United States-India Defense Relations: A Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century

By John Pedro
Cornell International Affairs Review
2016, Vol. 9 No. 1 | pg. 2/2 |

Defense Relations Moving Forward

The Obama Administration's strategy of pivoting to Asia makes a strategic partnership with India increasingly enticing to the United States.58 The formal nature of this relationship was renewed in June of 2015 with the signing of a new 10-year U.S.-India defense framework highlighting the cooperation between their respective militaries.59 In the future, relations will likely improve and not change in any dramatic way.60 However, important modifications must be made. Co-production, information exchange, and joint exercises are not an end in and of themselves; they must be utilized to build an understanding of shared strategic interests, and create a positive working relationship to act when those interests are threatened. In the future, defense relations between the countries must move from being merely transactional to being more strategic in nature.61

There are also a series of issues that could derail future relations. India's controversial Cold Start doctrine, which is considered offensive and specifically directed at Pakistan, has been criticized by and hampered relations with American military commanders.62 Beyond doctrine, Indian military modernization has been driven by its relationship with the United States, which has the potential to upset regional power dynamics with Pakistan.63 With respect to Indo-Pak problems, the United States has maintained that the issue of Kashmir should be resolved through negotiations.64 Other challenges to future India-U.S. relations include India's continuing acquisition of arms from Russia, the relative closeness of U.S.-Pakistan relations, India's refusal to sign CISMOA or LSA, and potential strategic differences with regards to a rising China.

President Barack Obama shaking hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

President Barack Obama shaking hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Although India purchases more weapons from the United States than they do from any other country, India remains the top purchaser of Russian arms. With tensions rising between Russia and the United States, India could find itself forced to choose between suppliers in the future. Lastly, the domestic politics of both countries could affect the relationship.

A failure to adequately address domestic instability could lead to mass uprisings, and thus complicate relations with the United States. Moreover, in the wake of two long and unpopular wars, the United States' populus is wary of any foreign engagements. India is not the only regional partner for the United States, but it holds the greatest prospects for increased strategic collaboration.

Despite the issues on the horizon, there are also a number of areas ripe for future cooperation, and these issues of unity are of greater consequence than the issues of division. A recent movement towards U.S.India collaboration on space endeavors demonstrates a growing opportunity for further collaboration.65 There are also strong prospects for cooperation in fighting transnational crime, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and responding to natural disasters.66 Other opportunities exist in maritime security, counterterrorism, and military logistics support.67 Although it is not publicly acknowledged, in pursuing their strategic partnership, both countries have kept in mind the growing clout of China,68 especially as it has taken aggressive action in the pacific region to assert their increasing influence.69

President Obama has endorsed the prospect of India having a permanent seat on the U.N Security Council. This move was met with wide applause but remains only a sentiment.70 As the 21st century unfolds, India has been moving closer to the United States while simultaneously promoting a multipolar world.71 It remains to be seen how exactly leaders in both countries will move forward from a transactional paradigm to a more strategic one, as India neither seeks nor wants official "allied" status with the United States.72 However, there are myriad opportunities to foster defense familiarity and a closer working relationship. Defense relations could fluctuate with politics. Despite this, India's unique position in the region will continue to provide common ground upon which to build upon the partnership.

Conclusion

In September of 2014, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi agreed to "revitalize the existing partnership and find new areas for collaboration and mutual benefit."73. Successfully fostering the U.S.-India defense relationship will continue to be strategically crucial for both countries as they look to combat Chinese aggression, piracy, terrorism, and the trafficking of narcotics and weapons. The United States' pivot to Asia will depend on it.


Endnotes

  1. K. Alan Konstradt, Paul K. Kerr, Michael F. Martin, and Bruce Vaughn, “India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, September 1, 2011, Page 58, http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell. edu/key_workplace/?utm_source=digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu%2Fkey_workplace%2F861&utm_medium=PDF& utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
  2. Manjeet S. Pardesi and Ron Matthews, “India’s Torturous Road to Defence-Industrial Self-Reliance,” Defense and Security Analysis, December 2007, Page 419, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14751790701752451
  3. Ibid, 420,42
  4. Ibid, 421
  5. S. Amer Latif, “US-India Military Engagement,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 2012, Page 10, http://csis.org/publication/us-india-military-engagement
  6. Manjeet and Matthews, 420
  7. Ibid, 421
  8. Ibid, 423
  9. Ibid, 423
  10. K. Alan Konstradt, Paul K. Kerr, Michael F. Martin, and Bruce Vaughn, “India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, September 1, 2011, Page 79, http://digitalcommons.ilr. cornell.edu/key_workplace/?utm_source=digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu%2Fkey_workplace%2F861&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
  11. Ibid, 80
  12. David M. Malone and Rohan Mukherjee, “India-US Relations: The Shock of the New,” International Journal, Autumn 2009, Page 1059, 1062 http://www.jstor.org/stable/40542174?seq=1&cid=pdf-reference#references_tab_contents
  13. Ibid, 1058
  14. “US-India Defense Relationship,” National Bureau of Asian Research, November 2010, Page 3, http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=107
  15. Malone and Mukherjee, 1059
  16. Ibid, 1059
  17. Zahid Ali Khan, “Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal: The Gainer and the Loser,” South Asian Studies, January 2013, Page 243, https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-3000025901/indo-us-civilian-nuclear-deal-the-gainer-and-the S. Amer Latif, “US-India Military Engagement,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 2012, Page 13, http://csis.org/publication/us-india-military-engagement
  18. S. Amer Latif, “US-India Military Engagement,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 2012, Page 12, http://csis.org/publication/us-india-military-engagement
  19. Khan, 243
  20. Malone and Mukherjee, 1064
  21. Latif, 2, and Harsh V. Pant and Yogeshi Joshi, “The American ‘Pivot’ And The Indian Navy,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2015, Page 54, http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/99608315/american-pivot-indian-navy
  22. Anonymous, “Why the US Promotes India’s Great Power Ambitions,” Monthly Review, March 2006, Page 17, http:// monthlyreview.org/2006/03/01/why-the-united-states-promotes-indias-great-power-ambitions/
  23. Latif, 1
  24. K. Alan Konstradt, Paul K. Kerr, Michael F. Martin, and Bruce Vaughn, “India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, September 1, 2011, Page 82, http://digitalcommons.ilr. cornell.edu/key_workplace/?utm_source=digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu%2Fkey_workplace%2F861&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
  25. Anonymous, 17
  26. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, and Vaughn, 82
  27. Ibid, 83
  28. Pardesi and Matthews, 429
  29. Khan, 244, and Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, and Vaughn, 85
  30. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, and Vaughn, 86
  31. "US-India Defense Relationship,” National Bureau of Asian Research, November 2010, Page 7, http://www.nbr.org/ research/activity.aspx?id=107
  32. Hemal Shah, “In U.S.-India’s Defense: Pivoting the Strategic Partnership Forward,” Foreign Policy, January 23, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/23/in-u-s-indias-defense-pivoting-the-strategic-partnership-forward/
  33. Pardesi and Matthews, 429
  34. Pardesi and Matthews, 431
  35. Shah
  36. Franz-Stefan Gandy, “US, India Look to ‘Open up’ Defense Relationship,” The Diplomat, June 4 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/us-india-look-to-open-up-defense-relationship/
  37. S. Amer Latif, “US-India Military Engagement,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 2012, Page 7, http://csis.org/publication/us-india-military-engagement
  38. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaughn, 85
  39. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaughn, 86
  40. Gandy
  41. Jim Garamone, “U.S., India Sign 10-Year Defense Framework Agreement,” DoD News Defense Media Activity, June 4, 2015, http://www.defense.gov/newsarticle.aspx?id=128973
  42. Garamone
  43. Gandy
  44. Garamone
  45. Shah
  46. Latif, 44
  47. Latif, 13
  48. Latif, 10
  49. Latif, 17
  50. Latif, 10
  51. Latif, 7
  52. Pardesi and Matthews, 430
  53. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaugn, 84
  54. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaughn, 82, 82
  55. Scott Woods, “Analysis of the US-India Nuclear Deal,” Defense and Security Analysis, May 8 2007, Page 325, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14751790600933970
  56. Zahid Ali Khan, “ Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal: The Gainer and the Loser,” South Asian Studies, January 2013, Page 242, https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-3000025901/indo-us-civilian-nuclear-deal-the-gainer-and-the Scott Woods, “Analysis of the US-India Nuclear Deal,” Defense and Security Analysis, May 8 2007, Page 325, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14751790600933970
  57. Harsh V. Pant and Yogeshi Joshi, “The American ‘Pivot’ And The Indian Navy,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2015, Page 47, http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/99608315/american-pivot-indian-navy
  58. Garamone
  59. Pant and Joshi, 64
  60. "US-India Defense Relationship"
  61. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaughn, 58, 59
  62. Walter C. Ludwig III, “Indian Military Modernization and Conventional Deterrence in South Asia,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, 2015, Page 3, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402390.2015.1014473#.VbZY7HgR-fQ
  63. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, and Vaughn, 61
  64. Latif, 7
  65. Latif, 12, and Cole, Steve. "U.S., India to Collaborate on Mars Exploration, Earth-Observing Mission." NASA. NASA, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
  66. "US-India Defense Relationship"
  67. Latif, 18
  68. U.S. Naval Institute, “Report: Chinese Develop Special ‘Kill Weapon’ to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers" March 31, 2009, http://www.usni.org/news-and-features/chinese-kill-weapon, and The Guardian, “China proceeds with building artificial islands on reefs claimed by Philippines,” June 27 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/ jun/27/china-proceeds-with-building-artificial-islands-on-reefs-claimed-by-philippines
  69. Konstradt, Kerr, Martin, Vaughn, 8
  70. "US-India Defense Relationship"
  71. "US-India Defense Relationship"
  72. "U.S.-India Joint Statement"

Image Attributions

By Narendra Modi (sourced from PM in US) Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting US President Barack Obama in New York.jpg 2015 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prime_Minister_Narendra_Modi_meeting_ US_President_Barack_Obama_in_New_York.jpg)], via Wikimedia Commons.

By Pritishp333 (Own work) Indian Air Force C 130J Super Herculus at Aero India 2013.JPG 2013 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Air_Force_C_130J_Super_Herculus_at_Aero_India_2013.JPG)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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