THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 1 September 2018 (India and the U.S. - it’s complicated)

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 1 September 2018 (India and the U.S. - it’s complicated)

Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations 
Prelims level: India-U.S. 2+2 talks
Mains level: Creative thinking will be needed in the 2+2 dialogue to overcome challenges in bilateral ties. 


  • 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.

Following the strategies

  • 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.  
  • 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.

Underperforming the engagement 

  • 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.

India and U.S. a comparison 

  • 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. 
  • The significant progress has been registered over the years resulting in the 60-plus bilateral dialogues, to which the 2+2 is now being added.

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Evolving defence cooperation

  • The strategic dialogue covering nuclear issues shifted gears following the nuclear tests of 1998 and imposition of sanctions by the U.S. 
  • The over a dozen rounds of talks between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbott during 1998-2000 marked the most intense dialogue between the two countries. 
  • It helped change perceptions leading to the gradual lifting of sanctions.
  • The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership steered by the then National Security Advisers, Brajesh Mishra and Condoleezza Rice.
  • The momentum received a new impulse, thanks to the warmth between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush, eventually leading to the conclusion of the India-U.S. bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008.
  • During the Obama administration, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter became a strong votary of closer defence cooperation between the two countries. 
  • He soon understood that a defence supply relationship needed to be backed by technology sharing and joint development and came up with the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTII). 
  • Pathfinder projects have been identified under this banner. 
  • To get around export control licensing and other bureaucratic hurdles, an India Rapid Reaction Cell in the Pentagon was set up.
  • In 2016, India was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ country. 
  • Another step forward in the middle of this year was the inclusion of India in the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) category, putting it on a par with allies in terms of technology access. 
  • This should enable the DTII to graduate to more ambitious projects.

Obligations and challenges?

  • U.S. high technology comes with its own set of obligations in terms of ensuring its security. 
  • These take the form of various undertakings often described as foundational agreements. The first of these was GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement) which India signed in 2002. 
  • The other three related to logistics support, communications compatibility and security, and exchanges of geospatial information. 
  • The U.S. proposed its standard logistics support agreement text in 2003 which was finally concluded in 2016, after it was made into an India-specific text.
  • It facilitates logistics supplies during port visits and joint exercises and does not contain any obligations for joint activity or any basing arrangements. 
  • Realising Indian reservations, the U.S. was more flexible, and now the India-specific Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) is likely to be signed. 
  • It makes it possible to install high-end secure communication equipment on U.S. platforms that we have been acquiring. 
  • With the possibility of acquiring armed Sea Guardian drones, COMCASA was necessary to ensure optimal use. 

What about Chabahar

  • U.S. sanctions on Iran after its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
  • Iranian crude imports have grown significantly in recent years and India also stepped up its involvement in developing Chabahar port.
  • The port provides connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia. 
  • The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act (2012) contains a waiver provision in case of activities for reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan, which is a U.S. priority too.
  • Way Forward 
  • Creative thinking will be needed in the 2+2 dialogue to overcome these challenges, which should also ensure that there are no nasty surprises and difficult issues are settled through quiet diplomacy. 
  • The Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region (2015), both countries will have to nurture the habit of talking and working together to diminish some of the prickliness in the partnership.

Prelims Questions: 

1. Consider the following statements 
1.    It is a diplomatic arrangement between India and U.S.
2.    It is going to be held in July in which Indian External Affairs and Defence Ministry will held meeting with their U.S counterparts.
3.    It is expected to further cement the India-U.S. engagements.
4.    It key focus areas will be concluding COMCASA and BECA pacts.
Choose the correct statement(s) from the above 
A.    1 only 
B.    2 and 4only 
C.    2 and 3 only 
D.    All of the above 

Answer: D 

Mains Questions:
1.    Describe the significance of the 2+2 dialogue between India & U.S.

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