional military capability and use this capability, as Henry Kissinger hassuggested, to ?prevent the rise of another dominant power to emerge between Singapore and Aden. And this is compatible with American interests.?1

For India to carry out such a role and emerge as a long-term strategic partner, the United States has to reshape some of its own policies to permit the rise of India to the status of a major power. Reshaping American policies would specifically include:

  • Supporting India?s quest to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
  • Reshaping international nonproliferation regimes to permit India, Israel, and Pakistan to become de jure nuclear weapons states.
  • Eventually, recognizing the Line of Control in Kashmir as the international border and, therefore, freezing the territorial status quo in South Asia. This would help reduce India-Pakistan tensions and permit India to play a greater international role.

INTRODUCTION

Can India and the United States create a strategic partnership that will further the security and foreign policy interests of both countries? Since the advent of the second Bush administration, there has been a warming in relations between the two countries, with increased military contacts and talk of technology transfers. Further, the two countries share democratic values and are concerned about the spread of terrorism in the broader Asian region. Economically, India remains a large and relatively untapped market that would be of interest to American multinationals. These ties have led to some speculation about a potential U.S.-India security partnership emerging.

This monograph argues, however, that given major differences in the worldviews of the two countries, it would be difficult to develop a strategic partnership. The two countries do, however, have complementary interests and, therefore, it is in American interests to facilitate the development of a strong India. That country can then play a role in ensuring strategic stability in Asia, as well as promote American values of democracy and secularism (which India also shares). One needs to qualify this statement by saying that, given the self-imposed limitations on India?s part, any such partnership would only evolve in the long term. In the short term, U.S. interests are partially served by having India work to secure multilateral security initiatives in Asia, particularly in the Indian Ocean littoral.

ENDNOTES

1.?Analysis. On the record: Dr. Henry Kissinger,? The Indian Express, November 16, 2004.