The behemoths, US and Russia, are at loggerheads again in Ukraine, and India is carefully treading the path of friendship with both its allies. Ostensibly, since 2016 India was designated “Major Defence Partner” of the United States, and later in 2018 India got the Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status, which facilitated it in accessing license free military technologies from US. But India- US relationship has always been akin to a seesaw—it goes up and then down.
After Russian President Putin’s visit to India in the first week of December, a pandemonium was created regarding the downward spiraling Indo-US relations. So let us rummage through all the recent events to comprehend which way the two allies are headed.
The Optimistic View – Brothers in Arms!
In 2015 after the 10-member ASEAN meeting, India’s then Defence minister Mr Manohar Parrikar decided it was high time India played a greater role in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South China Sea. Soon QUAD happened! US was very keen to make India, Australia and Japan join it.
With QUAD, India also became a part of the SOSUS wall. SOSUS means sound surveillance sensors chain, which originates close to Japan and has now touched Andaman-Nicobar Islands. It gives India the advantage to create a counter- wall against Chinese submarines loitering in the Andaman Sea and deep south China sea. This will help India fortify its land borders and littoral zones against Chinese intrusions.
US has sold transport aircrafts, helicopters, missiles, and myriads of other defence equipment’s worth $22 Billion to India and deals worth $10 Billion are still being negotiated. P8I Poseidon, MQ-9 Predator-B drones, C-130J, Apache, Chinook, etc. are few US built entities which often grab headlines in India. This is also one of the main reasons US or India would hate to see the bond turn sour.
The above are just few fields India-US look forward to cooperating in. We can not ignore gamut of other occasions when India-US got together to put up a good show in the past.
The Pessimistic View – US is Nobody’s Friend
Link to India’s UNSC reply.
This was another instance when it was proven beyond an iota of doubt that US is nobody’s friend.
Long ago President Joe Biden’s good friend, Hillary Clinton had sent several expert teams in the guise of NGOs to Gujarat to try and find mass graves, to “get Modi”. But then Obama didn’t let the wounds fester and was quick to take corrective measures.
Foreign Policy– The Grey Zone
The US and India relationship faces such bumps every now and then, which makes bonding together a little tough for both the countries. But then this is true for almost every other country in the world. Russia and China on one hand have territorial disputes, on the other hand support each other against US.
Turkey shot down Russian fighter jet once, yet Russian President Putin was the one to alert Erdogan, the Turkish President, of the coup and attempt on his life. UAE and Qatar have dragged each other to International Court of Justice (ICJ) for terrorism in the past, yet today both the countries are ready to bury the hatchet and move forward. Every country is ready to mend ties and turn a blind eye to minor errors of its allies, if that works in nation’s interest.
But at this point it is important to add that India as a country has become a vibrant economy and a vociferous nation, which is ready to flex its pecs. No country in the world can today afford to snub the giant economy that India is emerging into. Hence, India is ready to make bolder statements to defend its actions and is not reticent in expressing its divergent views on international platforms.
This is where recent speech by Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, is worth mentioning. His words warn us of the future, where behemoths countries might stand against us. We must ready ourselves for an avant-garde approach to handle such situations.
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AVM Pranay Sinha (Retd)