Historically, Indo-US relations have not been very close owing to India’s lead role in the Non Alignment Movement. In fact, India had always been perceived to be closer to USSR, leaning on it for military spares and other resources. The US, on the other hand, has traditionally been closer to Pakistan – to have a strategic base for Afghanistan, and to counter the USSR influence on India.
After the Cold War ended, India, however, developed relations with NATO members, especially France, Germany and Canada. India’s relationship with the US also flowered mostly as a result of the fact that both countries are strong, populous democracies that have strategic and economic importance in the world. In the year 1991, India also opened up its economy to the world; it was the start of the Liberalization Privatization Globalization (LPG) age and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to India – especially from countries like the US – increased multifold.
In 1998, as India tested its nuclear weapons in Pokhran, sanctions were imposed on trade by the US, Japan and several European countries. The sanctions imposed by Bill Clinton under the 1994 US Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act seemed serious, at least at first. The US protested any international financial institution loans to non-development projects in India. The situation was not helped by the then-Defence Minister supporting the tests by citing possible nuclear threat from China. The US urged India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has thus far signed neither the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), nor the CTBT as it believes that these favour the use and ownership of nuclear weapons by the five declared nuclear countries of the world. In fact, before the Pokhran-II tests, India was all for systematic and gradual destruction of all nuclear weapons owned by any country in the world – a move that was not favoured by the US and other European countries. However, most of these sanctions were lifted by 2001. India has since categorically stated that it believes in the “no first use of nuclear weapons” policy and believed in “credible nuclear deterrence”.
Relations with the US have improved since, with the latter signing the Indo-US Nuclear Pact on cooperation in the civilian nuclear field with India in 2006, despite the former not being a part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India agreed to separate its military and civilian nuclear programmes and the latter would be brought under the guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The United States would, in turn, sell India the nuclear supplies, reactors and fuel required to set up these civilian programmes. This deal required a special exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and an amendment of the US Law, apart from overcoming several disturbances and disruptions in the Indian parliament, in order to become a reality. The major finding from the US pursuing this deal with such fervour is the fact that the US has finally realized that urging India to roll back its nuclear weapon arsenal is fruitless. Instead, it has realized India’s strategic and geographic importance and is now aiming to use India’s resources for its broader objectives of non-proliferation and counter-proliferation.
While Indo-Us relations have never been better – with Barack Obama declaring in his address to the Indian Parliament that the US would back India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council – the present seems a little uncertain. The recent incident with Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade being allegedly manhandled and arrested for a matter of human trafficking and the subsequent tit-for-tat rebuttal by the Indian government leaves relations a little unclear. While the diplomat is back in India, the US is refusing to let the charges go.
It remains to be seen how exactly the two countries handle this standoff.
Click here to attend a Free Workshop by Mindworkzz – Arun Sharma & Meenakshi Upadhyay . (Renowned authors of Books for CAT)