The contours of strategic partnership between India and the United States are founded on shared democratic political architectureIndia being the largest democracy while US the oldest one.

India-U.S. 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.

The emphasis placed by the Government in India on development and good governance has created opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the motto:

  1. “ChaleinSaathSaath: Forward Together We Go”, and
  2. “SanjhaPrayas, Sab ka Vikas” (Shared Effort, Progress for All)

The strong institutional affinity, deep-rooted democratic foundations, robust constitutional fabric in polity and decision process, vibrancy in cultural diversity fostering multiculturalism, shared belief in freedom of human rights, strong people-to-people ties, and non-interventional business and economic framework with the spirit of globalization and competition are hallmarks that bring the two countries closer to each other.

Today, the India-U.S. bilateral cooperation isbroad-based and multi-sectoral, covering trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health.

The need of the hour is that the two countries actually explore the immense possibilities not only at the governmental level but also at the civil society dimension bolstering the momentum of people-to-people interaction and ushering in a new transformational era of strategic bonding.



The relationships between India and the United States dates back to the colonial days of the British Rule.

  • Swami Vivekananda promoted Yoga and Vedanta in the United States at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, during the World’s Fair in 1893.
  • Mark Twain visited India in 1896 concluding that India was the only foreign land he dreamed about or longed to see again.
  • The Hindustan Ghadar Party started off as a San Francisco-based anti-colonial political organization in 1913, which advocated the complete independence of India from British rule.

Ghadar Party publication“Young India” published by the India Home Rule League

  • Alongside the Ghadar Party was the India Home Rule League based in New York, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, which advocated “home rule” for India. The I.H.R.L. produced a monthly journal from 1918 onward titled Young India
  • The end of World War I saw a large number of Punjabi Sikh farmers and ex-soldiers migrate to the USA. The US Government, impressed by the industrious Sikh farmers, encouraged their migration.
  • Prominent leaders of India’s freedom movement had friendly relations with the United States which continued well after independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.
  • During World War II, India became the main base for the American China Burma India Theater (CBI) in the war against Japan. Tens of thousands of American servicemen arrived, bringing all sorts of advanced technology
  • For years, America encouraged British disengagement from India based on principled opposition to colonialism, practical concern for the outcome of the war, and the expectation of a large American role in a post-colonial era.
  • Mahatma Gandhi had an important influenceon the philosophy of non-violence promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s.

B) Post-Independence

The first Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru propounded and propagated the Non-Alignment Principle whereby India refused to join either the capitalistic US or the communist Soviet Union.

Era of Non alignment

  • American officials perceived India’s policy of non-alignment negatively. In 1948, Nehru rejected American suggestions for resolving the Kashmir crisis via third party mediation.
  • India’s socialistic economic principles and deep skepticism to the US hegemony resulted in its predilections towards USSR much to the ire of the West.
  • Pakistan officially aligned with the United States via the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CEATO) also known as Baghdad Pact. Meanwhile, in 1961, India became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement to avoid involvement in the Cold War power-play between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • Pakistan became an important ally to the US in the containment of the Soviet Union, giving rise to strategic complications with India.
  • USA openly supported India during the 1962 Sino-Indian war and considered the Chinese action as “blatant Chinese Communist aggression against India”. The United States Air Force flew in arms, ammunition and clothing supplies to the Indian troops and the United States Navy even sent the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier from the Pacific Ocean to protect India
  • India rejected the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 proposed by the world’s leading nuclear powers

1971 Indo-Pak War and 1st nuclear test

  • In 1971, India signed a Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation with the Soviet Union, seen as a blatant shift from India’s Non-Alignment policies. US President Richard Nixon in a retaliatory move chose to explicitly tilt American policy in favour of Pakistan and suspended $87 million worth of economic aid to India. The US openly supported Pakistan and even deployed its aircraft carrier USS Enterprise towards the Bay of Bengal,
  • In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test at Pokhran, Smiling Buddha, which was opposed by the US.
  • During the 1980slarge amounts of military aid was pumped into Pakistan by the USA in order to fight a proxy against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This created significant repercussions in the internal security of India as the Pakistani mujahedeen fighters infiltrated into Kashmir as militants.


  • The Soviet Union disintegrated into independent nations and the United States emerged as the single largest hegemon, making the world unipolar.
  • It coincided with India opening doors to foreign private capital in its historic Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization move.
  • Indian foreign policy adapted to the unipolar world and developed closer ties with the United States.

2nd Nuclear test and Economic Sanctions

  • Soon after Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Indian Prime Minister, he authorized nuclear weapons testing at Pokhran.
  • The United States strongly condemned this testing, and voted in favour of a United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning the tests.
  • President Bill Clinton imposed economic sanctions on India, including cutting off all military and economic aid, freezing loans by American banks to state-owned Indian companies, prohibiting loans to the Indian government for all except food purchases, prohibiting American aerospace technology and uranium exports to India, and requiring the US to oppose all loan requests by India to international lending agencies.
  • The sanctions were soon lifted.

C) Post September 11: A growing Relationship

  • After the September 11 attacks against the US in 2001, President George W. Bush collaborated closely with India in controlling and policing the strategically critical Indian Ocean sea lanes from the Suez Canal to Singapore.
  • Common concerns regarding growing Islamic extremism, energy security,space, education, agriculture, trade and climate change have brought the 2 countries closer leading to a transformation in bilateral ties


Historically, even though the trajectory of India-United States ties have witnessed chequered momentum from time to time, yet the relationship between the two countries has gradually evolved into a more robust and matured partnership based on mutual trust especially after the end of Cold War with India embarking into an outward looking economic developmental roadmap.

  • In recent years, the relationship between New Delhi and Washington has entered an altogether revamped phase of warming up scaling newer heights of mutual commitment and trust.
  • In January 2004, the US and India launched the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” (NSSP), which was both a milestone in the transformation of the bilateral relationship and a blueprint for its further progress.
  • Even though the ties between the two countries are multifarious, yet greater engaged cooperation is generally observed both in bilateral framework and in multilateral fora such as UN Security Council, G-20, Quad, JAI (Japan-America-India) alliance, Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
  • The formation of 2+2 Dialogue exemplifies how much importance the two countries currently provide in acquiring new qualitative edge and purpose towards emboldening shared commitment in dealing with the menace of strategic security issues of mutual interests.
  • The 2+2 dialogue is the highest-level institutional mechanism between India and USA that brings together the perspectives of the two countries on foreign policy, defence and strategic issues.
  • There are more than 50 bilateral dialogue mechanisms between the two governments.
  • India and the US held their first ever bilateral dialogue on the UN and multilateral issues in the spirit of the “Delhi Declaration of Friendship” that strengthens and expands the two countries’ relationship as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
  • Key milestones and a measure of speed and advancement on the path to closer US–India relations include:
  1. Increase in bilateral trade & investment,
  2. co-operation on global security matters,
  3. Inclusion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (United Nations Security Council),
  4. Upgraded representation in trade & investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC),
  5. Admission into multilateral export control regimes (MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and
  6. Support for admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and joint-manufacturing through technology sharing arrangements have become

Delhi Declaration of Friendship, 2014

India and USA endorsed to achieving:

  • Equal opportunity for all our people through democracy, effective governance, and fundamental freedoms;
  • An open, just, sustainable, and inclusive rule-based global order;
  • The importance of strengthened bilateral defense ties;
  • The importance of adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change through national, bilateral and multilateral efforts;
  • The beneficial impact that sustainable, inclusive development will have on our two countries and the world;
  • The centrality of economic policies that support the creation of strong and sustainable jobs, inclusive development, and rising incomes; and
  • Transparent and rule-based markets that seek to drive the trade and investment necessary to uplift all members of society and promote economic development.


The defense and strategic relationship today encompasses a broad spectrum of activities from intelligence sharing to joint humanitarian and relief efforts, mutual port visits by naval ships, joint exercises, trade in military hardware and, most importantly, co-production and co-development of military systems.

  • Defense relationship has emerged as a major pillar of India-U.S. strategic partnership with the signing of ‘New Framework for India-U.S. Defense Relations’ in 2005 and the resulting intensification in defense trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and counter-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services.
  • India and the United States have launched a Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) in 2012 aimed at simplifying technology transfer policies and exploring possibilities of co-development and co-production to invest the defence relationship with strategic value.
  • After the December 2004 tsunami, the US and Indian navies cooperated in search and rescue operations and in the reconstruction of affected areas.
  • The two countries now conduct more bilateral exercises with each other than they do with any other country. These include:
    1. Cope-India (Air Force)
    2. Yudh Abhyas (Army) and
    3. Vajra Prahar (Special Forces).
  • The two sides are also increasingly engaged in multi-lateral exercises such as the MALABAR (Naval), RED FLAG and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), covering the broad expanse of the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Indian and USA militaries also conducted their maiden joint tri-services humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise, “Tiger Triumph,” in Visakhapatnam and Kakinada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Indian Navy and the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) are set to deepen their maritime cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean, where Chinese presence, in island nations and strategic ports such as Gwadar and Djibouti, are of concern to India.
  • In June 2016, the U.S. recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner”, which commits the U.S. to facilitate technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners, and industry collaboration for defence co-production and co-development.
  • Two arms deals worth over $3.5 billion for six Apache attack helicopters and 24 Seahawk/Romeo anti-submarine warfare helicopters have been signed, with a $1.9 billion deal for a missile defence system also in the pipeline.
  • The US has recently renamed its Pacific Command as the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), an acknowledgement of the seamless connectivity that binds the Pacific and Indian Oceans and India’s growing importance.
  • On 3 August 2018, India became the third Asian nation to be granted Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) status by the United States. STA-1 enables the export of high-technology products in civil space and defense from the US to India
  • The agreements to promote Defense partnershiprecently signed include:
  1. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA)
  2. Fuel Exchange Agreement
  3. Technical Agreement (TA) on information sharing on White (merchant) Shipping
  4. Information Exchange Annexe (IEA) on Aircraft Carrier Technologies
  5. Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA)
  6. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)

U.S. agreements with its defense partners

The U.S. has four “foundational” agreements that it signs with its defense partners. The Pentagon describes the agreements as “routine instruments that the U.S. uses to promote military cooperation with partner-nations”.

  1. The first of the four agreements, the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), was signed by India and the U.S. in 2002. The agreement enables the sharing of military intelligence between the two countries and requires each country to protect the others’ classified information.
  2. The second agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), was signed by the two countries on 29 August 2016. The LEMOA permits the military of either country to use the others’ bases for re-supplying or carrying out repairs. The agreement does not make the provision of logistical support binding on either country, and requires individual clearance for each request.
  3. The third agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was signed during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in September 2018.It is an India-specific variant of Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that enables the two countries to share secure communication and exchange information on approved equipment during bilateral and multinational training exercises and operations.
  4. The fourth agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) has not yet been signed. It permits the exchange of unclassified and controlled unclassified geospatial products, topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data, products and services between India and the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).


Cooperation on counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing have expanded rapidly over the last decade.

  • Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable progress with intelligence sharing, information exchange, operational cooperation, counter-terrorism technology and equipment.
  • India-U.S. Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Initiative was signed in 2010 to expand collaboration on counter-terrorism, information sharing and capacity building.
  • In order to further enhance the counter terrorism cooperation between India and the U.S. an arrangement was concluded in June 2016 to facilitate exchange of terrorist screening information through the designated contact points.
  • India-U.S. Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism held its 16th meeting in March 2019 in Washington DC.
  • In refusing to extend the civil nuclear initiative to Islamabad, Washington removed the hyphen in its relations with Delhi and Islamabad. Since 2005, America has also discarded the idea of mediating between India and Pakistan, especially on the Kashmir question.
  • The India–US Joint Declaration on Combatting Terrorism 2015 recognized the threat posed by entities such as Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company, and the Haqqani Network, and other regional groups that seek to undermine stability in South Asia
  • In June 2018, India and the US came together to oversee Pakistan’s grey listing at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • In 2019 India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) convened the first Counter Terrorism Tabletop Exercise (CT-TTX) for Quad member countries. To assess and validate CT response mechanisms in the light of emerging terrorist threats as well as to provide opportunities to share best practices and to explore areas for enhanced cooperation amongst participating countries.
  • India–US synchronization on Counter terrorism led to the addition of JeM leader Masood Azhar to the United Nations’ (UN) 1267 ISIL and al-Qaeda Sanctions List.

The US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)

It was set up in 2015 tomove New Delhi and Washington from a traditional “buyer-seller” dynamic to one of co-production and co-development.

  • The DTTI Working Group and its Task Force will expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defence relations and enhance India’s defence industry and military capabilities.
  • Finalization of the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) is an important precursor for the complete actualisation of the DTTI, which includes “build to print” joint projects on air-launched unmanned airborne systems (UAS), lightweight small arms technology, and innovations in the field of intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance (ISTAR).
  • Apart from connecting partners across Indian and American private and public sectors, the ISA institutes safeguards “to ensure that the shared information is protected under Indian law.”
  • Actualizing US-India DTTI would give a fillip to the ‘Make in India’ projects in the defence sector “collectively worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore” being either stuck or still meandering through different stages, without the final contracts to launch production being inked.
  • For instance, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Lockheed Martin employ 500 people to locally produce two dozen aircraft empennages per year. Similarly, at a facility in Hyderabad, TASL and Boeing employ up to 350 skilled workers to produce helicopter fuselages. Boeing has strengthened its supply chain with over 160 domestic partners to support subassembly production of aft pylon and cargo ramp components of heavy-lift helicopters.
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