At a recent event held in New Delhi, minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal stated he was eyeing an ambitious bilateral, trade target of trillion dollars between India and the United States by 2030. Currently, that number is $150 billion.
The relationship between the US and India are usually wrapped in high-sounding rhetoric, but they are essentially very pragmatic. For the US, India is an important resource base and a valuable geopolitical partner in geopolitical and economic terms. The fundamentals of the relationship are solid and not likely to change in the short or medium term. But the main expectation this time from Indians will be the support against China.
India needs the US because of the security issue and the principal reason for the relationship between the two countries has been China. India wanted it to be as close to the US because they need them against the Chinese threat.
However, no compromise is ever popular with all the sides involved. Critics in India will worry about the dominance of the US, and those in America will argue that American support would put India in a more advantageous position and it destroy the fragile balance.
Yet at the end of the day, India will secure an important resource for a very long term. Nevertheless, the US will gain a foothold in a growing market and strengthen its bargaining position. The real issue for the US is to create a counterbalance against the growing power of China in the region.
The collective projects are a means to spur regional development in South Asia and along with the whole of Asia. For India, this is the principal geopolitical challenge of the 21st century. Partnering with the US stays vital. In an effort to secure their own zone of influence Americans are now increasing cooperation with Japan, South Korea as well as across the South Pacific in order to decrease the role of China.
India recently became one of the biggest trading partners of the US and is likely to hold that distinction this year. Yet economic relations are just a partial part of the story. The US and India cooperate at the global level, where they begin to share similar notions about state sovereignty and territorial integrity and have a joint interest in winning more influence in the Chinese zone of influence.
At the regional level, cooperation is particularly beneficial for both sides in South Asia. India is a de facto regional leader in South Asia. India has proven itself useful for the US in a number of ways: confronting China to pursue its interests in the region without needing direct military assistance from the US and decreasing the opportunities for China in the region. India also manoeuvres between the US and Russia and serves as a platform for top-level multilateral diplomacy in South Asia.
The US -India relationship has become effective and there are annual meetings at the leadership level. All the important ministers in the two states and other senior officials have met during the summits. The bureaucratic infrastructure is thus in place.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are millions of Indian businessman who visits the US every year. American studies are becoming a hit in India. The civilizational divide between the two countries has stopped being a barrier.
This is not to say that there are no suspicions or tensions. But they have been few and far between. It has to be mentioned that the Indian leadership handled post-Trump transformation wisely. The Biden Administration, on its part, managed India’s steep rise without losing its head. This is a sound foundation for developing bilateral relationships even further.
To move forward, there needs to be more dialogue among both countries’ intellectuals. As opinion leaders, these people have the task of projecting the relationship from a broader perspective, beyond the pragmatic deals and the officials’ festive rhetoric. In return, Americans need this alliance because of their biggest issues with China and it is the main reason for their friendship with India.
Finally, Indians want to hear about the long- and medium-term national strategies with the US and of India’s place within that strategy. They want to satisfy themselves that the US is committed, now and in the future, to good relations with India. This means that the US and India will interact much more and hopefully be more optimistic in the future than they did in the past.