India and the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of State website, “The relationship between the United States and India is one of the most strategic and consequential of the 21st century. The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading global power and a vital partner in promoting a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”

In reality, the relationship between the two countries is rather complicated. Relations between India and the U.S. date back to India’s independence movement and have continued well after independence from the UK in 1947. As a former colonialized country, India has tried to form ties to anti-colonial countries and stay away from traditional Western colonial and imperialistic countries.

In 1954, the U.S. made Pakistan, India’s archenemy, a Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) ally. As a result, India cultivated strategic and military relations with the Soviet Union to counter Pakistan–U.S. relations. In 1961, India became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement to abstain from aligning with either the U.S. or the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Nixon administration’s support for Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 affected relations until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the 1990s, Indian foreign policy adapted to the unipolar world and India developed friendlier ties with the U.S.

More recently, Indian foreign policy has sought to leverage India’s strategic autonomy to safeguard sovereign rights and promote national interests within a multi-polar world. There are many signs of India’s growing importance and global relevance such as an increase in bilateral trade and investment, co-operation on global security matters, inclusion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (United Nations Security Council), upgraded representation in trade and investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC), admission into multilateral export control regimes (MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and support for admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Fundamentally, India is driven by a few key elements. The geopolitical reality is a border with China that is more than 2,000 miles long, even longer than the border with Pakistan. Both borders are disputed and there are occasional conflicts. India is still strongly anti-colonial and has not forgotten the exploitation of Western countries. Consequently, it aligns with oppressed former colonies and identify with emerging economics. India is also keen to form ties with Russia to counter China’s power and to stay array Western colonial powers.

Currently, the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is visiting Putin in Russia as a result of the countries forming closer ties. This will be Modi’s first visit to Russia in five years and will show that Russia still has influential friends after more than two years of Western efforts to isolate the country. India is trying to offer counterweight to U.S. and European sanctions that it believes have pushed Moscow closer to Beijing. India wants to ensure that Russia has alternatives, and that Russia is not cornered and does not have to put all the eggs in the Chinese basket. In India’s calculus, Russia is part of its efforts to counter China. Relations with China have deteriorated in recent years, particularly in the wake of a 2020 cash on their disputed Himalayan border.

As India’s economy is growing stronger, global trade has become increasingly important. At this point, trade with Russia is somewhat lopsided with India’s massive purchases of discounted Russian oil. Currently, India buys about two million barrels of oil from Russia per day. India is also an active member of the growing BRICS organization along with Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa. The relations with the U.S. have improved, but India is determined to find its own independent path with well-balanced connections with other major economies and powers. India will continue to assert itself and the U.S. would benefit from a more serious effort to build closer ties with India.

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