Relations Between The US And India

India and Pakistan have been in the interest of the United States due to their strategic positions and roles the South Asia. This memo will describe an overview about US relations and policies toward India and Pakistan. It will also provide recommendations that Vietnam must support US policies toward India because of the benefits for our country regarding to economic development, nuclear energy plan and defense and security stability.

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This memo uses realism and systemic approach as the analytical framework. It studies and analyzes the relationships and policies in the concern with power and security in the whole international system.

Relations between the US and India

After Indian independence in 1947, the relationship between India and the US was not warm. US policies regarding to India -Pakistan dispute over Kashmir was one issue that deteriorated India – US relations since the US was supporting Pakistan over India. Even during Sino – Indian war in 1962, when the US provided India with military support, the relationship did not improve much.

During Cold War, the US was concerned about the neutrality of India because India signed the Indo – Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation in 1971. [1] During this period, the US viewed India as just a regional power with little global weight and concentrated more on supporting Pakistan, which was invaded by the Soviet from 1979. [2]

After Cold War, the US lessened assistance to Pakistan, leading to a better relationship with India. Furthermore, since 1991, India has transformed the economy and opened the country to foreign investment. With rapid growth, India has become an emerging economic power in the world and had opportunities for economic engagement with the US. [3] The relationship between the countries has been positively shifted, especially in economic development, security, military and nuclear cooperation. However, it has been constraint mainly because of the complication of the trilateral relationship: the US – India – Pakistan.

Current Policies of the US toward India
Economic Policies:

The US strongly supports India’s economic reform, and develops trade and investment partnership with India. Bilateral goods trade revenue between the two countries increased 932.14%, from $5.6 billion in 1990 to %57.8 billion in 2011. [4] US foreign direct investment to India was $27.1 billion in 2010, a 29.5% increase from 2009. [5]

However, India has extensive trade and investment barriers, such as heavy government involvement in the banking and finance sector and demanding regulatory structures. Therefore, the US has encouraged and supported India to remove those barriers. [6]

Security and Military Policies:

The US and India share a variety of common strategic priorities. Both are concerned about the rise of China’s power and do not want China to dominate Asia. They also consider the security of energy lanes in the Indian Ocean as a critical factor to their national security. [7] With those strategic policies, the US has had India’s in its side in a number of situations. India supported the US in three resolutions against Iran’s nuclear programs and in the reconstruction in Afghanistan. Indian military forces have also had tight contacts, joint patrols, joint training and exercises with the US. [8]

The US has been selling defense equipment to India. By 2011, US arms sales to India reached approximately $8.83 billion. [9] However, US arms sales decisions to India still depend on the stability of the region, especially the balance between India and Afghanistan’s military. The US is also concerned about the engagement between India and Russia and Israel, the two major suppliers India’s army. [10]

Another remarkable point in US policies toward India is that US President Barack Obama publically announced that the US will supports India to be one permanent member of United Nation (US) Security Council if it is expanded. [11] Although it does not mean that the Council will be reconstructed and India will be able to have a permanent seat soon, Obama’s announcement has been an effective diplomatic gesture to show the importance of the US to India and to strengthen their relationship. [12]

Nuclear Policies:

US nuclear policies have been to cooperate with India. By doing so, the US not only to be able to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors, but also build up India as a counterweight of China in Asia. [13] In October 2008, the US Congress approved an agreement facilitating nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

Although the deal has brought benefits for both the US and India, it has faced criticism and responses from many other countries. The deal has been said to go reversely against the international efforts of nuclear nonproliferation. It can also increase the risk of a nuclear arms race in Asia, when Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are attempting to develop their nuclear weapon programs as well. [14]

Relations between the US and Pakistan

After Pakistan became independent in 1947, the US provided military aid to Pakistan but did not seek deeper relations. However, in 1965 when the Indo – Pakistan war occurred, the US suspended the assistance. [15] In 1979, the US discovered that Pakistan was building a uranium-enrichment facility in response to India’s nuclear program, and then stopped the aid. [16]

In the same year, the Soviet invaded Afghanistan, leading to the reconnection between the US and Pakistan. However, once again, the discovery of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programs in 1990 caused to the suspension of military assistance from the US. [17]

The nuclear tests in 1998 led to new US sanctions to Pakistan. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US (2001) was a turning point from which Pakistan started to be valuable for the US in the counter-terrorism campaigns. Economic assistance came back, and Pakistan became a “major non-NATO ally” of the US. [18] But since May 2011, after US intelligence killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the relationship has reached to its lowest point since 2001. [19]

Current Policies of the US toward Pakistan:
Economic Policies:

In March 2009, the US develop an “AfPak” policy to emphasize that success in Afghanistan depend on actions taken in Pakistan. The US has increased annual aid to Pakistan from $600 million to $1.5 billion in five years. The new strategy has aimed to assist Pakistan to improve living standards of local people, especially ordinary Pakistanis along the border region and counter al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda. [20]

Military Policies:

Obama’s administration now is still expanding Bush’s policy of drone attacks to the Taliban in the north-west of Pakistan. [21] This strategy has shown its effectiveness in killing Taliban groups, but it has alienated the public because of innocent civilians being collateral damage. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization in England, between 474 and 881 civilians in Pakistan have been killed in strikes from 2004 to 2012. [22]

The US has assisted Pakistan with “Train and Equip” programs. US arms and security assistance has included helicopters, infantry arms, advanced identification systems and police training, with the purpose of strengthen Pakistan domestic stability and law enforcement capability. [23]

Nuclear concern:

WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed US diplomats fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program could lead to the weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India. [24] However, US responses toward Pakistan’s nuclear programs are still unclear.

Challenges the US Faces:

Challenges for the US in South Asia are the quadrilateral relationships between the US, India, Pakistan and China. These relationships are extremely complex.

India and Pakistan have had a long history with wars and conflicts. The Kashmiri sovereignty has been a major issue of tension. The two countries also appear to be fighting a “shadow war” inside Afghanistan. [25] The US – India and the US – Pakistan relationships themselves are constraint because of each other. The tie between the US and Pakistan displeases India and vice versa. China’s South Asia interests are firmly linked with Pakistan. This situation is problematic not only for the China – India relationships, but also for the China – the US ones because of significant US investment in Pakistan.


Vietnam has strategic relations with India, but not really with Pakistan, thus at the moment we just need to focus on US policies toward India. In order to maintain peace in the region, develop relations and get benefits from both India and the US; Vietnam must support US policies toward India. Following are the reasons:

Benefits for the Economy:

US economic policies toward India bring Vietnam benefits, not harm. The US encourages and supports India to remove trade and investment barriers, [26] opening more favorable conditions for Vietnam to trade with India. Both India and the US are important economic partners of our country. By supporting US policies, we can maintain and develop economic relationships with both countries, with the purpose of strengthening our economy.

Benefits for the Nuclear Energy Plan:

US policies toward India’s nuclear energy program benefit Vietnam’s plan of building nuclear power plants. The US has showed its interest in assessing other countries’ nuclear programs to see whether they are for peaceful purpose or not. Having an example of a peaceful energy nuclear program being supported by the US, we can confidently develop our plan.

In addition, India has been a partner for our program, apart from Japan and Russia. [27] With US technology transfers, India can assist Vietnam more effectively. Cooperation with India will be important to us because we might no longer rely on Japan, which might exit the nuclear industry due to the damages after the tsunami in 2011. [28]

Benefits for Defense and Security:

The US – India relations is a counterweight of China in Asia, especially in the East Sea conflicts. Supporting US military and security policies toward India brings Vietnam advantages in championing our targets from the disputes. High level of military exchanges, joint training and exercises between Vietnam and India, [29] with US support, has been strategic for us to deal with China. Backing India to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council is also beneficial for Vietnam due to the relationships between the two countries.


US relations with India and Pakistan have had a long history, with significant changes after each period of time. The US has had special interest in both India and Pakistan because each country has strategic importance for US power and security. With regard to this situation, Vietnam must support US policies toward India because they bring us benefits for our economy, nuclear energy plan and defense and security stability.