Backgrounder : A Brief history of India-US Cooperation as PM Modi visits the White House

Backgrounder : A Brief history of India-US Cooperation as PM Modi visits the White House


By Shivani Pandey 

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his first State visit to the United States of America, signifying the deepening of strategic relation, the visit is being heralded as a watershed moment in the history of cooperation between the two countries. PM Modi has so far visited the States six times since assuming office in 2014, having met President Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Joe Biden. As the Ministry of External Affairs reports, the India-US 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.

Political and Diplomatic Cooperation:

  • There are frequent high-level visits and exchanges at the Prime Minister-President level with reaffirmed commitment to shared interests in promoting global security, stability, economic prosperity and upholding the rules-based international system.
  • The leaders of the two countries also engage and consult at the forum of other multilateral exchanges such as G20 Summit, the QUAD Summit, India-Japan-US trilateral summit.
  • Other mechanisms for dialogue and exchange between the leaders from the two countries includes
    • India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue where heads of Foreign and Defence Ministries from India and US meet.
    • India-US Trade Policy Forum organised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry from India and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
    • India-US Strategic Energy Partnership which is led by the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Defence Cooperation

  • United States National Security documents show India as key partner of America in South Asia, South East Asia and the Indo-Pacific at large.
  • Defence cooperation is one of the, if not most, important pillar of ties between the two countries.
  • While Russia continues to be an important supplier of defence equipment to India, US has emerged as a significant supplier of weapons in recent years.
  • The military forces of two countries engage with each other in numerous exercises and drills viz. Yudh Abhyas, Malabar Exercise (along with Japan and Australia), Vijay Prahar and Tiger Triumph (India Army and Navy with US Navy).
  • There are multiple defence and security initiatives, treatise, and agreements such as –
    • India-U.S. Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) to promote co-development and co-production of defence equipment.
    • GSOMIA – military information agreement signed in 2002.
    • LEMOA – signed in 2016 provides for sharing military logistics.
    • COMCASA – signed in 2018 which allows US to give India its proprietary encrypted communications equipment and systems.
    • BECA – signed in 2020 which allows India to get access to American geospatial intelligence and enhance accuracy of its missiles and weapons system.

Economic Cooperation

  • US is India's largest trading partner and one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus.
  • India and the US set up a bilateral Investment Initiative in 2014 to facilitate FDI, portfolio investment, capital market development and financing of infrastructure.
  • In 2021-22, the bilateral trade between India and the USA stood at a record US$ 119.42 billion as against US$ 80.51 billion in 2020-21 and India had a trade surplus of US$ 32.8 billion with the US.
  • USA is the 3rd largest investor in India with cumulative FDI inflows of US$ 56,753 million from April 2000 to September 2022.
  • The two countries have launched a new high-level partnership, the “U.S.- India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership,” which envisages cooperation to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • According to the provisional data of the commerce ministry, the bilateral trade between India and the US has increased by 7.65 per cent to USD 128.55 in 2022-23.
  • Major items exported from India to the US include pharmaceutical products, petroleum, polished diamonds, jewellery, and light oils.

People-to-People and Cultural Cooperation

  • The Indian Diaspora in the U.S. is estimated to be approximately 4 million accounting for almost 1% of the total U.S. population.
  • The two countries have strong collaboration in the field of Higher Education with US being one the most favoured destination by Indian students

International Cooperation

  • The two countries have showed cooperation and support on multiple international and regional fora on issues of security, climate change, and sustainable development.
  • US has extended support to India’s membership as the Permanent Member in the United States Security Council (UNSC) and its membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • Since 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the two countries have also collaborated on humanitarian assistance and disaster risk management cooperation.

Science, Technology and Space Cooperation

  • The Indo-U.S. Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) established by India and the U.S. in 2000 is an autonomous organization promoting cooperation in Science, Technology, and Innovation.
  • During this visit, the two countries are expected to scale up their cooperation further in new and emerging technologies.
  • There are opportunities for Indian private firms to participate and collaborate with the US’ CLIPS Program (Commercial Lunar Payload Services).

Significance of the June 2023 Visit in achieving “Escape Velocity” moment

There are various agreements expected to be signed during Modi’s first State visit to the United States, an honour received only to France’s Emmanuel Macron and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol during President Biden. US officials have hailed this visit as a transformative moment that will propel the relationship into “escape velocity”. One of the most crucial dynamics between India US relation is technology and defence. This can be realised by the fact that the MEA has assigned Mahaveer Singhvi as a Joint Secretary of New Emerging and Strategic Technologies Division in the MEA encompassing critical and emerging technologies cooperation with countries.

Both countries are envisioning a deeper technology, defence and manufacturing cooperation that will benefit the two nations and other allied countries in countering the supply-chain dominance of China. The visit is expected to take further the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) that was launched in the beginning of this year by the National Security Advisors of the two countries, Ajit Doval, and Jake Sullivan. The initiative will bolster defence and strategic partnership of both countries with cooperation in high-technology field such as co-production of General Electric (GE) jet engines in India, semiconductor production, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.

Disclaimer: This paper is the author's individual scholastic contribution and does not necessarily reflect the organization's viewpoint.