India US Relations | International Relations Dissertations

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This piece of work tries to study the relations of one superpower and another emerging power in international order. The relations of India-US have passed through a roller -coaster character since 1950s. The study is about the Indo-US relations during post Cold-War period. It tries to present in- depth study of the relation between two states, with historical background, major events of the period, US involvement in South Asia/India, its stand on India-Pakistan disputes. It observes about the transition from ‘estranged democracies’ to a ‘strategic partnership’ of the relations.

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US interests in the region were for many years interpreted as philanthropic rather than commercial or strategic, and the US was closed ally with Pakistan. The study is trying to find out – How the neglected country for almost 50 years got top priority and finally turned to be natural ally. The relations have passed through different stage from ‘neither friend nor enemy’, ‘distanced democracies ’, ‘engaged democracies’ and finally as ‘natural allies’ with nuclear partnership. This achievement and transformation is not happened overnight. To achieve these, both countries have passed through different states overtime.

The thesis tries to find out some reason behind this quick development in the relations. The transformation happened during post Cold -War period. Behind these transformations some reason such as Indian practice of democratization, open market policy, huge development on economy and IT sector played vital role. Likewise, US goal in the region was fulfilled while making good relations with India. After analysing some major events and immediate reaction, the thesis tries to make an argument that, with other reasons side by side, the nuclear test of 1998 by India was the central theme that helped for the transformations of the relations. 

Chapter 1

Introduction and literature review

Topic introduction and Purpose of the study

After the end of the Cold War, the United States is leading in the International Order, and it is experienced that- this time is American time, its hegemony and policy for liberal democracy, human rights or in any colour or form. So its relations with any other part of the world is itself interesting and important.

On the other hand, India is the largest democracy in the world and emerging power in the International order. It is economically and strategically threat to the US, it is tiger in Asia in term of population, economy and nuclear capacity. The relation between the superpower and emerging power is obviously important to the students of International Relations/politics or common people as well. So it is hoped that this research makes some interesting and important line of arguments.

“As the ‘tiger’ economies of South-east Asia roared away in the 1970s and 1980s, India’s biggest achievements remained its ability to feed its own people, and its adherence – against the odds – to democracy. Unshackled by the economic liberalisation of the early 1990s, India is already poised to overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy. The nuclear status of India has been formally acknowledged by the US And, when the UN is finally reformed, it’s likely to land a permanent seat on the Security Council” (BBC Online, 2009.)

For over forty years, the United States has contended with the problem of formatting a coherent policy toward South Asia- a region that contains approximately one-fifth of the world’s population. During this time, US policy has surrounded between interventions and withdrawal. Detailed analysis of how Washington determines its South Asian policy, especially with regard to the regions two major states: India and Pakistan. The nations of South Asia contain a fifth of the human race.

They include one state (India) that is certainly the world’s largest democracy and one other (Pakistan) that has been an intermittent ally of the US since 1953. For over thirty-five years Washington’s policy has shifted uneasily from neglect of the region to intense involvement in its economic, political, and military affairs, seeing in the former certain ideological and moral values and in the latter certain strategic and military advantages. This research tries to fill a gap in understanding of the reasons for American involvement in and policy toward South Asia especially India.

The literature on US foreign policy is dominated by relations with the Soviet Union and Western Europe. American relations with Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and South Asia are relatively neglected and episodic in nature. This absence of interest is especially marked in the case of South Asia. Yet, American decisions have profoundly affected the lives of most South Asians, the societies of regional states, and their external policies. It has often been noted that this influence and the relationship is excessively one-sided: American decisions affect South Asians far more than South Asian decisions can ever affect Americans.

The purpose of this study is to examine the sources and patters of American responses towards events in India over a period of time, through an examination of some case study. Giving some brief introduction and history of Indo-US security relation after 2nd World War, it talks in detail about the relation during Post Cold War period.

After the end of the Cold War, every country around the world effected, but South Asian countries effected more than others. The US has no rival in world order, but India and Pakistan, two countries from the South Asia emerged as new nuclear power. India could not be the state as neglected before. Post Cold- War period saw dramatic changes in US-India relation.

Research Focus/Research question

The main thrust of this thesis is to present the Indo-US relations during Post Cold War period, to study main events of the period and to explore the reasons behind the transformation in relations. The thesis is focused on the periphery of Post Cold War leading to 9/11. In the short span of time in 1990s how the transformation was possible, how the neglected country for almost 50 years got top priority in American foreign policy, it tries to answer these questions.

The thesis tries to make an argument that the nuclear test of 1998 was the central theme that helped for the transformation of the relation. The Indo-US convergence was abruptly interrupted by India’s May 1998 nuclear tests. President Clinton’s initial reaction was simultaneously emotional: ‘To think that you have to manifest your greatness by behaviour that recalls the very worst events of the 20th century on the edge of the 21st century when everybody else is trying to leave the nuclear age behind, is just wrong.’

Because of the fact that both India and Pakistan had been de facto nuclear weapon states, US concerned about the possibility of nuclear war in South Asia, but it was obviously a challenge in Western hegemony as well. Although the US imposed suspension of most military-military contacts, the nuclear tests started a high-level engagements between the US and India. Overtime, the Clinton Administration adapted itself to the reality that India’s great-power aspirations included becoming a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. India’s 1998 nuclear explosive test were a blessing in disguise for long-term Indo-US relations. Once the tests exploded the illusion, Washington and New Delhi could get on with the important task of relating to one another on a more equal footing.


The study is based on academic writings such as books, journal and online resources. While using such material a great care has been taken in term of their credibility. The books studied for the research are written by academics mostly of Indian background in origin. Mostly they are educated in American Universities and working there in US Universities. Their academic background and research area is about American foreign policy, Asian studies, Asians security.

Likewise the online resources have been used with great care such as produced by the academics and trustworthy organizations like Asia Foundations, governmental bodies and well -known research centres. Though writers are educated and being engaged in US academia, care have been taken while developing arguments from their writing, being India origin, emotional behave might affect on their writing about American or Indian perspective.

The thesis also contains three major events which were supposed to play determinative role for the transformations of the relations. Likewise it also collects immediate reaction after the test. For reactions the samples have been collected in three groups.

Structure of the thesis

The thesis is composed of six chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction explaining the topic and subject matter, rationale, and methodology. This chapter also includes the literature review.

The second chapter traces the history of Indo-US relations. It talks about the US engagement in Asia and India. It simply presents the history of the relation explaining some major events of the period. The third chapter is about the post Cold -War scenarios. It begins with how the US started tilting to India not Pakistan. The change in American policy to South Asia and India begin at this point of time. This chapter explains three major events of the period as case study: Kashmir Issue 1999, nuclear test 1998 and Clinton visit 2002. After this, in Chapter Four to know the immediate reaction after the test, it collects some thoughts expressed in news Medias and thoughts by think tanks especially in the US. How the think-tank and the governments reacted to the test and talked about the bilateral relations. 

After analysing three major events and reactions of the governments, think tanks and views expressed on newspaper, Chapter Five, the main part of the thesis makes an argument that it was the nuclear test 1998, which helped to transform the relation. This chapter once again makes a revision of the relation since 1950s. Finally, the thesis contains the conclusion and bibliography.

Literature Review:

As mentioned above, literature on American foreign policy is easily accessible and available everywhere but regarding the US relations to the South Asian region; book and journals are not available enough as compared to other regions.

The literature on US foreign policy is dominated by relations with the Soviet Union and Western Europe. For example, Ambrose S E. (1993) exclusively presents the history of American foreign policy since 1938. Ambrose gives detail survey of American Foreign Policy from the period America was secure in the world-neither of the great totalitarian political forces of the century, Fascism or Communism.

The author presents the overview of the evolution of American foreign Policy focusing on major events like World War II, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam War, and the SALT treaties. It also talks about the individual Presidents and their changed attitudes to the different regions. Ambrose begins with the starting years of American Foreign Policy and its strength overtime up to Bush Policy and US engagements in Gulf war.

Ambrose presents a chronological history of American Foreign Policy, but this book hardly discusses the development in South Asian region. The author is quite on US engagement in South Asia/India or US involvement in Indian/Pakistani War, Kargil issue

As compared to Ambrose, Spanier J (1983) talks about the US and third world (author’s term) developments. Spanier presents an account of American foreign policy from the closing days of World War II to the beginning of the second Regan administration.

The author presents interpretation of the roles of the Unites States on the world stage since it became a nuclear superpower. It also talks about the theoretical frameworks of American foreign policy like the American approach to foreign policy, the state system, the American national style, the contrast between systematic and national behaviour. Spainer clearly tries to explore the reason behind World War, its significance and detailed survey of impact of nuclear weapons on the pattern of American-Soviet relations. The author explains in detail about the role of 3rd world during the Cold War to conflict with-and-in-the Third World.

Bertsch K. Gary (1999) collects twelve essays by US educated academics with background study in South Asian studies. Most of the authors are with Indian background, educated and engaged in US intuitions. The write-up reflects their long experiences with their work either academic or institution like US based South Asia Program, Institutes for Defence Studies.

The author addresses the broad range of non-proliferation and foreign policy issues that affect Indo-American relations. It not only describes missile control and space cooperation, chemical and biological weapons, and the use of sanctions versus incentives, the individual authors with their expertise knowledge provide practical recommendations for how a stronger and more meaningful dialogue can be established between the policy makers of the world’s two largest democracies.

Authors present about the history of Indo-US relations in different perspective like strategic, economic, political, technical aspects but its main focus is to talk about broad insight into India’s relations with the rest of the world in the shadow of India’s 1998 nuclear tests. Likewise Ganguly&scobell (2006) present a series of perspectives about US-Indian strategic cooperation. The authors make an effort for the current status and future instructions of the relation.

The identify the strategic context for and logic behind India’s emerging security cooperation with the US, the strategic context for and logic behind growing US security cooperation with India, growing bilateral cooperation in the US-led Global War on Terrorism. Likewise, it raises an important issue of the US assessment of India’s role in the anti-terror struggle, Indian assessment of the US worldwide anti-terror effort, Chinese view of the growing security ties between Washington and New Delhi. Likewise it identifies some military-to-military ties between the United States and India, one from the perspective of Washington, and the other from a New Delhi perspective.

S. Ganguly (2006) traces the origins, development and the current state of Indo-US strategic cooperation. The authors access the strategic cooperation of the world’s two largest democracies. They entirely talk about the strategic relation of the two countries. The book provides an assessment of Indo-US relations with a particular focus on the evolution of contemporary bilateral relations, focuses on the current state of military-to-military cooperation. The authors highlight the development of Indo-US defence ties over the last few decades and examine its underlying causes. Likewise they addressees key areas of future strategic cooperation including high technology trade, participation in multilateral peacekeeping operations.

S. Ganguly’ (1990) identifies the key issues of how Washington determines its South Asian policy, especially with regard to the region’s two major states: India and Pakistan. Using case studies the author bases his study on US policy in four major South Asian crises: the 1962 India-China War, the India-Pakistan conflicts of 1965 and 1971, and the massive draught of 1966-1967. Ganguly’s research not only talks about the American foreign policy during different presidents in office and major events but also it talks about the theoretical aspect of American foreign policy. It describes analytical perspective of US foreign policy, South Asia and US foreign policy, history of Indo-US relations and Indo-China War, 1965 War, The 1965-67 Crisis, the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. The author provides the detailed explanation of the major events of the history between two states and mostly incidents are based on American perspective.

As mentioned earlier since the region itself did not get priority, so the discussion about the region in world affairs was limited. Only after late 1990s and especially after the nuclear test, the literature on American policy to Asia and India seems growing. One of such discussion is J. Singh (1998). It provides both historical and contemporary analytical insights on a variety of subjects that impose upon a nuclear India. Singh checks out the nuclear reality as it exists today, at the national and international level.

He begins with why nuclear weapons are required and what are they all about. It further examines the rationale for the possession of nuclear weapons, detailed history of the Indian nuclear policy formulation between 1964-1998, presents history to trace the origin of nuclear weapons. It also demonstrates about the paths of proliferation and non-proliferation over the last five decades. The author also looks at the increasing proliferation concerns in the Indian neighbourhood, lists out the major proliferation challenges that have emerged after the Cold War.

Likewise, it further focuses specially on ballistic missiles and their implications for international security. Likewise it also presents a detailed study of both China and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile programme, examines the traditional Indian position on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, impact of the nuclear test ban on the post-Cold War environment. It gives enough information about the nuclear weapons, their introduction, how they work and why they are required. It also presents the history of nuclear weapons, telling about the nuclear have countries when and how they conducted it.

Jain, Rashmi (Ed.) 2006) presents the record of the transition of Indo-US relations from ‘estranged democracies’ to a ‘strategic partnership’ in the 21st century. It is the inclusive and current study of the political, economic/trade, military/defence and nuclear proportions of Indo-US relations from 1947 to 2006. Jain discusses the overall trends in relations between India and the United States during the Cold War and after.

It deals with the implications of the American alliance with Pakistan, the extension of limited arms assistance to India following the India-China war of 1962 and support to the Tashkent and Simla agreements, Nixon’s tilt towards Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, India’s nuclear test of 1947. The study contains a selection of 692 basic documents from official sources, including Congressional hearings, and provides the full texts or extracts from various agreements, joint communiqués and statements and interviews by Government dignitaries. It is the collection of official documents related between the relations of two countries for about fifty years. It works as primary source for the researcher.

Beside these books, Journal and other reports have been used while conducting the research. Journals like Foreign affairs, International Affairs, Strategic Affairs, and online edition of The Economist and news sites of BBC, CNN, The New York Times and Indian newspapers such as Hindu, the Times of India has been used.

Likewise US congress report, governmental publications and the reports published by the Ministry of Indian External Affairs have been used.

Chapter 2

Historical Background

‘South Asia and US Foreign Policy-US meets India’

This chapter briefs about the American Foreign Policy and US involvement in South Asia/India. It is an account of US-Indo relations after 1950s to late 1980s. It is not chronological history of the relation, but it includes major events and trends of the time.

South Asia comprises a subsystem of powers with two major nations; India and Pakistan that are actually within South Asia and there others, China, the US and the USSR, that are extra-regional players in the region. South Asia also contains other states with minimal military and economical power; Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. By virtue of their global status, the US and the USSR have been involved in South Asia until 1990s. South Asian Countries are often introduced by political instability, a relative diffusion of powers and slow economic development. These characteristics and weakness prompted the two superpowers to fill the apparent power vacuum and to change it in order to strengthen their respective global and regional policies (Ganguly S. 1999.)

South Asia has been usually been regarded as only marginally important to the United States. In the major American security decisions regarding the stability of the international system, maintenance of nuclear balance or the problem of war and peace, South Asia was not considered a determining factor. Some reasons can be traced behind less priority of US to South Asia – First, it was not vital strategically; it did not offer any major resources essential to American industry. Second, the low level of economic and political interaction could not generate a positive image of South Asia in the American mind. In American perceptions, the area remained a preserve of British interests. Thus, US interests in the region were for many years interpreted as philanthropic rather than commercial or strategic (R.Arthur, 2006.)

The central dilemma of US policy in South Asia since 1947 has been to deal with the competing claims of the two principal states of this region, India and Pakistan. In a sense, the constant dilemma of Americas South Asia Policy is a result of the regional contest between these two states.Of these two Sub continental states, if India was often a unimportant factor in US perception of the global strategic equation, Pakistan was an insignificant factor unless military aligned with the US.

The initial US involvement in South Asia was barely influenced by the regional developments. What did shape the US role was the shrinking British Empire and the rapid decline of the KMT regime in China. Succeeding US military links to South Asia (especially Pakistan), a subsidiary of its concern in relation to the Soviet Union, accidentally emphasized the level of hostility between India and Pakistan. US involvement not only annoyed India but also brought the Soviet Union and later China into the Subcontinent and made the region an arena of Cold war politics (Ganguly S, 1990.)

In many ways, US involvement in India started during World War II, before this both officials and unofficial contacts with India were minimal. While the US maintained a few consular officers in India to look after commercial interests, it relied largely on British Foreign Office communications for information on the Indian political situation. The US really became involved in South Asia after its entry into World War II.

British India served at that time as a spring –board for allied military operations against the Japanese in China and Southeast Asia. India’s relations with the Unites States have been described variously as ‘estranged democracies’ and distance powers by Americans. Indian have tended to describe it as ‘distanced democracies’, ‘engaged democracies’ and finally as ‘natural allies’. Another common refrain often articulated from India, describes the United States as the oldest and most powerful democracy and itself as the largest. The expectation from both sides appears to have been that ‘democracy’ will somehow transcend national interests and security imperatives and shape the relationship (B.Dipankar, 2006.)

Relations between India and the US have varied widely over the last sixty-five years and adopted a roller-coaster character with many ups and downs and high and lows. In recent years India –US relations has transformed into what both sides claim to be a strategic partnership. Even as both countries move towards that desirable goal, it is useful to recall that divergences in perceptions and policies have varied widely over the years. At the end of the Second World War the Unites States emerged as the undisputed leader of the free world. Its lead in almost every area of consequence remains unchallenged for decades.

All its possible peers were largely destroyed by the war and indeed needed Washington’s help to revive themselves. The United States did not just dominate the emerging world order, but had the opportunity to shape it by laying out its figures and establishing the international institutions that would determine its future. Within a few years of the War’s end, the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc emerged as the only group that could conceivably challenge this order, but only in a limited military sense.

For India, the immediate concerns were different. It was to emerge from colonialism and external domination as an independent entity. It had first to fully assert its independence, in which it only got success partially as the nation itself was split into India and Pakistan addressing the region to internal conflict for decades. India’s identity and nationalism had to be developed an additional based on its own values and heritage and its territories needed to be consolidated. In addition to these concerns, a modern state had to be created almost from the beginning with all its associated institutions. (C. Raja Mohan 2003)

To achieve these immediate goals, India needed a peaceful external environment, uncomplicated by the rivalries of the global power struggle. New Delhi needed to craft a policy that would provide it a meaningful and autonomous role in a future world, in keeping with its own size potential and aspiration. In accordance with these needs it choose a policy of ‘non-alignment’. The term itself was much misunderstood in the world, and particularly in the US. India, perhaps justifiably, never fully explained its position, leading many in the west to ask, ‘non-aligned against what; good and evil?’(R.Bahukutumbi, 1996.)

What Nehru opined was a policy that would enable India to take independent positions on international issues without being tied down by alliances and ideological constraints. The central theme was not to get drawn in to military entanglements with major powers. He also hoped this would open up the possibility for India to adopt a position of some leadership of the emerging world. Many practical difficulties emerged, which hindered the implementations of this policy over the years. Over time, other countries also decided to remain ‘non-aligned’. On global issues, non-alignment often meant aligning against the west. Overall this policy prohibited the possibility of a military relationship with any country or grouping. This policy, and differences in world view, became a major barrier to an Indo-US military relationship throughout the Cold War (Ganguly S, 1990.)

Indo-US diplomatic relations go back to the presidency of George Washington when Benjamin Joy was appointed to the position of US Consul in Calcutta, the then Indian Capital in 1792. Nothing of note happened until April 1941. When Girija Shakar Bajpai was appointed the first Agent General of India in Washington DC and Thomas Wilson shifted as US Commissioner from Calcutta to New Delhi. At that time President Roosevelt understood that a successful pursuit of the war against the Axis powers required India’s willing support and cooperation. Roosevelt’s support for Indian independence and concern about continuing British rule had left a favourable impression on Indians (Chari PR 1999.)

Churchill’s refusal to contemplate a serious change in British imperial policy compelled the Indian National Congress to launch the Quit India movement in 1942. The Congress leaders believed that only an India that was promised freedom after the war could voluntarily join the war against fascism. Instead, the British responded by locking up most senior Congress political leaders. In spite of this, India’s participation in the Second World War was remarkable by any standards. Over two and a half million soldiers, each a volunteer, fought with Allied armies in many of the major threats of the global conflict. This contribution was particularly salient in the Burma front, without which the outcome would have been considerably less certain.

In addition to the roughly half-million soldiers from India and the British Commonwealth in this theatre, the Allied forces were joined by troops representing the Nationalist Chinese, many Africans and, by the war’s end, some 250,000 US soldiers (Sigh 2005.)

This enormous US troop contribution was easily its largest military-to-military relationship in South Asia. US forces provided the bulk of logistics support, flew substantial numbers of air sorties across uncharted routes in unstable aircraft, and ensured that the Kuomintang forces remained in the war against Japan in China. In addition, there was also the enormous Brooklyn air conditioning plant near Kolkata, the largest in Asia at the time that stored and supplied food to all Allied forces in the East (Banerjee, D 2000.)

It might have been expected that this state relations would continue after Indian independence. Instead, the Cold war intervened. India was partitioned and a separate state, Pakistan came into existence in 1947. During the Cold War, the pressure of strategic imperatives often widened the disjuncture between the hope and the reality resulting in hurtful Indo-US relations. The US support to Pakistan on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the United Nations in 1948-49, and initiation of military support to Pakistan in 1954, shed a binding shadow on the relationship.

The United States wanted to join as many states as possible in its war against communism, often in a formal strategic relationship. India viewed the logic of American alliances as directly breaking its own interests. India was convinced that American military support had encouraged Pakistan to wage war against it in 1965. This happened again during Indo-Pak war in 1971, when the US gave warnings to India and sent the USS Enterprise of its 7th Fleet into the Bay of Bengal. The United States perceived India’s policy of non-alignment as self-righteous and considered its neutrality far from neutral, citing examples of its silence over the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechosloskavia in 1968 (Dasgupta 2002.)

In mid 1961 India agreed to buy the MiG-21 aircraft from the Soviet Union. This was offered on such munificent terms that neither Great Britain, nor France nor the US could come up with a comparable offer even if they wanted to match it. Thus, began a long and enduring Indo-Soviet arms relationship (Ganguly S, 1990.)

The very strong Indian reaction to the evolving Pakistan-US military alliance was perhaps not anticipated in Washington. In any case, by now India’s image in the US had plunged and New Delhi‘s concerns were not a factor in US decision making. Indo-US relations remained frozen in a sate of suspended hostility until 1962. The Chinese aggression on India in Oct-Nov 1962 led to a remarkable turn around in Indo-US relations.

The attack from Chinese side surprised and shocked the Indian leaders. A total of two Indian infantry divisions, or less than ten percent of the Indian combat force, faced a thoroughly prepared PLA. The Indian forces were totally unprepared, badly deployed, under-equipped and even without proper clothes. The defeat was total in terms of India’s political standing and its foreign policy. What is notable was the dramatic shift in Indian policy and the liberal military and political support that India received from the US and the West. None of India’s non-aligned partners provided help and few showed any sympathy.

Moscow actually temporarily halted the MiG program, siding instead with its socialist friend. In contrast, the US came through with substantial help. A considerably larger arms package of US $ 373 million was apparently worked out by November 1963 in Washington by Ambassador Chester Bowles and was to have been signed by President Kennedy on 26th of November, 1963. Kennedy said; “We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India”. It also sent the aircraft carrier Enterprise from Hawaii to the Bay of Bengal to demonstrate this support (Virginia I Foran 1999.)

In less than a decade, Indo-US relations changed in another way. The Pakistan Army unleashed a blood bath on, March 25, 1971 in Dhaka, East Pakistan. This led to a mass departure of up to ten million people to India, which constituted an unacceptable level of aggression. The world, as always looked the other way. Under President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the US tilted heavily against India and did their best to avoid this. The same USS Enterprise sailed once again from Hawaii to the Bay of Bengal, but this time with an alarming message. Few knew then of Kissinger’s secret visit to China in mid-1971 facilitated by Pakistan and the deep debt he thus owed to Islamabad. This was without doubt the lowest point in Indo-US relations (Singh, 2005.)

Bangladesh was born as an independent nation in December 1971. Despite this development, Pakistan retained the same strategic significance to the West, and particularly to the US, as before. Within a decade Soviet aggression on Afghanistan came about. It proved to be a mistake by Moscow that would ultimately lead to its disintegration. It would also provide the US the opportunity to impose the battle of a thousand cuts through its proxy, yet another martial law regime in Pakistan. During much of the 1970s and 1980s India and the United States remained on opposite sides of an intensifying Cold War (Singh, 2005.)

Some positive developments in Indo-US security relations took place during the visits to the US of Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1985. During Mrs. Gandhi’s visit a science and technology cooperation initiative was launched.

As the fifty years reviewed in the history of Indo-US relations concluded in 1991, the global strategic environments underwent a fundamental change. Gorbachev’s reforms and the accelerating disintegration of the Soviet Union and its version of Communism brought to an end the Cold war which had decisively shaped US and Indian policies. The US engaged as the sole superpower, its ideology of democratic victories over Marxist communism (Singh, 2005.)

US relations with India slowly improved during the 1980s, but a legation of suspicion and mistrust remained. Although Washington insisted New Delhi well in tackling its enormous domestic problem, the US showed little disposition to rethink its relationship with India. Washington seemed uncertain- some would uninterested in-how to fit India into the post-Cold War policy framework (PR Chari 1999.)

It was almost as if the US did not know what to make of India. The continued poverty of the majority of the country’s vast population’s contrasted with the rising wealth of the burgeoning middle classes. Unrest and terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir and Hindu-Muslim communal tensions contrasted with the flexibility and strength of Indian democratic institutions. India’s growing military power, the world’s fourth largest army, the beginnings of blue water navy and the presumption of nuclear weapons capability contrasted with the economy that continued to progress for more slowly than most other Asian countries and remained halt by swollen and inefficient public sector industries (Virginia I Foran 1999.)

India and the US now have a shared interest in stability in the Indian Ocean region and a feasible balance of power in Asia. India is large enough, and economically and militarily of sufficient importance that the Indo-US relationship could have strategic importance in its own right. Unless the Indian government vigorously carries through with its economic reforms, genuinely modifying India’s economic policies to open to the country to the rest of the world and to give greater scope for market forces, US business is unlikely to show much greater in India than it has in the past.

New Delhi also needs to understand that investment and other commercial decisions are in the hands of US private sector, with the government role at best a moderate one. Related to this, is the future of non-alignment after the Cold War move a slogan than a guide to policy. The prospects of improved relations would dim should New Delhi redefine non-alignment in North-South terms positioning itself as a leader of the Third World in a strident struggle against the US and the industrialized West (Virginia I Foran 1999.)

The quasi-nuclearization of the subcontinent could indeed, mark as important a change in South Asia on the end of the Cold war. A nuclear Pakistan has, in effect, achieved the strategic equality with India, something it could never have hoped for with conventional weapons. How effectively and calmly Washington and New Delhi deal with this difficult and dangerous problem is certain to have a major impact on the future course of the US-Indian relationship. The countries found themselves on opposite sides of major foreign and security policy issues despite their common adherence to the democratic system. With the Cold War over, Indo-US relations was in another track with some positive indications (Singh, 2005.)

Chapter 3

Post Cold -War Scenario, 3 major incidents

This chapter briefs about the US-India relations during post Cold -War period leading to 9/11. It also includes three major events of the period as a case study which helped to transform Indo-US relations. After analyzing these events, the write-up will try to find the turning points which helped to transform the Indo-US relations over this period.

During the early phase of the Post-Cold war time, South Asia and India became a low precedence to US policy as before. But in regional level, during cold war saw an allied US and Pakistan player the close relations between India and the Soviet Union on the South Asian region.

Having said American low priority to South Asian states, three events of the time drew American attention immensely to the subcontinent in the late 1990s. Within few span of time, the security developments and activities not only drew attention of the world, but India established new sharing in international order. First and most important in these events was nuclear test of India and Pakistan. India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. Then, the two newly nuclear countries engaged in conflict in Kargil in 1999, this resulted in a new friendship between US and India. Third was President Clinton’s visit to South Asia in 2000. The visit changed a new policy following a close relation between India and America. The Bush administration also continued to change the Indo-US relationship, though American policy in South Asia was affected and faced some difficulty by the event of 9/11 (Chari PR 1999.)

This chapter traces the major changes in US policy to India during late 1900s with the help of 3 major incidents mentioned above.

New US policy; turns towards India

After the end of Clod War, the Soviet Union was no longer the crucial aspect in the American policy to South Asia; but US began to view the region from a regional perspective and started to deal with India and Pakistan in a different manner. At the same moment, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American interests and threats came from within the region rather than outside.

Late 1990s is the crucial time for US –India relations. In the 1990s, the US began to tilt toward India as the relation between the US and India was turned to engaged democracies from estranged democracies in the post -Cold War period (C Raja Mohan 2007.)

During this period, the US developed a comprehensive relationship alongside political relationship with India, but overall aspect of the relations such as economic and military associations. Likewise, another noteworthy development was the US new policy on the Kashmir crisis adopting Line of Control urging India and Pakistan for dialogue to settle the issue instead of using the force.

Kashmir issue was the first example where the clear sign of tilting to India not Pakistan was seen clearly. It was another sign that by this time the Washington administration accepted India’s leading place in South Asia. With this realization, the US gave important role to New Delhi in term of its international relationships. US started improving economic relations with India as a result the US provided the largest amount for development and food aid in South Asia.

By the time of 2000, India received aid of $170 million. The amount was fourty -five times larger than Pakistan. Whereas, during Cold- War period being a US ally, Pakistan was the largest recipients of US aid. For instance, during 1980s Pakistan was getting $ 6 hundred million yearly. During post Cold -War period especially in 1990s the amount was gone to India not to Pakistan (Kux D, 1992.) These figures also indicate the changing US policy or overall tilting to India

The new American approach to India and distance relations with Pakistan during this period in term of political and economic pattern, were driven by several reasons; First, India became an important commercial partner with huge economic growth, and notable development in information technology industry. Second, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the major obstruction of a US-Indian relationship was no more in existence and the vital role of Pakistan in containing the Soviets moved out (Nautiyal A. 2006.)

Third, the increasing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean, which connected Washington’s European-Atlantic strategy with its Asia-Pacific strategy, made US to be close with India. This two was incoherent in the Cold War and in the early years after the end of the Cold War, but as the US began to mull over the need for a new European-Asian strategy to deal with possible insecurity from Russia and China, for this reason the US believed that India could play a significant role in this new approach.

Fourth, the Indian community in the US played an important role in American politics. These immigrants are one of the wealthier immigrants groups among immigrant in the country. Fifth, American perception to India and Pakistan were changing during this time. India was seen as a rising power with economic booming and an active democracy. On the other side, Pakistan was regarded as a nearly failed state with economic problems and a history of martial rule. Sixth, the US started treating India as counterbalance with rising China. US thinks China a threat for its hegemonic goals in Asia. Relation between China and India has reached complicated because of border disputes and historical resentment. These powers are competitors in economic, political and strategic perspectives. Three transition states- Russia, China and India were the three options for US to handle with care. And to be friendly with US to counter China was the best option. The US thought this option good to break possible China-India- and Russia as new alliance (C Raja Mohan 2000)

3 Major Events

This part explains about the three major events of the post Cold -War period which have determinant role to transform Indo-US relations over time. These events are; ‘The Nuclear test 1998’, ‘Kargil Crisis 1999’ and ‘Clinton visit 2000’. After analysis of these three events, the write- up makes some argument how these events made new way for the changed relations.

After the end of the Cold War, the US has focused its strategy on two aspects; dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and inter-regional conflicts especially in Third World countries. Because of the recent development and confrontation in the region gave space for the US to be concerned about weapons of mass destruction.

Following such developments and concern over rising China on the other hand, ‘non-proliferation’ and ‘regional stability’ were the top priorities of American security strategy during post-Cold War period. South Asia has long been one of the regions, in which both priorities meet, and these concerns turned into a shocking reality when India and Pakistan completed nuclear tests in 1998. Another incidents related to such security concern was Kargil conflict between these two newest nuclear states in 1999. These events seriously changed Washington’s views of India and President Clinton visited the Subcontinent (Dixit A 1999.)

Event One – Indian Nuclear Tests 1998 (Shakti 98)

‘India shows the presence’

On May 11, 1998, India declared that it had conducted three nuclear explosive devices, and followed by two more after two days.

“Today, at 1545 hours (1015GMT) India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range.” These tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low-yield device, and a thermo-nuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values.” “Whatever we have done is for our defence, for the protection of the country and not to create a threat to anyone.” The tests that commenced on 11th May have been concluded today (May 13) and now the world is reacting to them. We believe in a world devoid of nuclear weapons.” Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, May 13 (Ministry of External Affairs, India, 1998)

On May 28th and 30th Pakistan also announced about its nuclear test. After the nuclear test, India and Pakistan turned to be nuclear states; the United States had to preview its non-proliferation policy. The role of Washington administration increased in this region because it focused on broad regional interests such as preventing possible nuclear war; promoting democracy and inter-regional stability. In addition, the US was increasing economic growth, and investment. It also started developing political and military assistance to face regional and global challenges such as terrorism, drugs and environmental degradation (Foran IV. 1999)

After the nuclear test, the Clinton Administration imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan. But it was not the scenarios of the Cold -War period because by this time India and Pakistan have already been the major markets of US, the US administration found that its two major policy; trade and sanctions cannot go together any longer (The Washington Post 1998.)

Another positive implication for India after the test was, the US recognized India’s defence capabilities and observed India as the leading state in South Asia. It was followed by the strategic discussion between US and India. US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh engaged in dialogue for twelve times about the strategic interests followed by the test. It can be seen as an example of such importance given by the US. The dialogue not only worked as an ice break for the countries after the nuclear test and US sanctions but also it provided a ground to settle the issues raised after India’s test, India’s nuclear security interests and the US led global non-proliferation direction (Matthew Evangelista et al 2002.)

Event Two -2 Kargil Crisis 1999; US supports India

The Kashmir issue is the central component of the conflict between India and Pakistan, which has caused war many times such as in 1947, 1965 and 1971. Since the end of the Cold War failed to end the hot regional confrontation in South Asia, and after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998, the level of tension became high than before. India and Pakistan faced momentous pressures from the US to reduce tensions through dialogue.

One of the ice break in India-Pakistan relations was the well-known ‘bus diplomacy’ of February 1999. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif held a summit in Lahore and signed the Lahore Declaration. The declaration set that their respective governments: “shall take immediate steps for reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and discuss concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures for confidence building in the nuclear and conventional fields, aimed at prevention of conflict”. The Lahore Spirit was supposed to work as a practical management to break through the deadlock of the half-century quarrel between both states (Lahore Declaration, accessed online)

But the widely perceived bus diplomacy did not work for long because in between April and June 1999, the tension created along the Line of Control in Kashmir; India and Pakistan engaged into a new full-scale war. During the severe martial clash along the 150-kilometer front in Kargil, India used its Air Force which was used after 1971 in Kashmir. On the other side, more terrifying than the Indian side, Pakistani military forces were deploying nuclear missiles near the border with India.

The US was observing this conflicting condition closely and was aware of the danger of explosion, especially because of Pakistan’s nuclear usage. Because of such conflict the US told Pakistan to respect the Line of Control and come back immediately. After immense pressure, followed the talk with President Clinton in Washington, on 4th of July Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to be back from the Line of Control. (Bruce Riedel 2002.) 

South Asia and India remained a low priority for President Clinton as it had been for most American administrations. And as always the US did not believe that it had any vital interests in the region. During post Cold- War period, US stranded tilting to India not to Pakistan. Remarkable shift to India first policy can be seen in Kashmir issue; behind such shift some reasons can be traced: 

Washington got report that Pakistani army crossed the Line of Control and they were deployed on the wrong side of the Line of Control; so the US urged Pakistan to withdraw first. Likewise, the reports showed that the Pakistani military was preparing to deploy nuclear missiles, so the US had to stress on Pakistan to avoid the dangerous consequences resulting from any resort to a nuclear option. (Ganguly, S. 2001.)

At this time, the US wanted the good relations with India and the US favour could be one of such good opportunities for the US to achieve this. Ultimately through the stand taken on Kashmir issues and Simla agreement, new American policy to India is observed. The Simla Agreement was signed after the 1971 India-Pakistan War by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Both parties agreed that: “in Jammu and Kashmir, the Line of Control resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side; neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations”; and “both sides further undertake to refrain from threat or the use of force in violation of this Line” (Schaffer. H. B. 2001.) 

Kashmir issue was resolved through direct dialogue between India and Pakistan and US interest was also fulfilled, but it turned expensive for Pakistani Premier’s political career. Sharif’s decision to withdraw aroused strong dissatisfaction in the Pakistani military and gave drive to a military coup. In the bloodless military coup General Perez Musharraf declared himself as the president. As an outcome of the coup in Pakistan the US forced sanctions on Pakistan, saying that recent developments breached US goals in the region.

Interestingly, besides the sanction, the overall US reaction following the coup was almost quiet. One the one side while calling for an early return of democracy, the US continued doing business with Musharraf led government. After those developments also, the US assured a policy of positive relationship because Pakistan was important and could not be ignored, but also because the US viewed General Musharraf as a person with moderate political view in spite of deposing the elected government. Though Pakistan was a problematic state, but it could not be disregarded because it was not in the interest of the US to see Pakistan collapse (Ganguly, Sumit, 2001.)

Event -3 ‘The Clinton Visit 2002’ ‘India is a great nation’’-Clinton.

US President Bill Clinton made a significant visit to the South Asian region in May 2000. During the visit, in an announcement published by both sides entitled Indo-US relations: A Vision for the 21st Century, “the Indo-US relationship was deemed to have entered a new stage with continuous, constructive in the political area and beneficial in the economic arena” (The New York Times 2000.)

The agreement made the ground for overall bilateral benefits such as security, financial, political and social activities. Furthermore, both the countries agreed to establishment bilateral dialogue throughout meetings in different levels to work on bilateral cooperation in different sectors. President Clinton while addressing to Indian parliament, explained news American policy towards South Asia. His first and foremost emphasis was on the non-proliferation issue. He time and again stressed to stop the product and trade of nuclear related materials. Likewise, Clinton also urged both the countries to sign CTBT. (Indian parliament 2000.) 

Stressing on regional stability, Clinton assured both India and Pakistan that the US was ready to help to return to the Lahore peace process. During his five-day stay in India, President Clinton repeatedly called India ‘a great nation’ and hailed its leadership in the region. (The Tribune India 2000) On the other hand, in his comments during his five-hour stay in Pakistan, the president not only urged Pakistan to show self-discipline on Kashmir issue but also suggested to engage in serious dialogue with India. (The Hindu 2000.)

Chapter IV

Nuclear Test 1998: Immediate Reactions; what others say?

This chapter collects some immediate reactions after the nuclear test by India. While collecting reactions the researcher has found that three types of reaction after the Pokhran test. First it was immediately refused by the US, UK and the United Nations as well and the announced the sanctions against India. The competitor’s countries such as Pakistan and China also condemned the test. Secondly, some countries thought it was the negligence of the western powers to non-western powers and one-sided non proliferation treaty. And third category was supporting India’s action, but telling all countries that-nuclearization of the world should be stopped. Some think- tanks also expressed their views on similar three lines categorised above.

“Those nations who have atom bombs are feared even by their friends”-Mahatma Gandhi, Singh (1998)

“All animals are equa, but some animal are more equal than others”- George Orwell in ‘Animal Farm’

India’s nuclear test was seen as the result of one sided ban treaty and discriminatory behave of the nuclear have countries to have -not countries. As Mahatma Gandhi, preacher of non violence, said, countries could not feel secure with ‘nuclear have’ countries though time and again they urged for the Test Ban Treaties to other countries. In short the gap between ‘WE’ and ‘Others’ resulted in confrontation in international order.

For example, John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago said “If it makes common sense to do away with nuclear weapons, why is it that the United States developed nuclear weapons in the first place? And secondly, why is it that the United States is unwilling to get rid of its nuclear weapons? The fact of the matter is we like nuclear weapons very much. The US has no intention of getting rid of nuclear. We should find this hardly surprising.”.

And as Orwell, the British novelist said in his famous novel Animal Farm- ‘some are more equal than others’- nuclear power and western especially American rhetoric became the same. If America can produce nuclear weapons why not other countries, that’s why the media and public perceptions found that- countries either American ally or competitor of Indian power their somehow common reaction was that- not only India but all nations should give up developing nuclearization world .

Similar to his reactions, Richard N. Haass, Director of Foreign Policy Studies said: “India has confronted us with a challenge, but not as yet a catastrophe. It is also important that we act to preserve the US-India relationship. It he United States ought not to cancel diplomatic contacts with India. ties with a country with a billion people, a large and growing market and a robust democracy. Isolating India will not serve US economic or strategic interests; nor would it weaken a government that has taken a step applauded by most Indians, who wonder why the world is prepared to live with China’s nuclear arsenal but not India’s. 

What, then, should the United States do? We should work to build international support for narrow sanctions that target the immediate problem — namely India’s nuclear and missile programs — but that do not go so far as to turn a friend into a foe. Cutting off all American and international economic support for India risks turning this enormous country into the newest Asian problem.

It should be taken with care that all proliferation is equally bad, whoever are taking part in this Indeed, discrimination is at the heart of the entire non-proliferation regime in that it treats five countries (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France) different from everyone else.. Double standards– and triple standards if need be – are what a realistic and successful foreign policy is all about.” 

Soon after India’s nuclear tests, Prime Minister Vajpayee emphasised that India “believes in a nuclear-free world, but it cannot be discriminated or one-sided.” The reason India did not sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Test Ban Treaty was because these treaties, as India urged, were discriminatory between the nuclear ‘have ’and ‘have-not,’ which created the situation of virtual nuclear apartheid. Though India faced severe criticism and sanction from the US administration and the UN, for American scholars and think tanks, it was not shocking and they took it easily that someday it was happening. It is because of US hegemony and dominant role in International order after Cold- War scenario.

After 1998 Nuclear Test people’s perception of India seems different from the previous one. These reactions also helped to generate new US policy to India. A survey of American public opinion conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations states: “India is seen in a new light in the 2002 survey. The percentage of respondents saying that the United States has a vital interest in India has increased by 29 percentage points to 65 per cent since 1998 – the largest increase for any country. The percentage of respondents who see it playing a greater role in the next ten years has jumped from 26 per cent in 1998 to 40 per cent in 2002, the largest increase for any country” (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, online.)

After the test the US imposed the sanctions to India, but it was not perceived in US itself. Since by that time India was a big market for the US and it was believed that sanctions and business could not go together. To support this idea we can notice the interview of Henry Kissinger, Former Secretary of State.

(CNN’s Money line talk show)

Dobbs: India, setting off two more tests after international condemnation of those tests. What is your analysis? 

Kissinger: The second problem is that India is a major country, population of 800 million, basically friendly to the United States, and while some measures are mandated by congress, some are necessary for the sake of our non-proliferation policy, we ought to look two, three years down the road and see what our long-term relationship should be.”

Dobbs: “That long-term relationship will be without question encumbered by the sanctions that the United States is imposing and other countries are joining in. Do you think those sanctions are in point of fact- irrespective of the fact that they are required by law, do you think they are fundamentally a mistake?”

Kissinger: “I think major sanctions are probably a mistake” (Indian Embassy, 2009.)

India also protested about the sanction. Like editorial in the National newspaper Times of India expressed ‘Sanctioning Hypocrisy’- “The divisions among the G-8 on the sanctions to be imposed on India following the nuclear tests at Pokhran were roughly on predictable lines. The more mature European nations, Britain, France and Russia have learned from their past experiences on sanctions and concluded that they do not work. The United States, the most strident advocate of nuclear weapons for itself and non-proliferation to others must come to terms with this reality and start discussing nuclear disarmament. That is the message of Pokhran”

It was obvious that countries such as China, Pakistan and Japan, which was considered the competitor in the region, they strongly opposed the Indian action. Three reaction expressed on newspapers in those respective countries;

China – China Daily May 16- “A nationwide survey revealed that most Chinese believe India’s recent nuclear tests are in defiance of international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They are concerned and extremely critical of India. More than 91 percent were shocked by India’s advertising its military power through the nuclear tests, and 80 percent worry about the consequences to China’s national security.”

Japan- Nihon Keizai May 19 -“We strongly urge Pakistan not to conduct nuclear tests. Self-restraint is the only way to win a respectable position in the international community…. At the Birmingham Summit, the G-8 member countries could not agree on retaliatory measures against India. The discord at the G-8 summit reportedly firmed up Pakistan’s determination to conduct nuclear tests. We cannot allow Pakistan to justify its nuclear experiments anymore than we can condone India’s nuclear tests…. The collapse of the CTBT or Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) system is not acceptable.”

In India, itself it was perceived in the positive ways like few samples from Indian newspapers.

India- Editorial in the Indian Express May 22- “The nation has savoured its nuclear triumph long enough. If the first step toward doing this is to moderate the chest-thumping and come down to earth, the next one is to exploit this demonstration of India’s nuclear capability to create stability in the region, rather than instability and self-confident nation”

In some countries, it was taken as western and non-western conflicts like a newspaper in Spain said-

Spain – ABC News May 20 – “Why should China be a member of the nuclear club and India not… Why does the United States court China, but treat India like a second-class nation…despite its 51-year history of democratic government affirmed over the course of 12 general elections?…

Philippines- Philippine Star May 22- “The Americans, Brits, and Russians and the Chinese are threatening trade and economic sanctions against India…. Don’t expect the Indians to bac down, however–they’re anxious to assert themselves as an equal of the big powers. ‘Why should the nuclear club be exclusively the property of the West and their Chinese neighbours?’ they are now shouting. The Indians want a seat in the UN Security Council for starters.”

UK Daily Mail, editorial “Of course, nobody in his right senses wants to see an arms race in Asia. But why should India listen to the Americans when there is so little progress in disarmament between the West and Russia? There would be more hope of a sane outcome if Washington, Moscow and Beijing led by example.”

Likewise Rosenthal writes in New York Times- “Americans should understand that it was the West, particularly the US that built the policy road leading to the Indian underground explosions. It shows attitudes about India are the same Western mush of arrogance, ignorance and condescension that they have been for the half century since Indian independence.

Think of yourself as Indian for a few paragraphs – not a Gandhi Indian, few of those left, but just Indian, one of the millions who delightedly approve of the nuclear tests that put such a startled face on Washington. China sells nuclear technology and missile know-how to Pakistan. The US does not penalize China.

We like that as Americans would like Mexico getting military parity with the US plus nuclear stuff from Russia. Indian intelligence takes fewer daily naps than American, but are we sure China can never surprise us again and that if it were losing it would never ever use nukes? Our Socialist Defence Minister says China is our most dangerous opponent. 

But listen to Mr. Clinton talk of his priority – American democracy and Chinese dictatorship knitting together in trade and security strategy. What strategy? Was India consulted, even thought about? Washington’s policy was a little pat on the head or a scolding finger – and still is. …..objectives for the tests- gaining prestige among third-world powers, to shout into the American ear: ‘Look at us, speak to us, we are India’

From the above observation we can reach a conclusion that though UN, US and other countries warned India for its nuclear test and they imposed the sanctions but the think -tank and media worldwide appear in favour of Indian actions. If they don’t accept the Indian idea of test as an adequate action, at least what we can say is- they wanted non-discriminatory behave of the countries.

We can further argue that – nobody is happy that India became the nuclear state, it ultimately creates confrontation, but what the countries wanted was nuclear free world. We can trace the essence of above collected editorial and write up as- It’s better to start from the US or other nuclear have countries rather than teaching and giving the list for the countries saying do this and don’t do this. If there is law, it should be for everybody including rich to poor countries, eastern to western part of the world.

Because of the reaction of think-tanks and the media reaction, the US could not stand long for its sanction. It was hard for the US to keep on stand because India is a big market for the US. Furthermore, Indian economic development and democratic practise, India was not the country of Cold war period to be ignored easily, for the US it had no option to engage in dialogue and settle the crisis peacefully. That’s why President Bill Clinton handled the crisis tactfully; lifted the sanction, he not only visited India but repeated many times ‘India is a great nation.’ And after long high level dialogue, finally US signed nuclear deal with India and the overall relations went smoothly.


Chapter V

‘Shakti 1998; Transformation of the relations’

On the base of post cold war US-India relations with the help of three major incidents of the period –this part of the write- up tries to draw a conclusion of the relation during post Cold -War period. It also tries to summarize the relation.

From the close observations of bilateral relations in previous chapters, an effort has been made in this chapter to collect the arguments in favour of a transformation in Indo-US relations. The conclusion has been drawn after the study of relations since 1950s, close observation of major events of the time and US reaction with comparison with the post-Cold War period. Many reasons such as democratic practice, boom of economy and tremendous developments on IT sector have been found behinds the transformation of the relations during post Cold-War.

Above all, from close observations in previous chapters, we can strongly argue that the Indian decision to go nuclear in 1998 played a catalytic role in transformation of the relations. It was Shakti 1998, (Indian name for the nuclear test) which changed the entire scenario and enlarged for a changed US policy towards India. Also, the May 1998 nuclear tests helped Indian rise tightly in relation to its security concerns and threats and to claim space in international order.


India’s decision to test nuclear explosion and be a nuclear state in May 1998 and the succeeding Indo-US reestablishment results a turning point in the history of the relations of US-India. 

The end of the Cold War began a new era in Indo-US relations. The Soviet Union collapsed and the US was free from the Cold War politics and its hangover. The result was that India was in the first place of its choice for exploring for vital interest. On the other hand, Pakistan which has been the ally during Cold War period got low priority for the Washington administration during post Cold -War period. Likewise, after the event of 9/11 and following the Visit of then Indian Premier’s US visit in 1994, the relation turned another way.

There are many factors behind the improvements of the pattern of Indo-US engagements such as Indian huge economic reforms and liberalism programme, the rising populations and massive market latent. There is no doubt that these factors played vital role to make a ground for the rapprochement, but the most significant characteristic in this circumstance was the apparent achievement of nuclear weapons capability in 1998 (PR Chari 1999.)

Though overall bilateral ties between the two countries were improving gradually by the end of the Cold -War, but there was not noteworthy change in it compared to the issues of nuclear non-proliferation.

Whereas the opening up of India’s economy in the early 1990s was the first step to enter India in international competition, which was viewed positively by the Americans. India was a good marketplace for the US, but US announcements for ‘enhanced bilateral engagement’ and ‘sustained interaction’ could not go together with its established deviation in relation to issues of disarmament and non-proliferation.

While there was a preference in the Clinton Administration to look for ‘a new opening’ to India, its projection got strictly delayed by the legacy the two countries approved on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. So the sanction imposed by the US immediately after the nuclear test was not perceived positively in the US because sanction and trade could not go side by side. Finally, the US had to lift the sanctions.

The National Security Adviser of Indian Government, Brajesh Mishra, said: “the 1998 nuclear tests had brought India to the centre stage of world politics with major countries being forced to acknowledge its presence” (The Hindu 2003.)

A careful analysis of post-1998 Indo-US relations suggest that it was Shakti 98, which created a national shaking process in the US about its previous South Asian policy and its long- term ignore of India. After the changing situations in Subcontinent politicians, strategic thinkers and think tanks experienced that it was the time for the US for a new policy to South Asia and India especially after the Shakti 98. (Mishra B.2004.)

Therefore, the US position, which had remained unmoved so far on many different issues, such as nuclear non-proliferation, technology transfer, and India –Pakistan relations emerged to be entirely changing in the post-Pokhran II period. After this, the security concerns, capabilities and efforts of India were acknowledged in public nationally and internationally. Likewise another example of the US importance toward India after this test is the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks during the Vajpayee-Clinton Administration. In addition, the Sibal-Juster talks during the Vajpayee-Bush governments were another part of a deal with the Indo-US deviation over non-proliferation and technology. This time negotiations became the foundation on which was based the strength of transformed Indo-US relations (Hagery TD 2006.)

Other remarkable progress in this regard were – announcement of the ‘Next Steps in Strategic Partnership’ (NSSP) by President George W. Bush on 12th of January, 2004, and the Bangalore Space Conference in June 2004 – strengthen the argument that the decades old ‘estrangement’ appears to have given way to a new partnership. The base for all these partnership was the Shakti 98, otherwise it was not possible to India to be recognized by the US. (President Bush’s Statement, White House Press Briefings, January 12, 2004, Online accessed.)

The conference was attended by top US space industry such as Boeing, Panamsat, Intelsat, Raytheon, Honeywell, Loral and Space Imaging. The vast representatives show the US interest in bilateral collaboration in space industry which was perceived as a major achievement in Indian side as well. The completion of first part of the NSSP and the foundation of 2nd part were the significant signpost in Indo-US strategic cooperation.

We can strongly argue that had India not achieved nuclear power itself, the Indo- US engagement predominantly in the field of technology would not have flourished in this way. Respectively, if India had not stated itself a de facto nuclear state it would not hold President Bush’s Nuclear Missile Defence Plan in June 2001 when at that time most American supporter were critical about the proposal. It can be argued that the May 1998 nuclear explosions acted as a catalyst in transforming Indo-US relations, conducting in a new era of relations. Furthermore, the 9/11 attacks toughened this positive shift in the relationship.

As described in chapter two, starting from the pre-independence period until the end of the Cold -War, the two countries seemed to fall short of fulfilling one another’s expectations and objectives. India wanted strong US support to accelerate its struggle for independence whereas US paid more attention to World War II priorities and to Prime Ministers Churchill’s sensitivities towards Indian Independence rather than supporting India’s democratic struggle (Kux, D.1993.)

The Indian Independence movement located US officials in a predicament that challenged American idealism, political activism and diplomatic skill. However, pragmatism succeeded and US policy tilted towards its valued ally, Britain, rather than towards supporting Indian independence. Another factor that would have influenced Indo-US relations then could be their basic national character: India’s intrinsically impractical approach as a promising nation-state collided with American pragmatic approach as they followed their individual foreign policy goals (Banerjee D 2000.) In addition, there were other differences in term of history and culture as well as the internal and the external status in which diplomatic and military questions were addressed by both democracies.

As described above, the relationship went through many ups and down which could be pointed below as main points;

  • 1950- US began relief agenda 
  • 1954- Pakistan’s enclosure in the coalition system
  • 1961- The endeavour to stop Indian use of force in Goa
  • 1962- India and China engaged in a border war, US supported India
  • 1971- The posting of the carrier, USS Enterprise, into the Bay of Bengal in 1971
  • 1974- US reaction to India’s Peaceful Nuclear Explosion PNE and technology sanctions
  • Differences experienced during Korean War
  • Japanese Peace Treaty-India’s failed to sign it.
  • Resentment over the increase of rupee currencies by the US

The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Berlin Wall gave way India and the US from the limiting boundaries of their previous favourites. A positive change in the relationship between the two countries was witnessed in the post Cold- War era. Both the countries were prepared to start a strategic dialogue and work for a changed and improved partnership. Yet, two main issues; global disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation were disputes between them.

Indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 and the CTBT debate in 1996 in Geneva repeated the two country’s past differences on their positions on the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and the test ban. The discriminatory issues in the NPT 1995 attached with the provisions such as ‘entry into force’ of the CTBT gave sufficient reasons for India to believe that such steps were taken by the nuclear have states to stop India from joining nuclear club. Therefore, from Indian point of view, it was unacceptable for them that its national security to remain vulnerable through its exclusion from the nuclear club, whereas it’s existing members and their allies would enjoy the unrestricted defence of nuclear weapons. As a result, it chose to exercise its nuclear preference to address its security concerns and threats (T.V. Paul, 1998.) 

Post-Pokhran Period

The nuclear tests conducted by India in May 1998 made the world astonished, mostly the United States. The Indian explosion was at the very time when non-proliferation was on top of American foreign policy. The US suspected that Indian nuclear test might threaten its policy plan to create an international non-proliferation regime.

American official statements either at home or in any multilateral debate were full of remarks to suggest evidently to the countries (India and Pakistan) and others as well that this kind of action would never be tolerated. Washington’s intent of taking severe action against India was evidently noticeable in President Clinton’s statement issued on 12th May 1998. It read:

“I want to make it very, very clear that I am deeply disturbed by the nuclear tests which India has conducted, and I do not believe it contributes to building a safer 21st century. The United States strongly opposes any new nuclear testing. This action not only threatens the stability of the region, it openly challenges the firm international consensus to stop the proliferation movement. I call on India to announce that it will conduct no further tests and that it will sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now and without conditions. I also urge India’s neighbours not to follow suit – not to follow down the path of a dangerous arms race. As most of you know, our laws have very stringent provisions, signed into law by me in 1994, in response to nuclear tests by non-nuclear weapons states. And I intend to implement them fully” (President Bush’s Statement, White House Press Briefings, Online assessed.)

The president’s such reaction turned into action when economic sanctions were imposed upon India and Pakistan based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, 1994. Though India challenged the sanction, the Washington administration, upon Indian request, was ready to hold a dialogue and work out for a bilateral relationship.

As a result both party agreed to engage in dialogue led by Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbot in June, 1998. Practise like this as quick action like this was exceptional in the history of two country’s relations. In addition, another unique action was the necessity felt by policy-makers in the US because of the fact that India was now a de facto nuclear nation, to rethink and restructure US policy towards India.

At this phase of time, a subtle stage had been experienced in Indo-US relations and it required sensible management by both parties. The high level dialogue team led by Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbot was engaged for twelve rounds of intensive talks and managed to guide their governments toward a constructive way. After these talks, a significant change in US attitude regarding non-proliferation concern was observed. It also helped both countries to take time to create a friendly atmosphere and warm up the relations. After the nuclear test of May 1998, the major accomplishment for India was the US favour to India during Kargil crisis in 1999. The US favoured to India in Kargil issue and made way for the new and improved relations between New Delhi and Washington (Teresita C. Schaffer 2001.) 

One of those constructive indications in improved and changed relations between the US and India was the US declaration of President Clinton’s visit to India scheduled for March, 2000. The Clinton visit reproduced the joint longing of both countries to move towards a ‘forward looking’ and ‘politically constructive’ cooperation. During the visit many bilateral agreements were signed. Such agreements could be seen as the proofs of encouraging form of the relation. It was again supposed that the visit placed the strong ground for transforming Indo-US relations, which got an enhanced space during the first Bush Administration (Ram Narayanan 2009.)

President Bush also continued the Clinton Policy in South Asia and India with enhanced nuclear policy. The Bush Administration’s stand was on differing the CTBT, the FMCT. And the actions it followed to defend itself from WMD pressure by retreating from the 1972 ABM Treaty for developing an effective NMD system shaped a favourable impression in which India did not feel forced to fulfil the US non-proliferation objectives pronounced by the preceding administration. Looking at the Indo-US partnership from an international outlook, both the countries agreed to make preparations to change the ‘natural alignment’ into a ‘constant, significant and bilateral tie’ ‘which they believed was best to fulfil their national interest and international arrangement. (Michael R. Chambers, 2002.)

Post-9/11 scenarios

9/11 terrorist attack is believed to change the world political scenario. As Indo-US bilateral relations were on the way of transformations after the nuclear test in 1998, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon again changed the circumstances in South Asia especially American policy to India and Pakistan.

The US administration had now more responsibilities to tackle with its new priority on terrorism with previous concerns such as the democracy and the global economy. With this new role already on hand, the combined goal created a critical situation for American policy-makers in terms of outstanding a balance between its new-found strategic colleague India and the crucial Pakistan in the anti terror global movement.

Amidst such condition yet, the US carefully and sensibly handled the South Asia policy that it saved not to ruin the newly formed and transformed relation with India. It dealt with India and Pakistan separately, but managed to maintain the relation.

As a result these developments happened:

  • Elimination of sanctions on both India and Pakistan
  • Continuity of security cooperation with India
  • Recognizing India’s a future global power in the NSS 2002 document

American role and the procedure in the war against terrorism was not perceived in India and it was criticised. However, India did not let this issue to damage the bilateral relationship between two countries. When we look the history of relationship between two countries, the relations have never been free from aggravation at any point of time. All the time it is facing through many ups and downs.

While talking about war against terrorism, it is also remarkable that Washington was not happy about the India reaction especially refusal to send military to Iraq. Likewise some incidents such as- choosing Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA), its ‘body search’ of the then Indian Defence Minister at the US airport, US$ 1.2 billion arms deal with Pakistan– have led to some anger in India as well. Still, the incidents show that both countries are determined not to allow these annoyances to block their long-term strategic and bilateral cooperation.

Such kinds of changes can be seen as positive mark and an indicator of a mature depiction of bilateral diplomacy which was lacking in earlier years and relations was not friendly (Manjeet Kripalani, 2006.)

Chapter 6


Key figures of the U.S.-India defence trade relationship 🙁 data from The Heritage Foundation data is until 2008)

  • The recent sale of six C130-J Hercules military transport aircraft worth $1 billion is the largest U.S. military sale to India by the US
  • In 2006 the U.S. Congress endorsed the transfer of the USS Trenton amphibious ship harbour to India.
  • U.S. firms are also competing with Russian and European firms to fulfil an Indian request for 126 multi-role combat aircraft worth close to $10 billion.
  • U.S. companies are bidding to supply 197 light observation helicopters and 22 combat helicop­ters to the Indian Air Force and the Army Avia­tion Corps at a cost of about $1.5 billion.

In 2005, both the countries signed a 10 year defence framework agreement. The agreement includes; ex­panded joint military exercises, increased defence-related trade, and the establishment of a defence and procurement production group. The US and India have conducted more than 50 military exer­cises since 2002, which clearly shows about their rapid growth in military relations as well. . (Chris Buckley, 2008)

Some points summarizing Indo-US relations during post Cold-War

  • &Both the countries have come out of the ‘neither enemies nor friends’ status and freed themselves from the limiting boundaries of Cold -War beliefs.
  • The central dilemma of US policy in South Asia since 1947 has been to deal with the competing claims of the two states, India and Pakistan. In a sense, the constant dilemma of Americas South Asia Policy is a result of the regional contest between these two states. This was increased when these both states became nuclear nations.
  • India’s relations with the Unites States have been described variously as ‘estranged democracies’ and distance powers by Americans. Indian have tended to describe it as ‘distanced democracies’, ‘engaged democracies’ and finally as ‘natural allies’

Another common refrain often articulated from India, describes the United States as the oldest and most powerful democracy and itself as the largest.

  • Many factors have been engaged to develop and change the relation in this way. Such factors pointed as – India throughout diplomatic agenda and policies has successes able to tell the American administration that a nation of its huge size, people, democratic practice, booming trade and economy, market latent, human resource, and its geo-political significance could be of considerable consequence to the US. The political and economic development developed in such a way that India was not the country of Cold war era to be ignored.
  • During Post Cold War period India was able to deliver the message to the US that India has more to offer to the US and the world.
  • Above all, the main reason of the transformation of the relations was nuclear test 1998 which helped to transform the relation. Since India became de facto nuclear state, the US was serious while handling the relation with this state and US went on engaging nuclear and the bilateral deals such as trade, space and information technology. After the test, India showed its presence in international order being member of nuclear club with huge market economy. As a result for the US it was beneficial and essential to be engaged with India because it was concerned not only with nuclear capabilities it had interest in huge Indian markets as well. Moreover, to counter the rising Communist China in international order and in Asia itself, the US wants India to be its ally.
  • Priority shift in the US foreign policy objectives towards India during post Cold -War and after
    9/11- can be seen with these main concerns;
  • Nuclear non-proliferation in regional and international level.
  • Balance disputes/confrontation between Pakistan and India
  • Trade and commerce,
  • Huge Indian market
  • Counter rising China through helping India
  • Terrorism,
  • Energy security,
  • Supporting democracy.
  • Huge Indian development in IT sector

The content of the post Cold-War Indo-US relations are indications of a productive and vigorous bilateral relationship. It is potentially focused to partnership-building based on increasingly overlapping national interests. The priority shift from non-proliferation which has shaped US policy towards India changed into overall sectors. These sectors were trade and commerce, terrorism, energy security, regional security and stability, and promoting democracy which has helped bridge the gap between the world’s largest and oldest democracies.

India’s open market, confident diplomatic activities and a de facto nuclear status attached with its economic and political potential such as possibility of a permanent seat on the Security Council in the United Nations is a hint of India’s emergence as an international power. 

Amidst such developments US analysts started accepting India as a rising player in world politics. One of such example is statement by Henry Kissinger, “India can make a major contribution to Asia and the world if it is co-opted into the non-proliferation regime instead of being treated with hostility as an outsider.”

The basic line of US policy in South Asia is appearing in place as the war against terrorism remains the top priority in the American foreign policy agenda during this time. So the Bush Administration’s second term also made strong relationship with India because US thinks continuing a good relation is a good counterweight to China to protect its strategic interests in Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

However, rather than being an ally with one and against another, India prefers to improve its relations with the US and China. The United States continued its South Asia policy at the same time supporting economic, political and military ties with India. Converging the interests of both nations’ by the time the relation is becoming deeper, stronger and healthier. 

Considering the new issues involved in the recently transformed relations and the existing impression of cautiousness, neither country would be willing to jeopardise their relationship. Still, commitment and understanding towards each other’s national security interests will go a long way to give a definitive shape to this relationship.


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