India US 2+2 Dialogue and the Dynamics of India-US relations – Explained, pointwise

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The virtual meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and US President hours before the fourth India-US 2+2 dialogue reiterated the importance of the overall strategic partnership. The world’s two largest democracies ought to be natural partners in upholding the global order. The dialogue is significant because of the recent differences on the Ukraine war and trade with Russia. The India-US 2+2 dialogue ranged from situational awareness in space to deep underwater domain awareness, with cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, counter-drone technology, stepped-up military engagements, exercises and logistics.

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What are the key outcomes of the recent India-US 2+2 dialogue?

Defence cooperation: India stressed the need for co-development and co-production of high-tech military systems. Both countries have decided to “revitalize” the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) which was launched in 2012 but has largely failed to deliver the goods till now. Further, India wants the DTTI to transform the “buyer-seller” relationship.

Two DTTI projects specifically identified during the dialogue were counter-unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and an ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance) platform. These will add to the pact inked last year to jointly develop air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles (ALUAVs).

New Space Situational Awareness (SSA) arrangement: The meeting finalised the signing of a new SSA arrangement and pledged to expand bilateral space cooperation. This will support greater information sharing and cooperation in space.

The two countries also decided to conduct their inaugural Defence Space Dialogue as well as AI Dialogue in 2022 to add to the existing Defence Cyber Dialogue.

Maritime collaborations: The US welcomed India’s decision to join the multilateral Combined Maritime Force (CMF) based in Bahrain as an associate partner. Both countries expressed their shared interest in the Indian Ocean Region and the wider Indo-Pacific. They highlighted the underwater domain awareness, which becomes important with Chinese submarines prowling around in the region.

Artificial Intelligence: India and the US have agreed to hold a dialogue on artificial intelligence to harness opportunities for joint innovation and cooperation in new domains.

Other collaborations:

– The two nations will further increase the “scope and complexity” of their military combat exercises, as well as “deepen cooperation” between their elite Special Forces.

– The dialogue agreed to expand the scope of reciprocal military logistics.

– The US has announced that it did not made a determination to apply CAATSA sanctions on India for the purchase of Russian arms.

On Russia-Ukraine Issue: The two countries urged an immediate cessation of hostilities, and unequivocally condemned civilian deaths. The joint statement underscored that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, respect for international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.

Read more: Dynamism in India US ties
What are the other areas of cooperation between India and the US?

Both India and US accepted China as the biggest threat to the rules-based international order and India’s territorial sovereignty. In fact, China’s diplomatic support for Russia at the UN has raised suspicion that China plans to use Russia to further its strategic agenda in the Indo-Pacific once the Ukraine crisis gets over.

The recent joint statement calling on Pakistan to not allow its territory for terrorism shows the points of convergence are growing.

Knowledge and innovation partnership: Students, the flow of talent between two countries, highlights the knowledge partnership. The technology and business relationships promote innovation. The Indian external affairs minister called this as “the bedrock of India-US relationship”.

Read more: The Great Power Rivalry (China, Russia and the US) and its Impact on India – Explained, pointwise
How does India’s recent stand in Ukraine Crisis facilitate better India-US relations?

The US knew that India’s ties with Russia cannot be amended overnight. This is akin to Europe’s energy dependence on Russia that continues despite several EU nations promising a drawdown.

On the other hand, Russia’s actions in Ukraine have not only put India in a tight spot, but also ensured that Russia will be China’s junior partner for the foreseeable future.

Ever since the Ukraine crisis, India has firmly held to its position of strategic autonomy, with the aim of disassociating the politics around the conflict from the horrors of the war itself. Further, India has held a consistent line in terms of urging peaceful engagement and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine

For instance, (a) India unilaterally condemned the Bucha killings without assigning blame to anyone; (b) India has dispatched humanitarian aid to Ukraine and is preparing to do more in this regard at Ukraine; and (c) India abstained from the UNGA voting to expel Russia from the UNHRC. But this actually favoured the US resolution resulting in expelling Russia from UNHRC.

Hence, the US has agreed to move ahead with the broader agenda of scientific, business cooperation and towards a common stand against Chinese aggression.

Read more: Ukraine conflict and its implications for India – Explained, pointwise
What are the challenges in India-US relations?

Economic challenges: (a) In 2020, America withdrew special trade privileges granted to India under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). In retaliation, India hiked the tariffs on 28 American goods, including walnut, apples, iron and steel products; (b) The US has complained about India’s complex customs clearance procedures and associated delays increased costs and uncertainty; (c) The US feels that India is a high tariff country. The US wants the tariffs reduced and a more predictable regime to conduct business.

Policy challenges: (a) Cap on H-1B visas: India has strongly objected the move to cap H-1B visas. India argument is that the restrictions on work visas would inhibit Indian workers to move to the US; (b) India’s E-commerce policy and data localisation: The US has criticised data localisation and the draft e-commerce policy of India, calling it ‘most discriminatory and trade-distortive’.

Other challenges: (a) According to the USTR report, India continues to feature on the ‘Priority Watch List’ for alleged Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violations; (b) WTO disputes like capping the prices of medical devices by India, Demand for greater Indian market access for American agriculture and dairy products etc.

Read more: The sanctions clouds over India US Ties
What should be done to improve India-US relations?

The India US 2+2 Dialogue provides an ideal platform to enhance its cooperation with the US. The platform can be expanded to broaden the scope of cooperation.

Cooperate on Contemporary Global Issues: Both India and the US should focus on enhancing the bilateral relationship and strengthening cooperation on contemporary global issues such as terrorism, climate change and reliable chains for critical technologies.

Both sides must work together in the following areas: (a) Utilise the potential of the shipbuilding industry; (b) Towards entry of India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); (c) India can play a crucial role in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the US can help India to tackle China’s assertiveness.

Experts believe Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies will further define relationships between countries. India should look for opportunities to use its potential and establish its ‘footprint’ in AI and emerging technology.

Discuss a treaty on space militarization: After the Ukraine crisis, US-Russia tensions flared up, and Russia’s Roscosmos threatened to snap space relations with NASA. It has made it difficult for the US to access the International Space Station (ISS). India and US, in the long term, can explore some opportunities in this field.

Enhanced role of participation: There is a need for visionary partnership on the part of the ‘Rising’ and ‘Middle’ powers in the Asia-Pacific and the Gulf region such as India, Australia, Japan, South Korea and even countries like the UAE to fill the sudden vacuum caused by the temporary downscaling of US effort in the region. For instance, creating robust geo-economic and security partnerships with ASEAN countries.

Hence, India and US should push for collaboration among regional players in the region to contain China. At present, China is currently engaged with a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in the critically important Shanghai belt. This could well romp away with the region over the next few years.

Read more: India-US ties: The scope for literal common space

The current chaos in Ukraine and the South China Sea presents several opportunities for India to scale up its engagement in its near and extended neighbourhood, both on its western and eastern flanks. This strategy would support India’s ‘rising power’ status and enhance the India-US Strategic Partnership.

At the same time, on this path, India has to balance its relations with American demands, its long-term friendship with Russia and its own strategic necessities in the neighbourhood and beyond.

Source: The Times of India, The Times of India, Business Standard

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