Alan Kronstadt Specialist in South Asian Affairs
Sonia Pinto Research Associate
engagement on shared security interests is a topic of interest to the U.S.
Congress, where there is considerable support for a deepened U.S.
partnership with the world’s largest democracy. Congressional advocacy of
closer relations with India is generally bipartisan and widespread; House
and Senate caucuses on India and Indian-Americans are the largest of their kind.
Caucus leaders have encouraged the Obama Administration to work toward
improving the compatibility of the U.S. and Indian defense acquisitions
systems, as well as to seek potential opportunities for co-development or
co-production of military weapons systems with India. In a report
accompanying the FY2012 Defense Authorization (S.Rept. 112-26), the Senate
Armed Services Committee expressed its belief that a deepened strategic
partnership with India will be critical to the promotion of core mutual
national interests in the 21st century.
The United States and India have since 2004 been pursuing a “strategic
partnership” that incorporates numerous economic, security, and global
initiatives. Defense cooperation between the two countries remains in
relatively early stages of development. However, over the past decade—and
despite a concurrent U.S. engagement with Indian rival Pakistan and a Cold War history
of bilateral estrangement—U.S.-India security cooperation has flourished.
American diplomats now rate military links and defense trade among the
most important aspects of transformed bilateral relations in the 21st century.
The United States views security cooperation with India in the context of
common principles and shared national interests such as defeating terrorism,
preventing weapons proliferation, and maintaining regional stability. After
initial uncertainty, under President Barack Obama, senior Pentagon
officials assured New Delhi that the United States is fully committed to
strengthening ties through the enhancement of the defense relationship
made newly substantive under President George W. Bush.
Many analysts view increased U.S.-India security ties as providing a perceived “hedge”
against or “counterbalance” to growing Chinese influence in Asia, although
both Washington and New Delhi repeatedly downplay such motives. While a
complete congruence of U.S. and Indian national security objectives is
unlikely in the foreseeable future, meaningful convergences are identified
in areas such as the emergence of a new balance-of-power arrangement in the
region. Still, indications remain that the perceptions and expectations of
top U.S. and Indian strategic planners are divergent on several key
issues, perhaps especially on the role of Pakistan, as well as on India’s
relations with Iran. Moreover, given a national foreign policy tradition of “nonalignment,”
Indian leaders are averse to forming any “alliance” with the United States and are
clear in their intention to maintain India’s “strategic autonomy.” Questions
remain about the ability of the Indian economy to grow at rates sufficient
to improve its security capabilities at the pace sought in both Washington
and New Delhi. Despite these factors, U.S. leaders only expect India’s
importance to U.S. interests to grow steadily, and they foresee India taking on
new security roles commensurate with its status as a major power and
stakeholder in the international system. This expectation is a key aspect
of the Obama Administration’s policy of “rebalancing” or “pivoting” toward
the Asia-Pacific, which is conceived as including the Indian Ocean region.
This report reviews the major facets of U.S.-India security relations with a
focus on military-tomilitary contacts, counterterrorism and intelligence
cooperation, and defense trade. It also discusses some of the many
obstacles to deeper cooperation in each of these areas. This report will
be followed by a companion piece on the strategic aspects of U.S.-India
security relations. For a discussion of U.S.-India relations more broadly,
see CRS Report RL33529, India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and
U.S. Relations, coordinated by K. Alan Kronstadt.
Date of Report: November 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 36 Order Number: R42823 Price: $29.95
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