A global strategic partnership . . .
In the absence of any clear progress on trade, the main outcome of President Trump’s visit to India was the announcement of a United States-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. According to a joint statement, the newly-elevated relationship will focus on a strengthened partnership in the areas of security and defence, especially through increased information sharing and interoperability between armies. The U.S. also recognized India's role as security provider in the region and highlighted the need for increased co-operation between both countries and with other like-minded allies in the region. To that end, both leaders agreed to strengthen consultation through, among others, trilateral summits with Japan and quadrilateral ones with Japan and Australia.
The China factor . . .
Despite some disagreements, U.S.-India ties had been improving under previous U.S. administrations, especially over growing mutual concerns about the rise of China. Indeed, the central goal of Trump’s visit, besides the optics, seems to have been the strengthening of U.S.-India strategic relations in the face of a more powerful China. The U.S. under Trump has embraced India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy of Chinese containment. But even if they both agree that China poses a real geopolitical challenge and that their co-operation “is central to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” the U.S. and India do not fully agree on how to respond to the perceived threat or how to define a “free and open” Indo-Pacific.
Mutual compromise . . .
Trump’s visit signalled a strong personal and political commitment to elevating the existing strategic partnership. Despite a display of personal affinity between both leaders, it remains to be seen whether or not the U.S. and India can truly cement their strategic partnership in a “defining relationship for the 21st century.” If both countries are to become strategic partners, they will have to overcome disagreements on trade and domestic issues, as well as agree on how to deal with other neighbouring countries and regional powers. The likelihood that Washington or New Delhi will compromise on their differences is lessened by both leaders’ populist rhetoric. But the end game will be determined by their assessment of the threat that China poses. In any case, these events provide Canada with yet another impetus to develop a clear plan of action to engage effectively with India.