India – US: Changing Scenarios


Author: Parveen Kaswan (Add on Facebook for more Updates)


The American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 has increased the strategic significance of the Indian Ocean, eventually transforming the region into the centre of geo-political rivalry [1]. Since then, America has shown a keen interest in the internal politics of countries in this region. Sri Lanka, an island nation in the middle of Indian Ocean lies six nautical miles from four major ocean routes that connect the Western Pacific region to the Western Indian Ocean through strategically important South China Sea and Straits of Malacca. It’s not a surprise that Sri Lanka’s internal politics is turning into a matter of interest to several outside powers.

Even before the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, entire South Asia, an area that was given low importance during the Cold War era, started to gain prominence. This was a result of the regional instabilities that had plagued the region. [2]

Indian Ocean Bases

The invasion of Afghanistan forced the western countries to re-work their geo-political priorities by increasing their presence in the Indian Ocean. They re-formulated their policies, understanding the necessity to reset their relationship whereas forming new strategic partnerships with the littoral states. Here, the most important were the dynamical Indo-US relations. Since the beginning of the conflict, America’s relationship with India has went through dramatic amendments. The approach in post-cold war era was crystallized once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government delineated India’s relationship with America on the eve of President Clinton’s visit to India in 2000. Indian government’s response was received favourably and India was accommodated into US policies, as it is illustrated in 2002 US National Security Strategy document. [3]

In document it was mentioned, “The Administration sees India’s potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the twenty-first century and has worked hard to transform our relationship accordingly”.

“The United States has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India based on a conviction that U.S. interests require a strong relationship with India” as stated in the document.

This was in addition to Indo – American defence policy group (DPG), that was fashioned in 1996, to review and formulate bilateral approaches within the defence policy parcel. After the 9/11 attacks, the DPG was revived and amended once America removed the sanctions imposed against India.

We should not consider the above mentioned defence co-operation between the two countries as a new development. Throughout the first Gulf War, India provided refuelling facilities to American warplanes [4]. However, we did witness a faster method of reconfiguration of forces that radically modified the existed geo-political equilibrium that existed in the Indian Ocean in favour of US. In the aftermath of New York attacks, India became one of the first countries to offer its support for the Afghan invasion when it deployed its warships to undertake escort operations through the Straits of Malacca along with the US navy. [5]

Few days ago, India also voted against Sri Lanka and aligned itself with America on Tamil issue. Whether we did it the right way or not, is a debatable issue. The context of Sri Lanka’s lengthy conflict had been a sub-continental one, within which India contended a bigger and a positive role, shaping and influencing the regional balance. So in the broader sense, the conflict perpetually mirrored the prevailing strategic tensions between international and regional powers, because it was exemplified by the events that started in the 1980’s. As has been expressed by many experts, the Tamil national struggle was a lever that might be manipulated to exert pressure on Sri Lanka from aligning itself with West. Therefore, India’s geo-political ambitions in the 1980’s, remained limited to securing its national interest, and it worked as a buffer between the Colombo’s oppressive military and long standing Tamil national aspirations, which also worked as a firewall that indirectly protected the democratic rights of the Tamil people, which Colombo found difficult to penetrate.

But the post-cold war realities altered the existing strategic atmosphere, paving towards a uni-polar world order, where US emerged as the only superpower. The reconfiguration of power in the Indian Ocean indicated a growing convergence of interests between India and America. This has neutered the previous power balance on the Asian geo-strategic canvas. These recent alliances and reorientation indicated Delhi’s realization that its ambition of achieving a predominant position on the far side of the standard borders of South Asia cannot materialise without American support.

The logic behind India’s willingness to realign itself and to formalize its new coalition with the United States including Civil Nuclear Deal can be explained in terms of its ambition to obtain the ability to counter balance Chinese influence in the region as well as to acquire higher capabilities to project its power beyond the traditional strategic boundaries.

India cannot fully rely on US, as America would first secure its own interests. This is indicated by a recent report published in New York Times, which describes a secret deal signed between ISI and CIA in 2004. According to this deal, Pakistan allowed American drone strikes on its soil on the condition that the unmanned aircraft would stay away from its nuclear facilities and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants are trained for attacks on India [6]. This deal is a classic example of how US and its agencies work at times, against their allies. The Arms Trade Treaty which has recently been passed in the UN is also biased towards the Western countries. Just like the west, India should also secure its own interests with conditions while dealing with US on strategic matters.



For further study:

1. The Diplomat: A Plea for smart forward US military engagement; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

2. ASEAN in the Cold War and post-Cold War Eras; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

3. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

4. TOI: India will consider refuelling facility for US; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

5. People Daily: Indian Warships Undertake Escort Operation in Malacca Straits; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

6. New York Times: A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood; accessed on 9th April, 2013.

7. Global Research

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