India-U.S. ties past, present and future | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India-U.S. ties past, present and future

delhi Updated: Jun 26, 2009 11:30 IST
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The U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones meets his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on Friday, against the backdrop of regional instability and India's twitchy relations with U.S. ally Pakistan.


New Delhi and Washington are enjoying some of their sweetest ever relations -- thanks in part to the earlier George Bush administration and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Perhaps the biggest leap forward came when both leaders trumped domestic critics to sign a landmark civilian nuclear deal in 2008, worth billions of dollars and ending a 30-year ban on nuclear commerce with India.

Trade has blossomed and years of market reforms have helped India's IT and outsourcing sector feed into the U.S. economy.


No. In the Cold War era India was a member of the non-aligned movement that in theory was independent from the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In practice, India bought most of its defence equipment from the Soviets and a chunk of the economy, until liberalisation began in earnest in the early 1990s, was under state control.

New Delhi refused to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty which left it in nuclear isolation -- including from the United States -- for decades. Some loud voices in the U.S. Congress said Bush's nuclear deal had let India off the hook.

Many Indian politicians who grew up in the Cold War era were suspicious of U.S. global dominance -- a legacy of mistrust evident in the Indian left's failed attempt to block the pact.


Some in India fear the United States prioritises Pakistan -- at New Delhi's expense. President Barack Obama needs Pakistan to focus on fighting insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan at a time when Pakistan's relations with India have taken a nosedive.

India, which accuses its neighbour of complicity in the Mumbai militant attacks, suspects the U.S. may let Pakistan off lightly in tackling anti-India militants to keep its ally onside.

There is also a school of thought that, to stop Pakistan getting distracted with India, the two rivals must be coaxed into resolving a dispute over Kashmir.

India sees the fate of the divided region as its own business, and any perceived attempt by the Obama administration to meddle could sour ties.


India and the U.S. were at the centre of a tariff row which brought the Doha world trade talks grinding to a halt in 2008, as India worried an unchecked flood of cheap imports would threaten its millions of poor farmers.

Both sides more recently made the right noises on reaching a consensus. India's trade minister went as far as to say the "impasse has been broken", but later tempered his remarks.


Obama took office in the thick of a global financial crisis and amid fears the slowdown augured greater protectionism.

Much was made in the Indian media of an Obama attack on companies who ship jobs and profits abroad, in which he said they pay lower taxes in Bangalore, India than Buffalo, New York.

But India's growing economy, rising status and huge untapped markets will likely remain too tempting a prospect for the U.S. to turn back the clock.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have calmed Indian nerves when she said bilateral ties needed an "upgrade" and said the slowdown was no excuse to "fall back on protectionism".