India-US Relations | Challenges, Solutions, & Latest Developments

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India-US Relations | Challenges, Solutions, & Latest Developments

• The relationship between India and the US has become a “global strategic partnership” based on shared democratic values and growing alignment of interests on bilateral, regional, and global problems.

• The Indian government’s focus on development and good governance has made it possible to strengthen bilateral ties and increase cooperation under the slogans “Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go” and “Sanjha Prayas, Sab ka Vikas” (Shared Effort, Progress for All), which were adopted at the summits of our leaders in September 2014 and January 2015, respectively.

The regular exchange of high-level political visits has given bilateral cooperation a steady boost, and the wide-ranging and growing dialogue architecture has set up a framework for long-term involvement between India and the U.S.Today, trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture, and health are all areas where the U.S. and India work together. People from both countries talk to each other and support each other across the political spectrum, which is good for our friendship.

Historical Background

Background: Most people agree that India and the United States are the biggest and most powerful democracies in the world, respectively. So, the bond between these two countries is one of the most interesting ones that have ever been seen. India is one of the oldest civilisations in the world, while the US is a relatively new one. This is one of the most important differences between India and the US. When the US pushed for the creation of military blocs and security partnerships, India strongly opposed them. India was especially against the creation of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). Pakistan became a member of these two groups, which brought the Cold War right up to India’s doorstep.

• During the Cold War, India and the US had very different political views on issues like decolonization, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Suez crisis, the Hungarian crisis, the Czechoslovakia crisis, and the People’s Republic of China joining the United Nations.

Evolution: Cold War to Present

• India joined the international community of countries as a separate political entity almost at the same time that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was getting worse.

• During the Cold War, India had to choose a side because the two superpowers were at odds and trying to spread their impact around the world. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru chose not to choose and instead revealed a policy called “non-alignment.” This policy questioned the morality of the Cold War and tried to stop it. It also tried to come up with a policy that would make it easier for India to get along with both the US and the USSR.

• However, there were times when the U.S. didn’t like what India was doing, so it went out of its way to help Pakistan and took a stance that was against India. During the China War, the US helped India, but it had conditions and didn’t offer long-term help. In contrast, the US always helped Pakistan. Also, the PL-480 programme, which was a politically useful way for India to get rid of its food surplus, helped India when it was facing a food disaster. When Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980, things got even better. When the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan, India became more like the United States. India ordered F-5 aircraft, supercomputers, and other things, and the US agreed in 1984 to share technology to help India build naval frigates and its own light combat aircraft. However, Indira Gandhi was killed that same year, and a toxic gas leak in Bhopal killed thousands of people. The US company Union Carbide’s chemical plant in Bhopal was involved, and India’s attempts to get the company’s CEO to come to their country failed.

• When the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was put in place in 1987, India also had to deal with restrictions on missile technology. In 1992-1994, the US let India buy a cryogenic rocket engine from Russia, but it stopped India from getting other technology.

Relationship Improvement:

• India’s relations with the US got a lot better when the Cold War ended, but the fall of the Soviet Union brought a level of uncertainty to international relations, including Indo-US relations, that had never been seen before.

• By the middle of 1999, the US attitude on the Kargil War between India and Pakistan had taken away another source of tension between India and the US. President Bill Clinton was warmly welcomed in India. In 1999, Pakistan was getting into trouble in the Kargil Sector of Kashmir. Clinton put pressure on Pakistan to stop, and Washington praised India for not crossing the Line of Control (LoC) and acting responsibly during the Kargil war.

• After the end of the cold war, relations between the US and India in the first half of the 1990s were said to be full of “missed chances and contradictory policies.” India and the US continued to disagree on a number of issues, such as the extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). When it was found out that China had given Pakistan M11 missiles and that the US hadn’t punished China for breaking the MTCR, the situation got even worse. When Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government decided to test nuclear weapons at Pokhran in May 1998, relations with the US dropped to a new low.

Vision for the 21st century

• After President Clinton went to India in 2000, the friendship got warmer. Shri Vajpayee, the prime minister of India, and Bill Clinton made a statement called “USA-India Relations: A Vision for the 21st Century” about how they want to work together. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in the US and on December 13, 2001, on the Indian Parliament, the two countries chose to work together closely in the global war on terror.

• In 2004, India and the United States signed a strategic partnership called “Next Steps Strategic Partnership.” This partnership focused on four areas of cooperation: civil nuclear cooperation, civil space cooperation, the High Technology Cooperation Group, and cooperation on missile defence. When India and the US signed the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative on July 18, 2005, it was a big step forward. As part of the historic deal, India agreed to keep its civilian and military nuclear sites separate and to let the IAEA check out the facilities that make power. In March 2006, President Bush went to India to talk more about the civil nuclear deal and to help improve defence and business ties. The better friendship between the two countries was shown again when US and Indian agencies worked together very closely after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. In 2010, when Barack Obama went there, things again went to a new level. He helped India get on the UN Security Council and signed $15 billion worth of trade deals.

• In 2013, the USA agreed to India’s plan to work together to make Defence Hardware. Up until 2013, only the UK and Australia’s bids for Joint Development of Defence Technology had been accepted. India is the third country in a row to have a proposal accepted. In the same year, the US proposed making a rocket called “Javelin” with another country.

• In 2014, the Indian Prime Minister made his first trip to the United States. He went there to try to get more investment and strengthen the strategic relationship between the U.S. and India. India and the United States came to an agreement on a memorandum of understanding between the sell-Import Bank and an Indian energy agency. This will give India up to $1 billion to help it find low-carbon energy alternatives and help the United States sell renewable energy to India.

• During his second trip to India, Obama praised the relationship between the two biggest democracies in the world, saying, “America can be India’s best partner.” India and the US said that they had made a “breakthrough” on nuclear problems that could help put the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal into action. Later in 2015, India and the United States signed papers to extend the U.S.-India Defence Framework Agreement for another ten years.

• The United States’ New Security Strategy, which came out in December 2017, called India a “leading global power.” This is a big change in how Washington has seen India over the past 15 years. The plan also puts a lot of weight on the term “Indo-Pacific region,” which means the area “from the west coast of India to the west coast of the United States.”


Areas of Cooperation

A strong, growing relationship between the U.S. and India is in both countries’ important national interests. In this way, India and the U.S. want to:

• Slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction and make sure that nuclear weapons and fissile material are handled safely and responsibly;

• Reduce threats from international terrorism;

• Keep a balance of power in Asia and Europe that promotes peace and stability;

• Improve the security of the global energy supply;

• Work together to run the global economy; and

• Deal with climate change in a way that is effective.


• In recent years, there have been a lot more high-level meetings and talks between India and the U.S. Prime Minister Modi went to the U.S. from September 26-30, 2014. He met with President Obama, members of Congress, and political leaders from different U.S. states and places. He also talked with members of President Obama’s Cabinet. He also went out to the leaders of U.S. business and industry, the Indian American community, and American civil society and think tanks. During the stay, both a Vision Statement and a Joint Statement were put out.

• After that, on January 25–27, 2015, President Obama went to India as the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day. During the meeting, the two countries signed a “Delhi Declaration of Friendship” and a “Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.” Both sides changed the Strategic Dialogue between their Foreign Ministers to a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between their Foreign Ministers and Commerce Ministers. The first meeting of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue at the level of EAM and MOs (Commerce and Industry) took place on September 22, 2015, in Washington, DC. It added a commercial component to the five traditional pillars of bilateral relations that the old Strategic Dialogue focused on: (i) Strategic Cooperation; (ii) Energy and Climate Change, Education and Development; (iii) Economy, Trade, and Agriculture; and (iv) Science and Technology.In June 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the United States, where he signed a document called a Joint Statement. The leaders decided to grow and strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries and move forward with goals they both wanted to reach.

Forums for Political Cooperation

Instituted Dialogue Mechanism

• There are more than 50 ways for the two states to talk to each other. There are also talks between the Ministers of Finance, Commerce, Human Resources and Development, Science and Technology, and Energy.

In September 2015, the Foreign Secretary of India and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State started a new High-level Consultation and a Policy Planning Dialogue.

• In September 2018, India and the US held the first 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi. This showed that the friendship had grown up.

Consultations on Strategy

• In the past few years, India and the U.S. have set up organised talks about East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa, and the Indian Ocean Region. India and the US have trilateral relationships with both Japan and Afghanistan. The Strategic Security Dialogue looks at things like international security and disarmament, as well as multilateral export control systems. The India-U.S. High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) talks about issues that have to do with high-tech trade.

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• The two sides have decided to work together to help India join the global export control regimes in stages. This will help strengthen global non-proliferation, arms control, and nuclear security.

• In this way, US backing was essential for India to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016, the Wassenaar Agreement in December 2017, and the Australia Group in January 2018.


• In 2010, US President Barack Obama said, “The US looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council in which India is a permanent member.”

• The US agrees that India should join the NSG and says it will keep working to get India into this special club. The United States wants India to do more to keep the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean Region safe.

• Both India and the US want territorial and maritime issues to be solved peacefully and in accordance with international law. India and the US want to work together to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific area.

• India and the US strongly condemn the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for continuing to make trouble. They also say that the DPRK’s destabilising nuclear and ballistic missile projects pose a serious threat to regional security and world peace.


The two countries’ trade in things went from a small $5.6 billion in 1990 to $66.9 billion in 2014. During the Prime Minister’s trip to the U.S. in September 2014, the two countries agreed to grow goods and services trade to $500 billion.

Trade and Investment:

According to official Indian data, the total amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) from the US from April 2000 to December 2015 was about $17.94 billion, which is about 6% of the total amount of FDI into India. This makes the US the fifth largest source of FDI into India.

• India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in the U.S. (stock) was $9.8 billion in 2017, an increase of 11.5% from 2016.

• According to data from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the value of U.S. goods and services traded with India in 2017 was about $126.2 billion. The US sent $ 49.4 billion to India, and India sent $ 76.7 billion to the US.

• In 2017, the U.S. trade gap with India in goods and services was $27.3 billion.

Tax evasion:

• India and the USA have signed an Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) to put the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) into place. This will help both countries be more open with each other about tax issues. The deal shows how more countries are working together to stop tax evasion everywhere.

Dialogue Mechanisms for Economic Cooperation:

• There are several ways to improve bilateral cooperation on economic and trade issues. These include an Economic and Financial Partnership at the ministerial level and a Ministerial Trade Policy Forum.

• There is also a bilateral India-US CEO’s Forum to get the private sector more involved in discussions about trade and investment.

Smart Cities and Urban Revitalization: US companies will take the lead in making Allahabad, Ajmer, and Vishakhapatnam “Smart Cities.” USAID will help the Urban India Water, drainage and Hygiene (WASH) alliance use business and civil society (Gates Foundation) to make sure that people in 500 Indian cities have access to clean water, hygiene, and drainage.


• With the signing of the “New Framework for India-U.S. Defence Relations” in 2005 and the resulting increase in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and anti-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services, the defence relationship has become a major part of the India-U.S. strategic partnership.

In June 2015, the Defence Framework Agreement was changed and extended for another 10 years.

Military Excercises

• At this point, the two countries do more joint drills with each other than with any other country.

In 2014, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) was held for the first time with a ship from the Indian Navy. Exercise Malabar is a tri-nation marine exercise that aims to make the Indian Ocean safe and prosperous, as well as to build maritime partnerships and cooperation among the participants. Exercise “Yudh Abhay” strengthens and expands the ability of the Indian and US forces to work together and cooperate. The practise was a great way for the people from the two countries to share what they had learned about fighting terrorism, especially in mountainous areas. In September 2018, this type of practise was done for the 14th time. Exercise “Vajra Prahar” is a joint training session for US and Indian Special Forces that takes place in India and the US in turns.

Defence Acquisition:

The total cost of U.S. Defense’s military purchases has gone over US$ 13 billion. The two sides are also talking about giving the Indian Air Force F-16 and F/A-18 attack jets. The ‘Make in India’ programme would get a big boost from these military deals.

Initiatives and agreements for defence

• Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI): India and the United States have started a programme called the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). The goal of this programme is to make technology transfer policies easier to understand and to look into the possibility of co-development and co-production to add strategic value to the defence relationship. The DTTI Working Group and its Task Force will quickly evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies that would have a big effect on India’s defence industry and military capabilities and change the way defence relations between the two countries work. Under the DTTI, four “pathfinder projects” and two “pathfinder initiatives” for joint development and production have already been finished.The two sides have signed a “Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region” and agreed in principle to change their military relationship from one of just buying and selling to one of joint research, co-development, and production of high-end defence equipment.

• Three Important Defence Agreements: The Indian government has recently worked on three important mutual agreements: the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMA), the Communication and Information Security Memorandum (CISMOA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The previous UPA government was against these three deals because they thought they would hurt India’s policy of nonalignment and its strategic independence. But because new security risks are appearing, the government has agreed “in principle” to all three. The agreements make it clear that they want to improve the ability and interoperability of the new partners through joint military drills, training, and the sale of defence equipment. India signed LEMOA (which was made just for India) in August 2016 and COMCASA (which was made just for India) in September 2018.

Cooperation between the civil and nuclear sectors

• The deal between the two countries to work together in the civil nuclear field was finished in July 2007 and signed in October 2008.

The 2008 deal got India out from under a set of international sanctions that said it couldn’t buy fuel or civilian nuclear technology until it gave up its nuclear weapons.

• The US convinced the rest of the world to stop this strategy. During the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the US in September 2014, the two countries set up a Contact Group to speed up the full and on-time execution of the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and to solve any problems that had been left unresolved.

• The Group came to an agreement on how India’s nuclear liability law fits in with international agreements and how to deal with nuclear liability risk by creating an insurance pool based on best practises. The two sides have started getting ready for the building of six nuclear plants in Andhra Pradesh. This work is being done on site in India.

India-US Civil Nuclear Deal

• India and the US signed a civil nuclear deal in 2008, but there were still disagreements about an Indian nuclear liability rule that says equipment suppliers are ultimately responsible for an accident.

Countries like France and the US had been telling India to follow global standards, which say that the provider is the one who is mostly responsible.

• Getting everyone to agree on something was hard because of the question of nuclear liability. International rules say that if there was an accident, the Indian government would have to pay a lot of money in losses. This is because all of the nuclear plants in India are run by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), which is owned by the government.

• India refused to change its Civil risk for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010, but it did offer to set up an insurance pool to protect companies that build reactors in the country from risk in the event of a nuclear accident.

• In 2015, when President Obama went to India, a big step forward was made. During a one-on-one meeting between the leaders of the two countries, the deadlock over the nuclear deal was broken.

New Plan

• Under a new plan, companies in India that build nuclear plants would buy insurance from GIC Re, which is run by the government. The companies would then charge more for their services to make up for the cost.On the other hand, the NPCIL could get protection for these companies.

Prospects of New Plan

• Section 17b of CLNDA (Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010) says that the plant operators—in India’s case, the public sector NPCIL—can get money from their equipment makers if the accident was caused by “equipment or material with patent or latent defects.”

• Section 46 says that accident victims can sue both suppliers and owners over and above the Rs. 1,500-crore limit.

• The sellers say that these laws leave them open to criminal charges and tort-law claims for compensation for any harm. They say this is unfair because, after a legally agreed-upon amount of time, it should be the operator, not the supplier, who finds and fixes flaws, making the operator responsible. Before CLNDA, NPCIL contracts with Indian vendors released them from civil responsibility, except where the contract said otherwise. This meant that the liability was limited in terms of value and time.

• The law in the US lets people who have been hurt make claims for damages against operators, suppliers, and designers. But when US companies started selling overseas, they pushed for the idea of “legal channelling,” which made the operators the only ones responsible. The Paris Convention of 1960 and the Vienna Convention of 1963 say that no one other than the operators can be made responsible. The CSC (Convention on Supplemental Compensation for Nuclear Damage) set up an international liability fund and made some changes in 1997. All of the big countries that sell India equipment have signed on to these conventions. These are being broken by CLiNDA.

• Most experts don’t agree with the government that putting up an insurance pool will solve the problem. CLiNDA already has a plan for a pool. Section 7 says that if the liability goes over Rs 1,500 crore, the central government “may set up a fund to be called the Nuclear Liability Fund.” This is the fund that the government said it would set up. This will keep sellers from being sued by the operator. But it won’t do much to comfort suppliers, since accident victims will still be able to sue them in tort.

• The Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL think that if the rules and definitions in CLiNDA are changed, foreign vendors will follow them. For instance, NPCIL could be considered both an operator and a supplier because it gives design specs for the reactors it runs. In this case, the suppliers would be called “fabricators” or “contractors.” Another idea is for the government to say that Section 46 only applies to criminal responsibility, not civil liability, and that it has nothing to do with money. But it’s not clear if these kinds of ideas would stand up in court. Firms may see the government’s offer as a “postdated check” that can be cancelled by the courts or a future government.

Energy and Changes to the Climate

• The U.S.-India Energy Dialogue was started in May 2005 to encourage trade and investment in the energy industry. Its last meeting was in September 2015 in Washington, DC. Under the Energy Dialogue, there are six working groups for oil and gas, coal, power and energy efficiency, new technologies and green energy, civil nuclear cooperation, and sustainable development.

• Indian companies like Reliance, Essar, and GAIL are investing in the U.S. natural gas market. This is the start of a new era of cooperation between India and the U.S. in the energy field. So far, the US Department of Energy has given permission for LNG to be exported from seven US liquefaction terminals to countries with which the US does not have a free trade agreement (FTA). Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has off-take agreements with two of these five terminals.

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• The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Government of India set up the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre (JCERDC) as a priority project under the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). The goal of the JCERDC is to encourage clean energy innovations by teams of scientists from India and the U.S. Both governments have agreed to give a total of US$ 50 million to the project.

• A high-level Climate Change Working Group and a Joint Working Group on Hydrofluorocarbon help India and the US work together and talk about climate change. India is also the latest Asian country to buy U.S. crude, joining South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, and Taiwan. These countries are trying to diversify their oil imports from other regions after the OPEC cuts drove up the prices of Middle East heavy-sour crude, or grades with a high sulphur content.

Counter-terrorism and Internal Security

• There have been a lot of improvements in sharing data, exchanging information, working together on operations, and making technology and tools to fight terrorism.

• The India-US Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Initiative was signed in 2010 to help the two countries work together more on fighting terrorism, sharing information, and building up their skills.

• India and the United States have also signed an agreement to join the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center’s (TSC) worldwide terror database. The U.S. has already reached deals like this with 30 countries, and the Terrorist Screening Center’s database has information about 11,000 terror suspects, such as their nationality, date of birth, photos, fingerprints (if they have any), and passport numbers.Under this deal, both sides will give each other access to information about terrorism screening through designated contact places, as long as they follow their own laws and rules.

Science and Technology

• When the United States and India work together on science and technology, it improves their relationship, helps the economy grow, and lets them create new, innovative technologies and products to solve problems they both face. Both the US and India think that science, technology, and new ideas are important tools that can help us deal with world problems like climate change, health, education, food, water, and energy security.In October 2005, the U.S. and India signed an agreement to work together on science and technology.

In 2000, the governments of India and the United States created the India-U.S. Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) to make it easier for them to work together in science, engineering, and health in ways that are good for both countries. In 2009, a fund called the U.S.-India Science & Technology Endowment Fund was set up.

• The 2008 MOU on Earth Observations and Earth Sciences made it easier for the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States to work together.

At the National Centres for Environmental Prediction in the United States, there is now a “monsoon desk.” India’s $250 million donation to the Thirty-Meter Telescope Project in Hawaii and the Indian Initiative in Gravitational Observations (IndiGO) with the U.S. LIGO Laboratory are examples of working together to build world-class study facilities.


• At the beginning of the 1960s, the US helped set up the sounding rocket programme, which was the start of India’s space plan. In the years that followed, NASA helped ISRO with satellite broadcasting and remote sensing. However, after India’s first nuclear test in 1974 and the success of its first launch vehicle, the SLV-3, in 1980 (which showed that the country had the technology to make ballistic missiles), relations between India and the US became tense. ISRO and NASA stopped working together after India’s nuclear tests in 1998. This was because the Clinton administration put a one-sided ban on ISRO.But Washington didn’t realise this until 2004. When civilian space projects were added to the India-US Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) agreement, relations between the two countries got better.

Since then, both sides have worked together to study climate change and have used data from remote sensing satellites to predict the weather, help with emergency management, and teach. The fact that ISRO is now launching American satellites is a huge step forward for cooperation between the two countries in space.A binational Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation is a place where people from both countries can talk about doing things together in space. The last meeting of the JWG took place in Bengaluru in September 2015. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and a dual-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) are both projects that NASA and ISRO are working on together.

In 2013, India’s Mars Orbiter project (MOM) went into orbit around Mars just two days before the US’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution project (MAVEN). NASA’s deep space network helped MOM find its way and keep track of it in space. Now, ISRO and NASA share data and pictures from these satellites all the time.

Stronger ties between India and the US in space are good for multilateral cooperation as well, since over 50 space agencies around the world want to take part in space exploration. Strong leadership is needed to make much-needed space laws, and India’s ISRO could play a big role in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Diaspora and Exchanges of Culture

The more than 3.5 million Indian Americans are an important ethnic group in the U.S. They make up about 1% of the country’s total population. The Indian American community has a lot of professionals, business owners, and educators who are becoming more important in society.With two Indian Americans in high-level positions as Governors and a number of Indian Americans serving as representatives of the people, the Indian Diaspora has integrated into their new country and is helping to make ties between India and the US stronger and tighter.India and the U.S. work together on many different kinds of cultural projects. Aside from the University and school programmes that focus on India, there are a lot of private places that teach Indian traditional arts. In addition to the website and social media, the Embassy sends out a number of digital newsletters with up-to-date information about India that is important to the United States. These include the weekly “India: Partner in Growth,” which focuses on business and strategic issues, and the monthly “India Live,” which gives information about the Embassy and Consulates’ projects, major events in India, and culture and tourism.

Other Areas of Cooperation


• Under the 2010 U.S.-India Health Initiative, four working groups have been set up to work on Non-Communicable Diseases, Infectious Diseases, Strengthening Health Systems and Services, and Maternal and Child Health.

• At the first meeting of the Health Dialogue in September 2015 in Washington, DC, both sides agreed to work together institutionally in the new areas of mental health and regulatory and capacity-building aspects.


The two countries have made cooperation in the education field a key part of their strategic relationship.

• In 2008, the Fulbright programme was re-started with a new mission and joint funding to help more students and scholars get grants to go on exchanges. About 130,000 Indian students are in the US to get higher degrees.

• Under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), which India started, up to 1000 academics from the United States will be invited and given the chance to teach at Indian colleges whenever they want. They are also working together to set up a new Indian Institute of Technology in Ahmedabad.


• One of the most important parts of the relationship between India and the US is that they work together on cyber problems. The strategic cyber relationship between the two countries is based on their shared beliefs, vision, and rules for cyberspace.

• The India-USA cyber security framework aims to improve international security and stability in cyberspace. It does this by recognising that international law, especially the UN Charter, applies to the behaviour of states in cyberspace and by promoting voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.


How important is the relationship between India and the US?

• The relationship between the United States and India is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world in the 21st century. Together, the United States and India are the world’s two biggest democracies, with more than 1.5 billion people.

• They have similar strategic goals, but what’s more important is that they have similar deep-seated ideals that are based on their shared experience of democratic government in a place with many different social and cultural groups.

• Strategic Convergence: Both India and the United States see the same threats, such as terrorism, instability in the Middle East and Afghanistan, freedom of navigation, the balance of security in the area, migration, drug trafficking, etc.

• Middle East: India needs peace and security in the Middle East because it has important national interests in West Asia, especially the Persian Gulf. These interests include the need for energy, the large number of Indians who work in the area, the flow of remittances, etc. The United States and India both want Israel and Palestine to be safe and have a good life.

• In the South China Sea, both India and the US agree that ships should be free to go where they want. During Obama’s visit in 2015, a joint statement said that the South China Sea was a source of worry. In the past, statements like this called for freedom of passage in general terms. However, India’s readiness to name the sea shows a new willingness to stand up to China.

• Balance in Asia: The US National Security Strategy (NSS) 2015 report gives India a lot of attention: “We support India’s role as a regional provider of security,” and “We see a strategic convergence between India’s Act East policy and our continued implementation of the rebalance to Asia and the Pacific.” During the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the United States in June 2017, the two countries made a joint statement that said, “A close partnership between the United States and India is key to peace and stability in the region.”

• Stability in Afghanistan: The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now in its seventeenth year. India has welcomed the U.S.’s “new policy on Afghanistan,” saying that it will help target “safe havens” for terrorists in South Asia. India has always pushed for a peace process in Afghanistan that is led and owned by Afghanistan. This is to make sure that peace and security are kept in Afghanistan. Recently, the US backed up India’s position, which it first took in the 1980s and has kept since then, by asking Afghans to run their own country. India is also asked to help bring peace, security, stability, and wealth to Afghanistan by the United States. India, on the other hand, has always focused on economic aid and refused to send troops.

• Terrorism: The U.S. supports a U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and improve the framework for global cooperation and send the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism. Both India and the US have had terror strikes in the past. Both countries think that terrorism is a worldwide problem that needs to be fought and that terrorist safe havens should be destroyed everywhere.

• India liked that the United States named the leader of Hizb-ul-Mujahi deen as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. This showed that the United States was serious about stopping all kinds of terror.

• Defence Cooperation: India and the US have agreed to work together more on defence and security. This builds on the fact that the US has named India a “Major Defence Partner.” “White Shipping” is an agreement between the US and India to share info. The sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems shows that people’s security concerns are coming together more and more. Growing military ties are shown by agreements to buy two of the most advanced American helicopters, the Apache and the Chinook, in a deal worth about $3 billion.

Also, the New Security Strategy, which was released in December 2017, says that the US will expand its military and security cooperation with India, which is a major defence partner of the US, and will support India’s growing ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

• UNSC and Missile Technology Regimes: The United States’ help was also very important for India to join the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017, the Australia Group in January 2018, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in July 2018. India’s permanent status in a reformed UNSC is also strongly backed by the US.The US has recently started using the term “Indo-Pacific” instead of “Asia-Pacific.” They say it shows how important it is that India is rising and that the US has strong and growing ties with India. China still refers to the area as Asia Pacific.

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• Coming Back of ‘Quad 1: A decade ago, Japan started the ‘Quad’ with a strategic naval drill called Malabar 07, in which the US, Australia, and India also took part. But later, Australia pulled out, which seemed to be because of pressure from China. The quadrilateral group is a regional alliance made up of Japan, India, the United States, and Australia. In those years, the world went through a recession, the US lost some of its power and impact around the world, China’s military and economic power grew, and a resurgent India tried to position itself in Asia as a counterweight to China. So, China’s confidence and lofty goals are to blame for the comeback of Quad. The formation of Quad makes it clear how important it is to keep the “rules-based order” in the Indo-Pacific area.

• In November 2017, India took part in the first public meetings of the ‘Quad’ regional coalition. The talks were mostly about how they could work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in an area that is getting more and more connected. The formation of ‘Quad’ is good for India. But India has to deal with the fact that China is becoming more powerful. So, India might need to build bridges with both its closest friend and its biggest trade partner.

• In line with this strategy, India said that the quadrilateral was not aimed at any other country and that New Delhi was also part of similar groups in the area to deal with security and political problems.

• India needs strong trade and business relationships, in addition to careful strategic planning, to reach its huge economic potential. The trade link between the U.S. and India is both very important for India and good for both economies. The US has also stayed one of India’s top sources of foreign direct investment, bringing important managerial skills, capital, and technology to the country’s fast-paced market. The people of India make up a big market for many countries, including the U.S., and also give them skilled (STEM Skills) workers. After China, US companies see India as another huge market.

India on the U.S. ‘Asia Pivot’

• The goal of the US Asia pivot strategy is to keep the US in a strong strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening its long-held dominance in the area. This plan comes at a time when China is becoming more military assertive in Asia, when America’s economic and political power is on the decline, and when the US is eager to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts in the greater middle east. India is seen as a key part of this “pivot” plan. This is clear from the guidelines of the US Department of Defence and other official statements.

• India has both chances and problems with this “pivot” plan. It will help strengthen its growing strategic ties with the US and the Asia-Pacific countries on a variety of problems. But there are likely to be major disagreements between the two countries over the political endgame in Afghanistan and any attempt by the US to force India to choose between being “with us” or “against us” on important strategic problems in Asia.

• India would rather use its own rebalancing strategy, which involves not teaming up with any country against China, because its good relationships with all the major powers, including China and Russia, are the key to its rise in the coming decades. Also, over the last 20 years, its own foreign strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region has changed. It will be very careful with this pivot plan because of this.

• In the meantime, India wants to create a multilateral security framework so that all the Asian powers can work together to solve important economic and political problems that affect all of them. Because of the state of the US economy, China and other Asian powers, like Japan, need to work together.

• Also, the US knows that India and the US might not agree on everything, but that they will still keep working to improve their strategic relationship. It also says that India’s military autonomy should be respected. Maybe India and the United States need to talk more about the future of the Indo-Pacific order.


Challenges in Relations

India and the United States have had a complicated relationship. Since 1974, the friendship between India and the USA has gone through many ups and downs. India and the United States do have problems that hurt the national interests of one or the other.

Some of the problems between India and the US are:

Maintaining Strategic Autonomy

• India’s relationships with Russia and Iran are good. This has been hard to do since India turned towards the US after the Cold War. Tensions between the US and Russia are making it harder for India to get along with Moscow. This was shown when the US threatened to put sanctions on India if it bought S-400 weapons from Russia.In the same way, the US leaving the Iran deal was bad for India’s oil security. But India shouldn’t only look at its relationship with the US through the lens of what India wants.India should also slowly stop worrying so much about keeping its strategic independence in the face of pressure from outside and start taking a bigger role in creating the world in which it wants to do well.

Visa Issue

Visas: The U.S. has made it harder to get the most-wanted H1B and L1 visas. This is in line with the Trump administration’s goal to protect American workers from being treated unfairly or replaced by foreign workers.

• The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that the U.S. gives to skilled workers from other countries who want to work for a certain amount of time in certain areas.

• The H1-B visa scheme Bill will make the change to the visa programme. It says that companies can’t hire H1-B workers if they have more than 50 workers and more than half of those workers are on H1-B or L-1 visas.

• How it affects India

If the changes to the Bill are passed, the IT business will have to worry about how much it will cost to raise wages.

The Indian companies will have to deal with adding more people from India and raising wages, which could hurt their profit margins.

After the bill was brought back, Indian IT stocks dropped by as much as 4%.

Trade Issues

Solar Issues

• India lost the domestic content requirement (DCR) case against the US in the WTO. The case was about making solar cells. The group said that India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s requirement for DCR goes against the WTO trade deal. The decision will make it harder for India to reach its goal of 100 GW of solar energy and raise the cost of making it.

• Recently, the US went to the WTO and asked that India be punished for not following the rule. India, on the other hand, has said that it has followed the WTO’s decision and asked the WTO to set up a panel to look into whether or not it has followed the rulings of the dispute.

• The WTO’s body for resolving disagreements has agreed to this and set up a panel to see if India has followed the decision it made in a case against the US about domestic content requirements for solar cells and modules.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR):

• The United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report for 2016 has put India on a list of countries to watch closely. The report is an annual look at how IP rules are working in countries that trade with the US.

• India says that its intellectual property rules are in line with the WTO’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and has spoken out against the requirements of TRIPS Plus in international trade deals.

• In the interest of public health, the U.S. is against India’s compulsory licencing rules for drugs. It is also against Section 3(d) of the India Patent Act, which says that a product can’t get a patent unless its effectiveness is greatly improved.

Trade War

• A trade war happens when one country puts tariffs or quotas on goods and other countries respond by doing the same things to protect their trade.

• China and the U.S. are in a trade war because each country has put tariffs on things that are bought and sold between the two. The US says that its moves are based on unfair trade practises and theft of intellectual property. The Trump administration said that the tariffs were needed to protect U.S. companies’ intellectual property and to help reduce the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China.

• Trade wars slow down the world economy, hurt the rules-based trading system set up by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), upset financial markets, and mess up global supply lines. India may be able to lower its trade deficit with China in the short term through a trade war, but the negative effects of a trade war outweigh the small benefits India could get.

Issue of Poultry:

• The U.S. had filed a lawsuit against India’s ban on importing many agricultural products from the U.S., including poultry, because of worries about Avian Influenza (bird flu).

• The U.S. had a problem with the ban because it went against WTO rules and hurt the sales of U.S. chicken in India. The WTO’s Appellate Body said that India’s ban on imports was “discriminatory” and “more trade-restrictive than necessary.”

Totalization Agreement

• Totalization agreements are a way for workers whose careers span two or more countries to protect their rights to benefits.

• At the moment, there are more than 5 lakh workers from India working there. Each year, they pay more than $1 billion into the US social security system.

• Since there is no Totalisation deal, workers from India who work in the US will not get their social security contributions back until they have lived there for at least ten years.If the two countries sign this deal, professionals from either country who work for a short time in the other country would not have to pay social security taxes.

Isolationist Policies of the US:

• In recent years, the US has left many foreign agreements and groups. It left the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Iran nuclear deal, UNESCO, and the Paris agreement on climate change. It also promised to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

• US also said that it would start the process of leaving the Universal Postal Union (UPU). This kind of isolationist behaviour means that India needs to rethink how much it wants to work with the US in the military realm. It also puts the US at risk of giving China more strategic space on the world stage.

Hyphenation/De-Hyphenation Issue:

• Under President Bush, the US made an action plan for the “de-hyphenation” policy, which allows the State Department to treat India and Pakistan separately without mentioning their bilateral relations.

• This has helped the US improve strategic and military ties with India without needing a response from Pakistan.

• In 2016, the US started to think about re-hyphenation, which would mean putting India and Pakistan in the same basket when it comes to ties between Washington and both countries.

• India is against the hyphenation policy with Pakistan because it could lead to the US getting involved in the Kashmir problem, which could affect India’s policy on Afghanistan.


• Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. has given Islamabad more than $25 billion in military and economic help. The U.S. Department of Defence also gave Bell Helicopters a $170 million deal to build nine ‘AH-1Z Viper’ attack helicopters for Pakistan. India didn’t agree with the U.S.’s claim that sending guns to Pakistan would help fight terrorism.But the New Security Strategy from the new US government shows a change in policy. It wants to put pressure on Pakistan to step up its fight against terrorism and show that it is a “responsible steward” of its nuclear assets. It also said that “transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan” are still a threat to the United States. In line with this policy, the US has chosen to cut Pakistan’s financial aid by a lot.


The bond between India and the US is getting stronger. But differences are normal in this kind of relationship, especially between the world’s leading political, military, economic, and technological power and a large developing country that is advanced in some areas of the knowledge economy but has serious problems with poverty and is at different stages of development internally. The success of the India-US relationship will depend on how well the two countries deal with their differences.

• The friendship between the U.S. and India has been going in a good direction since the turn of the century. Setting up a two-by-two minister framework to speed up work in important areas and signing the Logistic Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA) and the COMCASA shows that the right things are being done in the right way for mutual gain and for the world as a whole.