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INDIA-US Relations in 2021

There’s little doubt that the relationship has been oversold in the past, even by Biden. But his early work on the relationship provides a context for how the inevitable friction is understood. With Tony Blinken at the State Department and Jake Sullivan at the National Security Council, the new president and his administration have more experience with dealing with India than their predecessors.

Strategically for the United States, the stakes for India are growing as Washington invests in India as a counterweight to China, establishes itself in the nuclear order, and prepares to support New Delhi’s efforts to join the global top table of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in due course. Assessing India’s future role in the international order and its behavior in America’s interest remains a necessity for Washington.

Nonetheless, we expect remarkable changes in US-India relations during the era of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with both positive and negative effects on the relationship. In its early days, the Trump administration indicated that it would focus on two key areas of US-India cooperation during the Trump years: promotion of a freer and more open Indo-Pacific region and strengthening ties with two other near maritime partners of the United States in the region, Australia and Japan, both of which are part of the Four-way agreement. The first telephone calls between Secretary Blinken and his counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar touched on both topics.

Relations between India and the United States will intensify during the first 100 days of the Biden administration, said a State Department official in Washington. Relations between India and the United States have improved markedly since Narendra Modi took office in 2014. It is the rapid growth of the Indian economy, closer ties between Indian and American industries in information and communication technology (ICT), engineering and medicine, an informal entente to manage a confident China, a deterioration in US-Pakistan relations, a relaxation of export controls for dual-use goods and technologies, use of 99 % of licenses, and a reversal of longstanding American opposition to India’s strategic programs.

Not only do India and the United States look alike, they also argue that they are exceptional. This assertion is based in part on their status as pluralistic and powerful democracies. By and large, India’s numbers are better than those of Pakistan and Egypt, countries that boost trade, defense, and strategic ties with the US relative to India.

The United States welcomes India’s accession for two years in 2021 to the UN Security Council and supports the Security Council Reform to include India as a permanent member. India is an ASEAN dialogue partner, a partner of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and an observer to American states. The United States seeks to extend trade relations with India on a reciprocal and fair basis.

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Kunal Guha

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