January 24, 2019

U.S.-India Relations: The Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy Bright Spot

By Richard Fontaine

It’s customary these days to lament U.S. relations with allied countries like Germany and Canada, or to worry about warmth with unfriendly ones like Russia and North Korea. Ties with India, however, are a refreshingly positive outlier. Bilateral relations are mostly healthy and both sides continue to raise their strategic bet on a close long-term partnership. With the United States and India sustaining deepening ties across multiple administrations, their leaders should grow more ambitious still. Now is the time to envision precisely what a maximalist U.S.-India relationship might encompass in the future.

At the annual Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi earlier this month, I witnessed a striking degree of optimism about the United States. India’s strategic elite largely welcomes President Donald Trump’s tough approach to China, his skepticism about Pakistan, the administration’s emphasis on a free and open Indo-Pacific, and its willingness to transfer technology. There are warning signs — I’ll get to those — but at the moment they detract little from the overall trend of deepening relations.

The improving relationship stems partially from the Trump administration’s clearly articulated strategic priorities in the region. In identifying great power competition as the key driver of U.S. national security strategy, the administration signals a convergence in U.S. and Indian views of China. Prioritizing the China challenge also provides an underlying rationale for greater alignment with India as one element in a broad effort to balance power in the Indo-Pacific. New Delhi generally shares the appetite for cooperation: In a forthcoming Brookings India poll of the country’s strategic elites, a full 75 percent say that their country’s most important partner on global issues is the United States, with Russia a distant second at 12 percent.

Read the full article and more in War on the Rocks.

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