U.S., India Expand Trade, Security Cooperation, Says Official

October 2, 2023 5:20 PM
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is welcomed to the Indian Ministry of Defense in New Delhi by Minister Rajnath Singh, June 5, 2023. DoD Photo

New Delhi and Washington are venturing into uncharted territory as they begin working together on security, trade, technology and transparency in ways they never have before, said Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s minister of external affairs, on Friday.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute, Jaishankar said, “India is non-Western, not anti-Western.” It intends to be a leader of the “Global South,” he said, as witnessed by its recent hosting of the G-20 summit. He also said the term Indo-Pacific reflects “a rebalancing of the world,” recognizing the rise of China and India as global powers and the United States’ continuing worldwide interests.

Jaishankar said the closest alignment between the two countries is in national security, often through the Quad. The arrangement, which now meets annually at the presidential prime minister level, consists of the United States, India, Japan and Australia and works on regional security and economic issues.

Picking up on that in a follow-up panel, retired Vice Adm. Shekhar Sinha said New Delhi is committed to “free and open seas.” He added that in a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, India would honor all its commitments to partners “except for participating in the war.”

“The economic side [of the relationship] is very tech focused,” said Jaishankar.
He termed these areas of alignment in security and economics “a very powerful new convergence.”
Jaishankar added that New Delhi, as the world’s largest nation with a global economy, expects to be recognized as such in international forums, such as the United Nations and World Bank.

Stephen Biegun, a former diplomat and now senior vice president at Boeing, said at the panel discussion that Washington must look at India not as a developing country, but as a major power. “The U.S. has accepted multipolarity of the world,” Sinha added, referring to U.S. security alliances, such as NATO in Europe, Australia–United Kingdom–United States (AUKUS) and Japan and Korea in the Indo-Pacific and agreements such as the Quad. The United States also is recognizing the importance of India and other Asian nations in the tech arena, Sinha said.

But the relationship between the United States and India is not without difficulties, most immediately over holding Russia accountable for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

India is a major buyer of Russian military hardware as well as energy. Jaishankar framed the relationship as a “mutual cultivation” of interests.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its “relations with Europe have broken down.” Jaishankar said it was natural for Russia to turn to Asia, specifically China and India. “Asia’s economy is the most active” globally.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense, GovExec.com, NextGov.com, DefenseOne.com, Government Executive and USNI News.

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