U.S.-India Relations at a Crossroads

Biden and Modi hold high-level meeting . . . 

U.S. President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit on Monday at the request of the White House to discuss co-operation on issues ranging from climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, stability in the Indo-Pacific, and, chiefly, the war in Ukraine. The meeting kicked off the 4th U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, an in-person meeting held in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and their Indian counterparts, Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar exchanged views on global and bilateral defence co-operation.

Same issue, different lenses . . .

The 2+2 Dialogue was the first under the Biden administration and was particularly important for the U.S., which regards India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy. Nevertheless, the U.S. has been at odds with India under Modi on various issues, including human rights and the war in Ukraine, where India has refused to condemn Russia and continues to buy Russian oil and weapons. While India’s oil purchases do not violate U.S. sanctions, Biden assured Modi that the U.S. can help India diversify its energy imports.

What’s next in the bilateral relationship?

India’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded the U.S. of its image problem in India and that India has its own strategic interests. India’s determination to remain non-aligned in the war in Ukraine despite pressure to take a stand against Russia underscores America’s difficulties in uniting “the free world” in its mission to preserve the “liberal order” and oppose non-democratic regimes. While the two countries differ in their approaches to the crisis in Europe, the recent series of high-level meetings seems to have helped realign bilateral relations. Both leaders reaffirmed the strength of their partnership and vowed to keep discussing how best to manage the destabilizing effects of the war in Ukraine. Biden and Modi will meet again in Japan for an in-person Quad Summit tentatively planned for the end of May.