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India and the U.S. — it’s complicated

The first round of the India-U.S. 2+2 talks at the level of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis is scheduled for September 6 in Delhi. It is a significant development but one that appears perfectly logical when seen against the two-decade-old trend line of India-U.S. relations. True, the trend line has not been smooth but the trajectory definitively reflects a growing strategic engagement. From estranged democracies, India and U.S. can worst be described today as prickly partners. Strategic convergence Three factors have contributed to the emerging strategic convergence. The end of the Cold War provided an opportunity to both countries to review their relationship in the light of changing global and regional realities. Second, with the opening of the Indian economy, the American private sector began to look at India with greater interest. Trade grew and today stands at more than $120 billion a year with an ambitious target of touching $500 billion in five years. If U.S. foreign direct investment in India is more than $20 billion, Indian companies too have invested $15 billion in the U.S., reflecting a sustained mutual interest. The third factor is the political coming of age of the three-million-strong Indian diaspora. Its influence can be seen in the bipartisan composition of the India Caucus in the U.S. Congress and the Senate Friends of India group. Yet, the engagement has not been smooth sailing. The U.S. is used to dealing with allies (invariably junior partners in a U.S.-dominated alliance structure) and adversaries. India is neither, and is also determined to safeguard its strategic autonomy. Developing a habit of talking to each other as equal partners has been a learning experience for India and the U.S. Both countries also consider themselves to be ‘exceptional’, the U.S. as among the oldest democracies and India as the largest! Both have a habit of preaching and problems arise when they preach to each other. Indians become wary of the U.S.’s attempts to drive unequal bargains, and Americans find the Indian approach rigid and sanctimonious. Despite this, significant progress has been registered over the years resulting in the 60-plus bilateral dialogues, to which the 2+2 is now being added.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/india-and-the-us-its-complicated/article24836923.ece

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