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How do you think the US Presidential election will impact US-India Relations?
By Sourav M. Sardar
| Category: U.S. India Relations

It is an open secret that there is no altruism in foreign relations. Wherever there is convergence of interests, there would be deals happening between countries and the relationship would appear to be on the ascendent. On the other hand, wherever interests diverge, countries would become hostile to each other. It is all a game of circumstances and situations. India-US relations are no exception.

The dominant approach to analysing this issue to look at it from the prism of Democrats vs. Republican debate, but the relationship has moved beyond this binary. Many in India believe that a Republican candidate is better than a Democratic candidate because it was a Republican President, George W. Bush Jr. who got us the Indo-US Nuclear Deal but the groundwork for this deal was done by Bill Clinton who was a Democrat.1


The international security environment and the changing geopolitics of the world due to the emergence of a belligerent China has set the stage for convergence of interests between the two countries in the strategic sphere. USA just like India has been a victim of International Islamic Terrorism and the rise of Daesh poses an even bigger threat to USA than Al-Qaeda.


This strategic convergence is bringing the two countries together which is proven by deepening of military relations and the support shown to India post the surgical strikes done by India in PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) after the Uri attack. Irrespective of who wins the election, this area of cooperation is further set to deepen.


USA’s recognition of the not-so-peaceful rise of China is established by the Pivot to Asia policy where USA’s intends to focus a majority of its naval assets in the East Pacific to rebalance China’s power projection in the region. India has the economic and military potential to act as a counterweight to China’s hegemony. While the economic relations between China and USA are deep but sound economic relations can only be maintained on the bedrock of good political and strategic relations. China’s attitude post the South China Sea Dispute award, its role in supporting rogue states like North Korea and its constant belligerent attitude towards Japan & its other neighbours who come under the security umbrella of USA shows a divergence of strategic interests between the two countries and would bring India and USA into a tighter embrace of each other.


The economic agenda of the current Modi government throws up ample opportunities for the USA to engage with India. The Indian PM has given priority to ease of business and the development of a defence industrial base in India. USA being a world leader in defence technology is uniquely positioned among the world powers to partner with India in this area. The Defence Technology & Trade Initiative shows that both the countries have recognized the potential of defence relations between the two countries. Also the redressal of USA’s grievances with respect to our Nuclear Liability Act opens up another area for cooperation between the countries.


India’s middle east policy with respect to Iran has been an area of concern for USA. Iran is important for achieving India’s policy objectives in Afghanistan and to counter Chinese presence in Gwadar. But given the larger benefit of deepening of relations between the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies it can be reasonably expected that both the countries would walk the diplomatic tightrope well irrespective of the winner of the Presidential elections as after all relations between countries are determined by interests and not by individuals.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this contest entry are those of the author and do not reflect the views, positions or policies of the U.S. Government