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Monday, April 12, 2021

Where is the India-United States friendship really heading?

The ties between India and the United States have braved storms but emerged out to be stronger than ever before, but where is the India-United States friendship really heading? We do not know the exact answer to do this question but we can see the ties strengthening with the leaders of the two nations engaging enormously to work together. Here’s what we know till now.

The history of the India-United States friendship

After the country’s independence, between 1947 and 2000, the first 53 years of the relationship between India and the United States, there were only three visits by US Presidents to India — Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Richard Nixon in 1969 and Jimmy Carter in 1978. In another two decades since the year 2000, there have been four visits by three US Presidents — Bill Clinton in 2000, George W Bush in 2006, and Barack Obama in 2010 and 2015. Current US President Donald Trump’s visit in February this year was the fifth. While only three out of the nine US Presidents in the span of 1947 to 2000 visited India, every president in the last 20 years has visited India at least once. There are several reasons and assumptions that could be attributed to this increase in visits — an evident shift in global geopolitics in the post-Cold War era, India’s economic ascension, the rise of an assertive China, and New Delhi’s place on the global high table.

Our country and the United States have enjoyed something that could be called ‘being on good terms’ since President George W Bush put aside decades of Cold War animosity to forge a 10-year defense partnership and a civil nuclear deal with India in the year 2005. Since then, the pace and intensity of the relationship’s progress have been consistent and been on the right track. That in certain cases is due to one of the greatest strengths of the friendship — the relation has enjoyed sustained support in both the capitals from governments of both sides of the boat. However, what we have observed is that apparently none have matched the pace or moved farther than the Trump and Narendra Modi administrations over the past five years.

What the India-US bilateral relations have come to be

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India-US bilateral relations have developed into a “global strategic partnership”, with its basis on the shared democratic values and an increasing amount of similarity in interests on bilateral, regional and global issues. “The emphasis placed by the Government in India on development and good governance has created an opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the motto — ‘ChaleinSaathSaath: Forward Together We Go’, and ‘SanjhaPrayas, Sab ka Vikas’ (Shared Effort, Progress for All) adopted during the first two summits of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively,” states the MEA, adding that the India-US relationship is now called ‘Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century’. The exchange of high-level political visits on a regular basis has provided consistent momentum to bilateral cooperation, while the large-scale and ever-expanding dialogue situation between the two nations has established a long-term framework for India-US ties. Today, the India-US friendship has become widespread and multi-sectoral, ranging from trade and investment, defense and security to education, science and technology, even cybersecurity, civil nuclear energy, space, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health. Constant people-to-people interaction and support across the political spectrum from both the nations have led to successful bilateral relation. For India, its relationship with the United States on defense issues has also strengthened. India has procured over $18 billion worth of defense items from them, almost 50 per cent of it only in the last five years. India also supposedly conducts more number of bilateral exercises with the US than with any other country in the world.

India US Friendship
Representative Image. Photo Shutterstock.com/Madhuram Paliwal


The continuous conversations between the two nations have also helped achieve robust support from the US against terrorism — a major area where they both agree upon. This was quite evident after the Pulwama attack in 2019, leading to the identification of the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the UN Security Council Resolution 1967, and also the placing of Pakistan on the grey-list of the Financial Action Task Force.

The ties have become even stronger amid the Coronavirus pandemic, where both the nations are helping each other in the fight against the deadly virus by sharing resources.

The fight against COVID, together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 16 said that in times of global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important for nations to work together and do as much as possible to make the world healthier and free of the virus. The Indian prime minister was responding to a tweet by US President Donald Trump announcing his decision to donate ventilators to India, and the cooperation between the two countries in developing a vaccine to treat Coronavirus. “Thank you @POTUS @realDonaldTrump. This pandemic is being fought collectively by all of us,” the prime minister tweeted. “More power to India-US friendship,” Modi had said. A day prior to Modi’s tweet, Trump had spoken about the cooperation between India and the US on vaccine development and the decision of his administration to donate about 200 ventilators to India to help those critically affected by COVID-19. “I am proud to announce that the United States will donate ventilators to our friends in India. We stand with India and @narendramodi during this pandemic,” Trump had said. “We’re also cooperating on vaccine development. Together we will beat the invisible enemy,” he added.

Soon after this announcement was made, the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund Trust had decided to allocate Rs 3,100 crore for the fight against the pandemic. Out of the Rs 3100 crore, approximately Rs 2,000 crore will be earmarked for the purchase of ventilators and Rs 100 crore to support vaccine development.

Trump has also announced that both countries were working together on vaccine development and assured that the invisible enemy (Coronavirus) will be defeated with cooperation. Trump claimed that the vaccine would be available by the end of 2020. “I just got back a short while ago from India recently and we are working very much with India and we have a tremendous Indian population in the US and many of the people that you are talking about are working on the vaccine too,” he said.

This, however, comes a few weeks after Trump said India could face retaliation if it doesn’t lift curbs on the export of Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug he claimed to be revolutionary in the battle against COVID-19. Until now, India has sold nearly 29 million doses of the drug to the US. Earlier, the Health Ministry had specified that India has three times more than what is needed for domestic use. It was said that the US president and the Indian PM spoke on call and during the call, Trump requested Modi to lift the hold on the American order of hydroxychloroquine, of which our country is a major producer. Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the Coronavirus and it is being tested on more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients in New York. Anticipating that it will work, given the initial positive results, Trump bought the massive amount. “I bought millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine. More than 29 million. I spoke to Prime Minister Modi, a lot of it (hydroxychloroquine) comes out of India. I asked him if he would release it? He was great. He was really good,” Trump told Sean Hannity of the Fox News on his show. “You know they put a stop because they wanted it for India,” Trump said responding to a question on the usage of hydroxychloroquine.

Interestingly, before the pandemic hit, India was the last country the US president visited. On his first state visit to India in February, Trump attended a large event in Ahmedabad called ‘Namaste Trump’. He had then visited the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, along with his wife and first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump had called his India trip extraordinary. We can only hope for the ties to not be severed any time soon and progress positively towards becoming stronger.

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