Books and MonographsPublished on Jun 30, 2022 PDF Download
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India-U.S. Relations: Priorities in the Next Decade


Dustin Carmack, et al., India-U.S. Relations: Priorities in the Next Decade, June 2022, Observer Research Foundation and The Heritage Foundation.

Executive Summary

The India–United States (US) partnership—pivotal in maintaining international security and order—could yet be the defining one for this century. The US is India’s most comprehensive strategic partner, and cooperation between the two extends across multiple areas such as trade, defence, multilateralism, intelligence, cyberspace, civil nuclear energy, education, and healthcare. As the two nations venture into a new decade, they must articulate a new agenda for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region which they are both committed to keeping “free and open”.

In recent years, exigencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic have redirected the relationship to a forward-looking assessment of regional and global geopolitics. The sectors that will be key to shaping the arc of a strong Indo-US relationship in the years ahead are the following: emerging technologies; national security and defence cooperation; counterterrorism; and trade.

Today, bilateral defence cooperation has exceeded even the more optimistic predictions that were being made a decade ago. While some of the heaviest lifting has already been done, tasks remain in streamlining procedures, reducing bureaucratic obstacles, inaugurating new military exercises, and re-energising the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative.

Beyond defence ties, the relationship has begun expanding in scope from the bilateral to the multilateral while embracing a wider range of issues that include: civilian nuclear cooperation and nuclear non-proliferation; infrastructure financing; the production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines; humanitarian aid and disaster relief; peacekeeping and education; space and cyber security; countering terrorism and extremism; governance of the oceans; and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and the rules-based order.

Meanwhile, two multilateral strategic dialogues that have gained prominence in recent years are the Quad grouping (of India, Australia, Japan, and the US) revived in 2017, and the new West Asian Quad or I2U2 (comprising Israel, India, United Arab Emirates, and the US) inaugurated in 2021. The Quad has become a premier format for India and the US to pursue targeted multilateral cooperation with like-minded democracies while the West Asian Quad’s focus on technology cooperation carries unique potential.

Now that America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan has reduced its dependence on Pakistan for supply routes, India-US counterterrorism cooperation is likely to expand further, to include multilateral efforts to apply pressure on the Pakistani military-intelligence complex to abandon support for terrorist groups. India and the US must also collaborate with each other, and with other like-minded partners, to meet the urgent need for infrastructure investments in the Indo-Pacific and the growing appetite amongst regional capitals for higher-quality, more reliable alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Finally, as India and the United States look toward strengthening global value chains (GVCs), they must enhance two-way foreign direct investments (FDI) and provide incentives for the private sector to make investments that facilitate integrated GVCs that serve both countries’ economic and national security interests.

Key Recommendations

This report recommends that India and the US:

  1. Enhance cooperation in emerging technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) as data regulation, information sharing, and privacy protection become increasingly salient issues crucial to the preservation of national security.
  1. Strengthen coordination multilaterally and on international issues, including prioritising two multilateral strategic dialogues that have gained prominence in recent years—i.e., the Quad and the West Asian Quad or I2U2.
  1. Pursue greater cooperation on counterterrorism, including coordinating strategies for managing a Taliban-led Afghanistan and leading multilateral efforts to apply pressure on the Pakistani military-intelligence complex to abandon support for terrorist groups such as the Taliban and Haqqani Network, and Kashmir-focused groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
  1. Strengthen and integrate GVCs, using FDI in each other’s economies to strengthen bilateral trade and integrate GVCs as well as incentivise multinational corporations to participate in these initiatives.
  1. Seek greater coordination between line ministries working on cybersecurity, especially identifying relevant counterparts on specific issues.
  1. Embed security and defence issues into their emerging technology agenda, focusing for instance on identifying common principles for defence applications of artificial intelligence.

Read the entire report here.

Dustin Carmack is a Research Fellow for cybersecurity, intelligence, and emerging technologies at The Heritage Foundation.

Akshay Mathur is former Director of ORF, Mumbai.

Harsh V Pant is Vice President for Studies and Foreign Policy at the Observer Research Foundation.

Trisha Ray is Associate Fellow at ORF’s Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology.

Jeff Smith is a Research Fellow for South Asia at The Heritage Foundation.

Kabir Taneja is a Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, DC, seeks to formulate and promote public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Dustin Carmack

Dustin Carmack

Dustin Carmack is a research fellow for cybersecurity intelligence and emerging technologies at The Heritage Foundation.

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Akshay Mathur

Akshay Mathur

Akshay was the Director of ORF Mumbai and Head of Geoeconomics Studies Programme at ORF.

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Harsh V. Pant

Harsh V. Pant

Professor Harsh V. Pant is Vice President – Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He is a Professor of International Relations ...

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Jeff M. Smith

Jeff M. Smith

Jeff Smith is the Director of Asian Security Programs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC.

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Kabir Taneja

Kabir Taneja

Kabir Taneja is a Fellow with Strategic Studies programme. His research focuses on Indias relations with West Asia specifically looking at the domestic political dynamics ...

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