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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 21 March, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

India and USA Relations

India and USA Relations

Introduction

  • India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a "global strategic partnership", based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.
  • The emphasis placed by the Government in India on development and good governance has created opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the motto --- “ChaleinSaathSaath: Forward Together We Go”, and "SanjhaPrayas, Sab ka Vikas" (Shared Effort, Progress for All) adopted during the first two summits of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively.
  • The summit level joint statement issued in June 2016 called the India-U.S. relationship an “Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century”.
  • Regular exchange of high-level political visits has provided sustained momentum to bilateral cooperation, while the wide-ranging and ever-expanding dialogue architecture has established a long-term framework for India-U.S. engagement.
  • Today, the India-U.S. bilateral cooperation is broad-based and multi-sectoral, covering 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.
  • Vibrant people-to-people interaction and support across the political spectrum in both countries nurture our bilateral relationship.

India-U.S. Dialogue Architecture:

There are more than 50 bilateral dialogue mechanisms between the two governments.

  • The first two meetings of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue at the level of EAM and MoS (Commerce & Industry) were held in Washington DC in September 2015 and New Delhi in August 2016.
  • This apex-level dialogue has added a commercial component to the five traditional pillars of bilateral relations on which the erstwhile Strategic Dialogue of Foreign Ministers had focussed, namely:
    1. Strategic Cooperation;
    2. Energy and Climate Change,
    3. Education and Development;
    4. Economy, Trade and Agriculture; Science and Technology; and
    5. Health and Innovation.
  • The second meeting of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue took place on 30 August 2016 in New Delhi.
  • In addition, there are Ministerial-level dialogues involving
    1. home (Homeland Security Dialogue),
    2. finance (Financial and Economic Partnership),
    3. commerce (Trade Policy Forum),
    4. HRD (Higher Education Dialogue),
    5. Science & Technology (Joint Commission Meeting on S&T) and
    6. energy (Energy Dialogue).

Defence Cooperation:

  • Defence relationship has emerged as a major pillar of India-U.S. strategic partnership with the signing of ‘New Framework for India-U.S. Defense Relations’ in 2005 and the resulting intensification in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and counter-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services.
  • The Defence Framework Agreement was updated and renewed for another 10 years in June 2015.
  • The two countries now conduct more bilateral exercises with each other than they do with any other country.

India – USA Defense foundational agreements

  • The General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), relating to the security of each other’s military information was signed in 2002.
  • In 2016, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) relating to the exchange of logistics support had been concluded, followed by Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 permitting encryption standards of communication systems.
  • The recent signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) providing for the sharing of geospatial data is the last of the foundational agreements.

The United States enters into what are called ‘foundational or enabling agreements’ with its defence partners.

  • These agreements govern the nature and scope of U.S. defence partnerships.
  • Partners enhance the capabilities of the U.S. military in distant places through sharing information, platforms and logistics.
  • The competitive advantage of the U.S. military is maintained primarily by the advanced technologies that the country develops continuously.
  • The U.S. sells military equipment to other countries with strict control over their deployment and use.
  • For instance, consider the B777-300ER aircraft that India bought from Boeing recently for the use of VVIPs.
  • The sale of advanced communication and security systems on the aircraft — which are not commercially available — is made seamless by foundational agreements.
  • The U.S. is also eager to advance ‘interoperability’ with defence forces of the countries that are its defence partners.
  • Interoperability involves real-time coordination of forces.
  • The U.S. has signed these foundational agreements with at least 100 countries, which mostly follow a standard text.
  • Country-specific changes were made in India’s case in all four foundational agreements.

What do these agreements do?

  • The General Security of Military Information Agreement or GSOMIA, and its extension, the Information Security Annex (ISA) signed in 2019, allow military technology cooperation for the sharing of classified information between governments and companies in both countries.
  • ISA will provide a framework for exchange and protection General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) of classified military information between the U.S. and Indian defence industries.
    1. Currently, under GSOMIA, such information is exchanged between the Government authorities of the two countries but not between private parties.
    2. This will further promote “Make in India” in the defence sector.
    3. In accordance with the budget announcement (2018-19), the government has already decided to set up two Defence Industrial Corridors in the country, one in Uttar Pradesh and another in Tamil Nadu.
  • The LEMOA enables logistics support, say refuelling of planes or ships, supply of spare parts or maintenance to each other.
  • For instance, U.S. Navy’s P8 aircraft landed in Port Blair last month for refuelling, under LEMOA.
  • The COMCASA allows Indian forces to procure advanced, secure communication equipment from the U.S.
  • Such equipment was earlier denied for U.S. origin platforms such as C-17, C-130, and commercial systems were used in their place.
  • Only after COMCASA was signed were the encrypted systems provided to India.
  • The BECA enables exchange of geospatial information. Akin to a GPS that enables navigation, such exchange of geospatial information enhances the accuracy of a missile or the utility of a drone.

What is the strategic importance of these agreements?

  • Since the Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2005, the India-U.S. defence cooperation has been advancing at a rapid pace.
  • The U.S. has relaxed restrictions on technology trade in India’s favour considerably, and India is designated a ‘Major Defence Partner’.
  • Foundational agreements deepen defence cooperation, in trade and operation.
  • India and the U.S. are also part of a broader shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region, where both countries, along with Japan and Australia, are increasing their military cooperation.
  • U.S.-built platforms used by partner countries can talk to one another and share operational information.

Are there any concerns?

  • Critics worry that tying itself too closely with the U.S. may limit India’s choices.
  • The evolution of technology makes it inevitable that all military platforms will be integrated and networked in the future.
  • The U.S. is very particular about the integrity of its networks, and pressure could mount on India to remain firmly in its camp.
  • The U.S. is particularly irked by India’s continuing defence cooperation with Russia.
  • India will be taking the delivery of Russian S-400 missile defence system next year, ignoring American objections.
  • The U.S. could respond with sanctions. At any rate, it will not be possible to integrate Russian and American platforms, and this could throw up new challenges of military planning for India.

Defence contracts:

  • From less than $400 million of defence acquisitions till 2005, the U.S. has since signed defence contracts worth $18 billion with India.
  • This marks a major shift given that India had been traditionally almost completely dependent on Russia for defence products.
  • As per reports published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the world’s second-largest arms importer during the period 2015-19, with Russia being the largest supplier though Russia’s share of the Indian weapons market declined from 72% to 56%.
  • Israel, the U.S. and France have substantial arms exports to India.
  • India has imported Apache, Chinook and MH 60 ‘Romeo’ helicopters and P8I maritime aircraft from the US.
  • The US could also sell Predator, Reaper Armed Drones to India amid rising tensions with China.
  • In 2018, India was placed in Category I of the Strategic Trade Authorisation, easing exports of sensitive technologies.
  • India and the US have also decided to deepen defence and security cooperation by collaborating on the co-development and production of advanced military systems along with other aspects like defence technology transfer.
  • The Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) was formed in 2012 between the US and India, to enhance the bilateral relations in defence by venturing into the field of advanced defence research and development and manufacturing.
  • The aim was to strengthen the US and India’s defence industrial base by moving away from the traditional “buyer-seller” dynamic toward a more collaborative approach.

Joint defence exercises:

  • Joint military exercises with the U.S. have expanded, both in scale and complexity over the years.
  • Ex Yudhabhayas and Ex Vajra Prahar are joint military exercises.
  • Ex Cope India is a joint Airforce exercise.
  • Ex Malabar is a joint navy exercise which also involves Japan (Australia has been invited for Malabar 2020).
  • Tiger Triumph is a bilateral tri-service amphibious military exercise involving the armed forces of India and the United States. It is the first tri-service military exercise between the two countries.
  • India has previously only held tri-service exercises with Russia.

India – USA Relationship Dynamics

  • It can be elaborated into three main categories-
    1. Good Phase- It is linked to the historic terms like the U.S. civil nuclear deal, the ongoing defence cooperation and the signing of “Foundational Defence Agreements” which are the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) , the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) etc.
    2. Bad Phase- It is linked with the current trade challenges, the U.S.’s hyphenation of India with China in its trade war and its call for the removal of the ‘developing country’ tag assigned by the WTO.
    3. Ugly Phase- It was when the U.S. sent its fleet towards India to assist Pakistan during the 1971 war.
  • The good outweighs the other two but a sense of scepticism remains because of India’s multilateral outreach, especially with respect to the procurement of defence material from Russia and Indian military’s presence in Afghanistan.
  • India also needs to remain mindful of the unpredictability and inherent contradictions in U.S. foreign policy and, at the same time, capitalise on U.S. ‘isolationism and retrenchment’ by maintaining its time-tested policy of non-alignment and strategic autonomy.

India – USA cooperation

  • 2+2 dialogue: India and the US have recently concluded second 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington. Several landmark agreements in both defence and Civilian sectors were signed.

What is 2+2 dialogue?

  • It is a format of dialogue where the defense and foreign ministers or secretaries meet with their counterparts from another country. 2+2 Ministerial is the highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries.
  • India holds such talks with Australia, at the foreign secretary and defense secretary level but with Japan and the US at the ministerial level.
  • With the US this was the second 2+2 meeting (Washington), first was held in New Delhi in September 2018.
  • US holds such ministerial dialogues with Australia and Japan also.

  • Peacekeeping for Indo-Pacific: Cooperation in capacity-building of UN peacekeepers from Indo-Pacific countries, based on demands from the countries concerned. Counter-terrorism efforts were also discussed including dangers of of cross border terrorism.
  • Tiger Triumph Exercise: To hold the India-U.S. joint tri-services ‘Tiger Triumph’ on an annual basis. The first edition was held in November 2019 as a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise.
  • Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI): The CDRI was launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, USA in September 2019. It is headquartered in New Delhi, India. The US is now part of it.
  • Water Resource Management: Memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Ministry of Jal Shakti and the U.S. Geological Survey to promote technical cooperation in water resources management and water technology.
  • Space Situational Awareness (SSA): Cooperation for exchange of information including space debris and space traffic management. It ensures navigational safety of our space assets.
  • Cooperation in multilateral forums:
    1. India and the US are part of the Quad grouping along with Australia and Japan.
    2. India has been invited for the first time to attend the Five Eyes (a signals intelligence grouping set up in 1941 consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) meeting.
    3. The U.S. has aided India’s entry into export control regimes (Australia Group, Missile Technology Control Regime and Wassenaar Arrangement).

Way forward:

  • The defence ties between the two countries have come of age.
  • Even though there continues to be a certain divergence of interests in some areas, there seem to be higher potential benefits of cooperation and collaboration between the two countries.
  • Working together would require mutual respect and trust while accepting differences.
  • The policy debate in India should not get driven by ideologies but by India’s immediate as well as long term national interest. The policy objective has to enhance India’s strategic space and capability.

Source: TH


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