India was never on the radar of the U.S four decades ago. Then all of a sudden the world gaze turned to the nation located in the subcontinent when it successfully carried out its nuclear tests in 1998. The present-day relations between India and the U.S can be broadly categorized into two types, three particular phases by four different administrations over the past two decades since 1998.
The economic liberation of India in 1991 called for investments from across the globe and also some major U.S corporations were interested but India still wasn’t much noticed or in simple words India wasn’t considered to have potential.
The other two types of India-U.S relations can be found broadly synonymous to the idiom “awe & majesty”. The administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are the ones falling into the category of awe as that marked the beginning of better relations. This was no doubt due to indications of losing hegemony for the United States of America with the paradigm shift of the world balance coming at the helm of Asia with China’s strategic ascent. The reaction of Clinton administration marked the coming of temporary sanction as India showed the world that’s its nuclear arsenal is not only abundant but also functional. Then it was the same administration that visited India two years later in 2000 and that was marked as a very successful visit. That was the new dawn of Indo-U.S relations. It was when Bush administration held the Oval office that Indo-U.S ties began to flourish with the signing of 2005 Defence Agreement which made the whole world more interested in India but the centerpiece of the relations came with the signing of 2008 civil nuclear co-operation treaty which shocked the whole world and then rose a term in global political circles known as “the Indian exception”; the signing of the later set a precedent for the non-proliferation nations such as Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran.
The period of majesty arrived when the educator cum lawyer’s administration took their seats into the White House. While during the Obama administration no significant changes or improvements took place between the two states, but in the U.S more recognition started to garner for the three million-strong Indian communities who also held the highest median income among all ethnic communities in the United States. There was a lot of high-level meeting and the most remarkable of them being President Obama’s address in the joint Indian Parliament where he even used some words from different Indian languages and set precedence and affirmed faith that the relations were in the right track.
It was when the Obama administration packed their things and the outrageous Donald Trump took into the Oval Office with a storm in the U.S Presidential elections that the relations took to a bumpy ride. The present administration’s “America First” policy with enhanced Visa ban and further scrutiny and troubles for immigration that has made the relations bumpy with failure to acknowledge that America is a land of immigrants who’ve indeed made the nation the world richest democracy and a global superpower. While the top political leaderships share what they refer to as “kinship” between them the relations have not shown that with the rhetoric.
America’s interest in India took a rise with the rise in threat in their global hegemonic order which they’ve created and maintained for over century. The enhanced ties and support to the Indian government are due to the indication to bag India in its side against the rising superpower, that is, China. The only substitute to obstruct China’s polarity in the world can take place with the help of its neighbor in Asia and with a more than the modest economy, a powerful military, and good diplomatic power in the international community, India is the most suitable opponent.
With this, the U.S has failed to acknowledge the fact that India has always remained non-aligned and only took the bastion of the international order when it perceived threats to its interests. That has led India to maintain as “strategic partnership” with the U.S and is not an ally. India more likes to be addressed as a friend with its sovereignty maintained and interests safeguarded.
America has always been an opportunist as it tries to please India as it perceives a threat from China while it remains neutral to India’s security complication with Pakistan, whom the U.S supports with a huge military aid to fight terrorism and Pakistan directs the weapons procured from that aid to point guns at India; also in the U.S stays neutral when China often dubiously calls the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as “South Tibet”. Therefore America is not a reliable partner, just an opportunist who is using India to maintain its hegemony in the world order and trying to keep China in check in Asia.
– Aanandita Singh