Issue BriefsPublished on Feb 04, 2005
ballistic missiles,Defense,Doctrine,North Korea,Nuclear,PLA,SLBM,Submarines

Bush II Presidency: Implications for Indo-US Relations

Observer Research Foundation conducted a series of seminars across the country to discuss the implications of the new Bush administrations policies pertaining to important issues in Indo-US relations, especially in the areas of Science and Technology (NSSP), Trade, Nuclear issues, Terrorism, Pakistan, and World Order. Distingushed participants at Mumbai, Jadavpur and Delhi deliberated at length on these issues during the month of December and charted out future policy options.

The American stance towards India has historically been one of ambivalence, and this has been reflected in the relationship between the two countries as American diplomats and intelligence experts could never fully assess India’s importance to American global geopolitical objectives. At the same time, the external environment played an important part in fashioning the relationship between the two countries. Among the key points that shaped the Indo-US relationship: India tried to be a global player and charted a largely autonomous course since independence. Not wishing to be pushed around in foreign affairs, India under Jawahar Lal Nehru became one of the leading architects of the Non-aligned Movement, viewed with much suspicion by the United States; Pakistan cultivated and received U.S. attention as a strategic balance to India and as a conduit for supplies to Afghanistan in the 1980s and now as a vital ally in the war against terror; Since independence, India-Pakistan tensions have centered on the disputed status of the state of Kashmir and have been influenced by global strategic shifts, particularly the policies of Russia, the U.S., and China, and in turn, have affected India’s relationships with those countries. But since the end of the Cold War, and more especially after 9/11, a growing awareness of India’s strategic potential has led to serious re-evaluation in the United States of its relationship with India.

For both countries, the present time represents an opportune moment to join together in partnership to refashion the world order to better represent the post Cold War era. While the United States is the world’s only remaining superpower, with global problems and global responsibilities, India is set to become one of the engines of the world economy. Nonetheless, the onus would be on India to come up with imaginative ways of furthering ties. India needs to keep in mind that a strategic partnership, strictly speaking is between two equals. Given the present unequal status between India and the United States, we need to be careful while engaging with America and find ways to overcome this asymmetrical relationship.

Key points of the report

In the ultimate analysis, it should be kept in mind that the US does not want and cannot afford to have India as an adversary. The US is also interested in Indian markets. Therefore India should place greater emphasis on the more positive aspects of Indo-US cooperation while diplomatically overcoming US reservations on other key issues. With reference to Pakistan, without being overly alarmed about the close US-Pakistan relationship and the sale of sophisticated weapons to Pakistan, that have earlier been used against India, we need to closely monitor Pak – US relations.


On the whole, despite minor irritants, US-India relations have never been so good. It was the Bush administration that reviewed the decades-old American policy to integrate India into its strategic doctrine by recognizing India as a “natural ally”. India could respond by acknowledging “the momentum and quality of this bilateral relationship need constant nurturing.” Bush II is likely to see these relations getting stronger and the general consensus among supporters is that President Bush’s second term may see some more Indian-American appointees, and that the U.S.-India strategic relationship may be further strengthened. As part of the American political landscape, Indian Americans are going to benefit from his position on tort reform, small business owners like convenience stories, restaurants, hotels and motels, from the tax cut, his general strength and leadership on the war on terrorism.

But along with the “more of the same” foreign policy would come some of the negatives of soft-pedaling democracy in Pakistan, not holding President Pervez Musharraf’s feet to the fire on cross-border terrorism or drug running and closing of support lines for Kashmir terrorist operations. But Rice is a realist and might usher in the realpolitik approach to terrorism. India must be pragmatic and look beyond the Pak-US relationship and develop its own independently by focusing on the positive aspects. President Bush favors economic ties with India and will continue to support outsourcing though the state of the US economy and loss of jobs might cause some problems. He has promised and assured all the Indians who have supported him all these four years that he will make it a priority to visit India in the first year of the second term. This augurs well for the state of Indo-US relations.

Policy Options

There are indications that Bush II would try to improve upon its performance during the first Presidency, be more decisive and try to leave an indelible mark on the world. President Bush would definitely seek to build effective multi-lateral institutions in foreign affairs. The Middle-East peace process, the issue of democracy in the Persian Gulf Region, a viable strategy to bring peace in Iraq and effectively check Iranian proliferation without military intervention are some key issues that would remain at the forefront of US foreign policy concerns. These are areas where India could assist the US in the realization of its objectives. India could especially be a valuable ally in the experiment to introduce democracy in the Persian Gulf countries. Reciprocally, the US could take effective measures to help India resolve the Kashmir issue to its satisfaction. The US would need India’s assistance in building up effective multi-lateralism after having ruthlessly followed the unilateral path during the first Bush term. Other areas where joint cooperation is foreseen are in intelligence sharing, counter terrorism, promotion of democracy especially in the Middle-East and the US sponsored Proliferation Security Initiative.These can be leveraged to India’s advantage. 

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