As Americans, we tend to assume that all countries want to be our BFFs unless they actively say that they hate us. Not true. For some countries, a grudging partnership with the U.S. is all that they want. Case in point: India.
India is widely considered to be a rising power. With the world’s second largest population as well as a relatively developed service industry, India is poised to become one of the world’s premier states. The country is developing the military in keeping with this expectation and is trying to buy advanced Western military hardware. In addition, India is a true democracy.
Despite these adequate reasons for the U.S. and India to be allies, don’t expect it to happen. The two countries had terrible relations for a period. The U.S. loathed India’s nonaligned stance in the beginning and forced India to devalue the rupee in the 1960’s. On the other side, India despite it being a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement was in the Soviet Union’s pocket to the point that in 1979 when the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, India was the only democracy to not decry the action.
The 1980s began to thaw relations although not by much. During this time, the U.S. and Pakistan were very close because of the guerrilla war in Afghanistan supported by these two nations. Pakistan views India as its mortal enemy and so put much of the new military equipment on that border. Through the 1990s, relations grew stronger until the 1998 nuclear tests. President Clinton imposed short-lived economic sanctions on India. The fact that India and the U.S. are close today owes much to President George W. Bush. He decided to pursue stronger relations with the democracy. This culminated in the 2005 nuclear deal. This legislation legitimized India’s civilian and military nuclear sectors.
While it should be celebrated that the two nations are friendly, don’t expect an alliance to emerge. Aside from the baggage of history, it isn’t in India’s national interest. The U.S. may try to use India as an Asian counterweight to China; however, China and India are among each other’s largest trading partners. Of course there are tensions between the two rising nations, but few are suggesting that they will go to war with each other once again. And of the two, India is less likely to pick a fight. The U.S. is back to supporting Pakistan as a result of our war in Afghanistan. Part of this has involved funding and training the Pakistani military which views India as a far greater threat than their murky western border where terrorists and Islamic extremists roam. And despite the long-standing ties and good relations between India and Afghanistan, India has had to assume a fairly small role in order to prevent issues with Pakistan. Also, the U.S. will not sell India its top of the line military hardware such as the F-22 fighter jet.
So with the tense but changing history, support for their nemesis, and refusal to sell certain military equipment, don’t expect India to want to buddy up to the U.S. any time soon.