While the Atlantic partnership will always remain important for the United States, it is the United States’ ties with India that will be the “defining partnership” of the twenty-first century. Ties with India are the result of more than two decades of efforts by Indian and American leaders, and they will remain steady despite ups and downs because they rest on an underpinning not only of hard power but of soft power.
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, and American companies aim to benefit from the Indian economic boom. Bilateral trade today stands at over $50 billion and American foreign investment in India is approximately $16 billion. The potential for collaboration in the fields of science and technology between the U.S. and India has grown exponentially. The removal of Indian defense and space organizations from the “entity list” will help forge partnerships between companies in both countries. The security dimension of the U.S.-India partnership is equally critical with deepening military-to-military ties, counter-terrorism cooperation, defense sales and a common desire to defend the domains of cyber and outer space.
American policymakers tend to view their ties with India not just in the bilateral context but in the broader global context. India and the U.S. are both status quo powers that seek inclusive security architecture not only for Asia, but beyond. During their visits to India, both President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton have repeatedly emphasized their desire that India build deeper strategic and economic ties with its East and South East Asian neighbors.
The two countries share a similar outlook with respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Indian discussions of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan have helped crystallize a certain school of Indian thinking which views robust U.S. engagement in the region as conducive to Indian security. Also, while skeptical of American support for Pakistan, most Indian strategists agree that American absence from Afghanistan and Pakistan is harmful to Indian interests.
While hard power is critical in international relations, it is soft power that ensures relationships between countries withstand the vagaries of politics and crises. During the Cold War, India had a hard power-based relationship with the Soviet Union. While there will always be a hard power component to India's relationship with the U.S., it is the strengthening of the soft power relationship that is critical.
In a recent book titled “China's Nightmare, America's Dream: India as the Next Global Power,” a former American diplomat, William Avery, argues that like the United Kingdom, the United States and India too share the ideals of democracy, human rights, rule of law and free markets. To this we should add pluralism and an open society.