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Modi-Trump Meeting: America-Hindi Bhai Bhai?

Modi-Trump Meeting: America-Hindi Bhai Bhai?
The famous Cold War-era saying, "Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai", or “Russians and Indians are brothers”, might be eclipsed by an American version following Indian Prime Minister Modi's upcoming trip to the US.

The two sides have been rapidly moving closer to one another on all fronts over the past couple of years, with last summer’s signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement (LEMOA) representing an unprecedented milestone in their military-strategic partnership.

The US and India are brought together by several considerations, including shared interests regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, economic complementarities in the labor and commercial sectors, and serious concerns about China. These three prevailing factors have taken diplomatic, investment, and military dimensions, adding a robust versatility to the US-Indian Strategic Partnership and giving it an enhanced significance as regards 21st century geopolitics in the interconnected Indo-Pacific region.

That being said, both countries are still pursing some independent policies which are at variance with their counterpart’s interests. The US, for instance, still retains a privileged strategic partnership with Pakistan, at least in the nominal sense, and China is by far its largest trading partner. Moreover, the Trump Administration has recently moved to make it more difficult for high-skilled Indian tech workers to get H-1B visas to the US, and it’s also derisively implied that India agreed to the Paris climate change accords only because of financial incentives.

As for New Delhi, it too counts Beijing as its largest trading partner, so there are obvious limitations to how far it can move against China’s interests. In addition, India has a very positive relationship with Iran in spite of the occasional disagreement, and it plans to build the North-South Transport Corridor through the Islamic Republic in order to deepen its economic relations with Russia as well. Speaking of Moscow, India has a legacy of friendship with Russia which is seen most visibly through the military sphere, though the overall state of their relations has been undergoing a readjustment of sorts over the past year.

To return to the US-Indian Strategic Partnership, it shows promise for both sides due to unmistakable economic-military convergences. The US has a positive attitude towards the joint Indian-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, also known as the “Freedom Corridor”, which all sides hope will compete with China’s New Silk Roads. Furthermore, India’s unique designation as the US’ “Major Defense Partner” pairs well with LEMOA in crafting the synergy that both sides need to counter China.

To discuss this in more detail, we invited Scott Rickard, Former American Intelligence Linguist & Geopolitical Analyst and Chandra Rekha, Associate Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies in India.

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