Dr Ashok Sharma – Biden and Modi elevate 
the US-India  Comprehensive Global and Strategic
Partnership to the “Next Generation Partnership”

Sharma LE Mag Vol One Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Magazine, Volume One Nov-Dec 2023.

Biden and Modi elevate the US – India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership
to the “Next Generation Partnership” –  by Dr. Ashok Sharma.

pic courtesy PTI
Photograph courtesy PTI.

The India-US  relationship continues to grow stronger.  This is reflected in back to back two summit meetings, one during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to the US in June 2023 under the Biden Presidency and another at G20 Summit in Delhi. President Biden and Prime Minister Modi struck agreements in Washington to deepen the US-India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership.  In the course of the summit meeting, Biden and Modi made a number of commitments that covered a wide range of topics, including defence and security, cooperation in space and emerging technologies with a path toward the transfer of technology for jet engines, drones, and critical technology, health, energy, and mobility. While at the sidelines of the G20 Summit, Biden and Modi assessed the progress in the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. 

Biden and Modi dubbed the strengthening connections between the US and India as the “Next Generation Partnership”.  India has become crucial in the US attempts to address pressing global issues including climate change, artificial intelligence, reconstructing the global supply chain, and preserving a free, secure, and open Indo-Pacific in the midst of the rising strategic tensions between the US and China. 

Meetings at the summit level: advancing the strategic partnership between the US and India:

Prior to the June 2023 trip to the US, Prime Minister Modi made multiple trips to the US and held summit talks which have been significant in terms of crucial global issues, and fostering trade and investment, and defence and security ties between India and the US.  However, the steps that were taken during PM Modi’s visit to the US in and his meeting with counterpart  was termed as ushering in a new era in the US-India bilateral relationship.

The India-US relations has come a long way. The US-India relationship has changed over time, transitioning from a cautious relationship during the Cold War to a strategic partnership. During the Cold War era, relations between the two countries were not particularly cordial. However, the altered post-Cold War situation gave both countries the flexibility to mend their relations. Following India’s nuclear test in 1998 and the immediate aftermath, ties between the two countries improved. Since that time, there has been no stopping in the relationship between India and the US , which has only continued to expand, deepen, and strengthen in every field.

The signing of the US-India civilian nuclear accord marked one of the key turning points in ties which removed India’s nearly three-decade-long nuclear pariah status.  This ended the system of technological exclusion for India and paved the door for collaboration in the civilian nuclear energy sector as well as the transfer of high-tech and sensitive defence technologies to India. 

Significant actions were taken throughout the George W. Bush administration and Atal Bihari Vajapayee government, and India and the US were positioned as “natural allies”. Amidst the unfolding geopolitics with the rise of China and the post-911 security threat environment, both leaders established the course for the US-India relationship, which successive US presidents and Indian prime ministers stood to take to the strategic partnership that has been steadily expanding and hailed as the pivotal partnership of the twenty-first century. Beginning with Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajapayee, Manmohan Singh, and Narendra Modi, the connection has a bipartition node in both nations. These leaders have worked sincerely to build this partnership.   In the US, starting with President Bill Clinton’s last two years in office, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden have all made sure that the US keeps up a steady and thorough engagement with India. 

The shared commitment to democratic values, principles, a democratic way of life, and safeguarding democratic norms and institutions has served as the foundation for both nations’ ties over the years. Modi and Biden reiterated their dedication to democracy by citing the fact that the founding documents of their respective nations begin with the words “We the people” as well as the strong strategic partnership between India and the US as solid examples of the effectiveness of democracy. 

In the direction of joint efforts in space, technology, and defence:

The growing and robust India-US bonhomie  has considerable impact on  geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific,  and not surprisingly keenly monitored by China. This has been  one of the major highlights of the recent summit meetings. During PM Modi’s US  visit, the remarkable steps  were taken  towards strengthening of the US-India ties.  The US-India cooperation in the fields of space, defence, and emerging technology has put the Chinese government keeping a close eye on this major visit by PM Modi.  It’s significant because renewable energy and space have become contested geopolitics space, where China has enormous stakes. 

India is also starting to emerge as a major take part, but China has dominated the renewable energy industry and made major strides in space technology recently. Through its projects like “Made in China 2025” strategic plan and “China Standards 2035” strategy, China has made rapid advancements in the fields of information and technology, renewable energy, and space exploration. Beijing intends to control critical and emerging technology through these regulations.

Biden and Modi reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region with respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as international law.  These measures by China, coupled with its apparent assertive and belligerent military posture during the Covid-19 outbreak, have only sped up efforts by the US and India to band together and develop closer defence and technological relations. Both nations have been working to improve their high-end technology collaboration.  Additionally, both countries are addressing issues brought on by the digital revolution, such as data privacy, cybercrime, national security, and terrorism, through diplomatic channels.

Prior to PM Modi’s visit to the US, Biden and Modi launched the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies in Japan.  In addition to projects in data science, artificial intelligence, agriculture, and the environment, the United States and India also committed to work together on a number of other research initiatives.  The agreements reached at the Modi-Biden summit are seen as the next phase of the US-India initiative on critical and emerging technologies (iCET), which was signed in May 2022 and aimed to expand and improve bilateral strategic technology collaborations and defence-industry cooperation.  In order to accomplish the objectives of iCET, which is led by the National Security Councils of India and the US, a number of research institutions are engaged in technological research and development.

 Both leaders set the foundation for American General Electric to collaborate with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics to develop jet engines for Indian aircraft there as well as the sale of armed MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones made in the United States. A $2.75 billion semiconductor assembly and testing facility will be built in India by the American company Micron  Technology, with India funding the remaining $1.25 billion. 

Countering  China’s assertiveness Indo-Pacific:   

The world has seen a significant movement in international trade and investment trends toward the Indo-Pacific during the past two decades.  The US-India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership  is deeply ingrained in the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific, mostly caused by China’s ascent and desire to rule the region. 

In the Indo-Pacific, China continues to be assertive.  India objected to China’s new map standard, which claims Indian territory along their shared border, in August 2023 by communicating with Beijing diplomatically. India’s Arunachal Pradesh , the Doklam Plateau, and Aksai Chin are all included on the Chinese map that was made available online by the Ministry of Natural Resources of China. Aksai Chin is also shown in the western region of the map that China controls.  The chart was made public just days after Modi and Jinping pledged to cooperate to de-escalate tensions along their disputed border during a meeting sidelines of a BRICS summit. 

The US administration was eager to make the most on Modi’s state visit in June, which included statements to the environment, healthcare, and space exploration as well as some important private sector projects. In September, on the sidelines  of the G20 Summit, Modi and  Biden met for the second time in a span of three months. By hosting the discussion at his home, Modi demonstrated the goodwill and mutual respect the two leaders have developed to share.  China’s military and economic machinations in the Indo-Pacific have gradually brought the two leaders together to work on common security challenge. .

The focus on artificial intelligence, critical technologies, and the trade and transfer of cutting-edge technology only serves to highlight how the mutual trust and confidence between the two nations have taken their long-standing partnership to a new level.  Increased cooperation in the areas of space, artificial intelligence, defence, and technology transfer will be the cornerstone  of the US-India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership, where the two biggest democracies in the world will work together for the good of humanity. Today, warm sentiments have replaced a sense of distrust and uncertainty that previously defined relations between India and the US.  There is no look back and stopping to this defining partnership of 21st century.

© Dr. Ashok Sharma

Dr. Ashok Sharma is a Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy;  an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of the Faculty of Business, Government and  Law at the University of Canberra; and an Academic Fellow of the Australia-India Institute at the University of Melbourne. An alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, Dr. Sharma has held Faculty/Fellow/Honorary positions at the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Auckland, the University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington, and the University of Delhi.

Dr. Sharma was also the Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, Auckland Branch (February 2012- June 2022), the Head of the “South Asia Strategic, State Fragile and Security Program, and Conjoint Head of “Indo-Pacific Strategic Issues and Major Powers Studies” at the National Asian Security Studies Centre, the University of Canberra. Dr Sharma, specialises in International Relations, Global Security and Indo-Pacific strategic issues with a focus on the US–India–China great power politics,  and is one of the leading experts on India’s global positioning, notably on India’s growing strategic ties with the US and Australia, and the Quad in the emerging strategic geometry in the Indo-Pacific.Extensively published, Ashok is the author of “India’s Pursuit of Energy Security: Domestic Measures, Foreign Policy and Geopolitics” and “Indian Lobbying and its Influence in US Decision Making: Post-Cold War”.

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