Report to Congress on India-U.S. Relations

June 19, 2023 10:22 AM

The following is the Congressional Research Service report, India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress.

From the report

India, home to nearly one-fifth of global population, became the world’s most populous country in 2023. Many factors combine to infuse India’s government and people with “great power” aspirations: the country’s rich civilization and history; expanding strategic horizons; increased engagement with international partners; and critical geography (with more than 9,000 miles of land borders, many of them disputed) astride vital sea and energy lanes. Its status as one of the fastest growing major economies is giving rise to an expanding middle class; greater defense and defense and power projection capabilities (replete with a nuclear weapons arsenal and triad of delivery systems); and vigorous space, science, and technology sectors, among others.

In recognition of India’s increasingly central role and ability to influence world affairs—and with a widely held assessment that a stronger and more prosperous democratic India is good for the United States—the U.S. Congress and four successive U.S. Administrations have acted to both broaden and deepen U.S. engagement with India. The U.S. and Indian governments launched a “strategic partnership” in 2005, along with a framework for long-term defense cooperation that now includes large-scale joint military exercises and significant defense trade. In concert with Japan and Australia, the United States and India in 2020 reinvigorated a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) as a flagship initiative in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy. The mechanism is widely viewed, at least in part, as a counter to China’s growing influence. Bilateral trade and investment have increased, while a relatively wealthy Indian-American community is exercising newfound domestic political influence, and Indian nationals account for a large proportion of foreign students on American college campuses and foreign workers in the information technology sector.

At the same time, more engagement has meant more areas of friction in the partnership, including some that attract congressional attention. India’s economy, while slowly reforming, continues to be a relatively closed one, with barriers to trade and investment deterring foreign business interests. The U.S. government also has issues with India’s cooperative engagements with Russia, a country where India has long-standing ties. Differences over U.S. immigration law, especially in the area of nonimmigrant work visas, remain unresolved. India’s intellectual property protection regime comes under regular criticism from U.S. officials and firms. Other stumbling blocks—on localization barriers and civil nuclear commerce, among others—sometimes cause tensions. Meanwhile, cooperation in the fields of defense trade, intelligence, and counterterrorism, although progressing rapidly and improved relative to that of only a decade ago, runs up against institutional and political obstacles. Moreover, the U.S. Administration and some Members of Congress take notice of human rights issues in India, including those related to democratic backsliding and infringements on religious freedom.

Despite these many areas of sometimes serious discord, the U.S. Congress has remained broadly positive in its posture toward the U.S.-India strategic and commercial partnership. The Biden Administration indicates that it will continue the expansion and deepening of U.S.-India ties. Congressional legislation and oversight have and may continue to affect the course of U.S.-India relations, including in areas such as resourcing for a U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, trade and investment (including bilateral defense trade) relations, immigration policy, nuclear proliferation, human rights, and cooperative efforts to address health security and climate change, among others.

Download the document here.

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