‘Shared concerns about Beijing have driven India and the US closer’

The experts also stated that Indo-US relations accelerated during the Trump administration.

The evolution of Indo-US relations was the dominant theme of the panel discussion ‘India and the US: Where next?’, moderated by C Raja Mohan, contributing editor, The Indian Express. Participants included Alyssa Ayres, Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University; Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director of the India Pacific Security Program, Centre for a New American Security (CNAS); Tanvi Madan, Director, The India Project, Brookings Institution and Arun Singh, Member, National Security Advisory Board, and former Ambassador to the United States.

“Why is it that people are always skeptical of this (Indo-US) relation? There is always doubt whether it can actually make progress,” Mohan set off the discussion, which focussed on the continued growth of bilateral relations between the two nations, irrespective of who is in the White House.

Ayres said, “The progress has been made by successive US and Indian governments over the course of 20 years. When you look back on where things were in 1998, it looks very different today. I do think that we’ve managed to find patterns of cooperation that are very specific to the India-US relationship.”

The experts also stated that Indo-US relations accelerated during the Trump administration. “This started with the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the White House in 2017. He was one of the first foreign leaders to visit and they just struck a close bond. That was solidified through a series of phone calls that the two leaders made to each other. We saw in 2019, the Howdy Modi event in Texas with both leaders addressing a crowd of 50,000 Indian-Americans, so you could really see this close personal relationship between the two leaders,” added Curtis.

Singh recalled the time when Indo-US relations were not flourishing and how in the ’70s, the US didn’t stand with India. It all changed with President Clinton visiting India and the Bush administration taking it forward. “It was President George Bush who began the process of transforming the relationship with the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India. If he hadn’t done that, the kind of technology access that India would be getting now in the US would not have been possible,” he said.

The discussion soon turned to China, and how it is a key factor in shaping the relations between India and the US. It remains to be seen if China would complicate the equation, or become a point of convergence. “Shared concerns about Beijing’s intentions and actions have driven India and the US close together. The US is viewing India as a geopolitical counterbalance and economic alternative, a democratic contrast to China. And for India, the US is crucial to its China policy not just in terms of internal balancing and capacity building, but also external balancing,” said Madan.

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