India-US relations have been on an upward trajectory in the past decade, with the India-US nuclear deal and India’s designation as a major defense partner of the US being testaments to this. However, the inability to align the national strategy of the US with India’s national self-esteem and ambitions has been the source of friction in the relationship.
- India-Russia Ties: Historically, Russia was India’s largest defense supplier. Although the US has since overtaken Russia, India still relies on Russia for maintenance and spare parts. The US-Russia tussle sometimes puts India in a difficult position, as the US imposes sanctions on countries that deal with Russia under its CAATSA act. India’s acquisition of the S-400 defense system from Russia has been met with displeasure from the US, which was expecting India to seek a waiver. India, in response, has stated that third parties cannot dictate its defense needs.
- Sanctions on Iran: After the US walked out of the Iran deal unilaterally, India faced a dilemma. Although it initially received a waiver, it was later withdrawn. Iran was a strategic supplier of fuel for India, and India was developing the Chabahar port as a way of bypassing Pakistan to access Afghanistan and Central Asia. The sanctions on Iran had a negative impact on India’s energy security and its efforts to gain an advantage over Pakistan.
- Indo-Pacific and China: The Indo-Pacific strategy has gained momentum in US foreign policy. The US views India as a balancing power against China in the Asian region, while India wants to position itself as a global leader in a multipolar world. India wants to balance its relationship with the US and China, while the US wants India to align with it to counter China. The US’s demand for India to follow suit and ban Huawei from trials has caused tension between the two countries.
- UNSC Permanent Membership: The US has supported India’s permanent membership in the UNSC, but its lack of support in setting the tone at the UNGA has raised questions about its intentions when it comes to issues that concern India.
The inability of the US to position India in its foreign policy vision in a way that satisfies its national ambitions has often led to friction in relations. In the era of realism in diplomacy, it is important to integrate national aspirations and ambitions with foreign policy.