India - USA Relationship | IAS Target IAS Target

India - USA Relationship: from Non-Alignment Movement to Strategic Partner

19 Nov 2019

Category : International Relations

Topic: India - USA Relationship: from Non-Alignment Movement to Strategic Partner


The positive relations b/w India and the U.S. have been since independence and also the democracy of India is considered the largest democracy of the world, while the democracy of the U.S. is the oldest democracy of the world. The Indo-US relations are also named as the Indian–American relations. Economically, the U.S. seeks an extended trade relationship with India that is fair and reciprocal. The U.S. energy exports are a vital region of growth in the trade relationship. Moreover, both the countries cooperate closely at multinational organizations like the G-20, International Monetary found, World trade organization, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

Recent 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue

In December 2019, the US hosted the second 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington directed by the U.S. defence and secretaries of state and their Indian counterparts, at which both sides reaffirmed the status of India as a key defence partner and deepened cooperation on interoperability, maritime security and information exchanging.
While the 2+2 serves as a premier dialogue tool b/w India and the U.S., there are total thirteen bilateral dialogues and working groups which cover all facets of human efforts whether it is from health and space cooperation to energy or high technology trade. These cover the United States and India counterterrorism joint working group, which was founded in 2000 and is the oldest government to government dialogue, and even the Defence Policy Group, Cyber Dialogue, Trade Policy Forum, and the other.
The India-US relationship is based on a shared commitment to human rights, freedom, the rule of law, and democratic principles. Also, both countries have shared interests in encouraging global stability and economic prosperity through trade. The USA assists India's emergence as an important global partner and good pals in efforts to ensure that the Indo-pacific is an area of stability and peace.

Non-align Movement

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally associated with or against any major power bloc. After the UN, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide. Drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the NAM was setup in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia through an initiative of the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This led to the 1st conference of Governments of Non-Aligned Countries and Heads of State.
The objective of the organization was specified by Fidel Castro in his Havana Declaration of 1979 as to ensure "the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries" in their "struggle against colonialism, imperialism, racism, neo-colonialism, and all types of foreign aggression, occupation, interference, domination, or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics." The NAM aided to avoid any war escalation when the world was struggling with power politics of two blocs led by the Soviet Union and the USA. Membership is particularly focused on countries considered to be developing or a part of the Third World, though the Non-Aligned Movement also has a number of developed nations.

India and USA relationship in the 21st century

In the twenty-first century, Indian foreign policy has sought to leverage India's strategic autonomy in order to protect sovereign rights and encourage national interests within a multi-polar world. Under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the United States has shown accommodation to India's core national interests and acknowledged outstanding concerns.

India and USA Cooperation

  • Increase in bilateral investment& trade,
  • Co-operation on global security matters,
  • Insertion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (United Nations Security Council),
  • Improved representation in trade & investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC),
  • Admission into multilateral export control regimes (MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and
  • Assistance for admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and joint-manufacturing through technology sharing arrangements

India-USA defence cooperation

  • Exercise Malabar
    It is a trilateral naval exercise including the United States, India, and Japan as permanent partners. Originally started in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015. Past non-permanent participants are Singapore and Australia. The annual Malabar series started in 1992 and includes various activities, ranging from fighter combat operations to aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.
  • Yudh Abhyas
    A joint military exercise, Yudh Abhyas is conducted annually between India and the US armies "The exercise is one of the biggest joint military exercises and defence corporation endeavors between India and the USA," 2019 exercise was the 15th edition of 'Yudh Abhyas', which is hosted alternately between the two countries.
  • The US and India have a common interest in the free flow of commerce and resources, including through important sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. In recent years, India has conducted large joint military exercises with the US in the Indian Ocean.

India-United States: Foundational Agreements

The U.S. has four "foundational" agreements that it signs with its defence partners. USA position that the agreements are not prerequisites for bilateral defence co-operation, but would make it simpler and more gainful to carry out activities such as refueling ships or aircraft in each other's countries and providing disaster relief.
  • The first of the four agreements is GSOMIA:
    The General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which was signed by the U.S. and India in 2002. The agreement permits the sharing of military intelligence between the two countries and needs each country to shield the others' classified information.
  • The second agreement is LEMOA :
    The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), was signed by the two countries on 29 August 2016. The LEMOA allows the military of either country to use the others' bases for re-supplying or carrying out repairs. The agreement doesn’t make the provision of logistical support binding on either country and needs individual clearance for each request.
  • The third agreement is COMCASA :
    The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was signed during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in September 2018. It is an India-specific variant of Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that enables the two countries to split secure communication and exchange information on approved equipment during multinational and bilateral training exercises and operations.
  • The fourth agreement is BECA :
    The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) has not yet been signed. It allows the exchange of unclassified and controlled unclassified geospatial products, nautical, topographical, and aeronautical data, products, and services between India and the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

India designated as a major US defence partner

India has been selected as a major defence partner of the United States. It puts India on a par with the closest allies and partners of the US. So far, the US has conferred this status upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries and the US treaty allies such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Philippines, and New Zealand. India’s Major Defence Partner status has been made a part of the India Amendment in the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), 2017 of the US. It will assist the US to transfer advanced defence technology to India.

India-USA defence trade

  • Defence relationship has emerged as a major pillar of India-US strategic partnership and a key driver of the overall bilateral relationship since 2005.
  • The US authorizes the sharing of sensitive technologies with India on a level commensurate with America’s closest allies.
  • There has also been an extensive deepening of the security partnership, with a focus on counter-terrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.
  • USA, wants to make India one of the major defence partners for which the USA wants to sell highly technological weapons because India is a big market for world companies to sell highly advanced arms.
  • Many USA companies want to establish their facilities in India to fabricate weapon locally so India could be a new hub for USA corporates (Example F-16 by Lockheed Martin)
  • India and the United States have launched a Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) aimed at simplifying technology transfer policies and exploring possibilities of co-production and co-development to invest the defence relationship with strategic value. The DTTI Working Group and its Task Force will expeditiously decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defence relations and boost India's defence industry and military capabilities.


The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue b/w the United States, Australia, Japan, and India that is maintained by a conversation between member countries. The dialogue was kicked off in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of the Vice President of the US, Prime Minister of Australia, and Prime Minister of India. The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar. The military and diplomatic arrangements were widely viewed as a response to augmented Chinese economic and military power and China expansion and disregard of rule of law and unilateral action in the South China Sea.
The Chinese government responded to the Quadrilateral dialogue by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members. The first iteration of QSD ceases following the withdrawal of Australia during the term of prime minister Kevin Rudd, reflecting Australian concerns about joining a perceived coalition against China with two of its historic adversaries, India and Japan. India, Japan, and the United States persist to hold joint naval exercises through Malabar. Though, during the 2017 ASEAN Summits, all four former members rejoined in negotiations to stimulate the quadrilateral alliance.