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Foreign Policy

Implications of Modi’s State Visit to U.S.

Jun 29, 2023

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States from June 21 to 24 drew widespread attention from the international community. It was Modi’s sixth visit and first official state visit. To highlight its importance to U.S.-India relations, the United States made unprecedented arrangements for receiving the Indian leader. Modi was invited to address a joint session of Congress, a privilege previously only bestowed on a select few political figures, such as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

U.S. President Joe Biden hosted a state banquet for Modi, praising the significance of U.S.-India relations, commending Modi’s contributions and expressing optimism about future developments. Modi was thrilled to affirm the U.S.-India relationship using the popular abbreviation AI, which has become popular worldwide.

Before the trip to Washington, both India and the U.S. had touted it as highly significant. The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that the visit would concentrate on strengthening the strategic partnership between India and the U.S., with a focus on developing a comprehensive and forward-thinking global strategic partnership. The White House echoed this sentiment, asserting that Modi’s visit would reinforce the already deep relationship between America and India, strengthen friendship between the two nations and create a “partnership between our two great countries, which spans the seas to the stars.”

During Modi’s discussions with President Biden, the two leaders explored various essential topics for establishing a strategic partnership, including creating a technology cooperation partnership for the future that involves space and ocean cooperation, technology transfers, export controls, new tech development and artificial intelligence. Additionally, both sides agreed to further promote defense partnerships and related industry cooperation, such as the United States transferring fighter jet engines and selling large armed sea drones to India. They also discussed critical mineral supplies, advanced infrastructure cooperation, clean energy, and regional and global security.

Modi’s visit to the United States achieved multiple breakthroughs in U.S.-India relations, including the signing of several cooperation agreements in trade, investment, energy, climate, defense and technology. Of those agreements, the most significant may have been the United States allowing General Electric to produce jet fighter engines in India. This fulfills India’s longstanding demand for advanced domestically produced fighter jets, which are crucial for enhancing India’s defense production capacity by reducing dependence on imported aircraft.

Additionally, 31 MQ-9B Maritime Guardian armed drones will be sold to India by the United States. This is worth highlighting, as these drones will significantly bolster the combat capabilities of the Indian military and have a multiplier effect in potential conflicts with adversaries. It’s also important to note that India and the United States reached an agreement on the sharing of defense information and exchanging military liaison officers. This is an area of great sensitivity, and its impact on neighboring countries cannot be overstated.

The significant breakthrough in diplomatic relations between India and the United States was influenced by various geopolitical and geo-economic factors. The United States aims to maintain its preeminent position in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions, contain and encircle other nations that may resist its hegemony and reinforce an exclusionary geopolitical group — the Quad — to form a unified force allowing it to pursue its own strategic interests. The United States has made significant efforts and invested considerable resources into India, offering preferential treatment that even some of its long-term allies have not received.

Meanwhile, India is undergoing rapid development, and it aspires to become a major global power in the near future. Therefore, it is keen to cultivate relations with the world’s only remaining superpower, the United States, in order to gain geopolitical advantage, attract money and technology, and acquire advanced weaponry. To that end, it’s not surprising that India, the most populous nation in the world, is drawing closer to the sole superpower, the United States.

U.S.-India relations will continue to deepen, based on the current trend of development. However, their relationship requires further exploration. This is because India and the United States have different national strategies. Although their interests and pursuits coincide significantly, there are still significant differences between them.

For instance, on global governance, the United States seeks absolute power under its unipolar dominance, while India pursues multipolarization and maintains cordial relations with multiple entities on the international stage. The United States does not like to see this happening. Similarly, in national governance, the United States contests and criticizes many issues in India, which India deems unacceptable.

Likewise, there are significant differences in economic, trade and investment interests between India and the United States. In terms of the India-U.S. relationship itself, the United States pursues a strategic relationship, while India, at most, wants to be strategically related but will never abandon its fundamental diplomatic philosophy of strategic autonomy.

Many of India’s positions on important international issues do not align with what the United States would prefer. Additionally, India will not forego any opportunities or options to strengthen diplomacy and improve relations with other countries that play significant roles in geopolitics. This is all part of a comprehensive effort to safeguard India’s historical opportunities for development.

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