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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

From strategic to transactional partners, US-India relations in turmoil?

US decision to restrict the import of raw material necessary for Covid-19 vaccine production proves that it is an unreliable partner for India. US only uses India for its own tactical interests.

India has been overwhelmed by the third wave of the deadly Covid-19 virus. The devastation and trauma afflicting the Indian people have never been experienced. Amidst the human tragedy, however, geopolitical considerations are at play reaffirming the belief that no foreign or geo-political factors are so foreign but to the contrary have immediacy.

The help, solidarity, and empathy have poured in from all over the world: despite a hostile neighbor, India received a formal offer of help and support from Pakistan, followed by Iran and Russia.

Read more: #IndiaNeedsOxygen: Pakistanis urge PM Imran Khan to help India with oxygen supply

Yet the strategic partner, the Quad security architect, the United States has refused to come to the rescue of the Indian government: at times, when PM Narendra Modi’s vaccine policy is under attack, Washington refused to allow the import of raw material necessary for Covid-19 vaccine production.

“The US-reliant supply chain suddenly became unreliable when needed the most”, lamented many Indian critics. Though eventually Washington gave in and announced to lift the ban on vaccine raw material, Delhi learned the hard way.

Read more: US to ramp up support for virus-hit India

US being an unreliable ally

The US plea has been, its national interest demands first it has to cater to its people’s needs. Many voices in the US are actually blaming India for its Vaccine diplomacy, failing to adopt robust vaccination and strict lockdown measures.

For example, PM Modi allowed a 3 million strong religious gathering; he went to campaign in West Bengal elections and his health minister thinks cow’s urine is a remedy for Covid-19. After criticism by Indian opposition, he returned to Delhi to sit in with oxygen producers and manufacturers to discuss the emerging crisis.

Read more: Coronavirus can be treated with cow dung and urine: Indian leader

That the US is a tactical partner, a lesson from history, Pakistan learned a long time ago; even Delhi has other instances from its past India-US ties, proving Washington as an unreliable ally: refusal to give Supercomputer to India; Cryogenic Engine for ISRO; and GPS data during Kargil battle.

But a significant blow to Indian interest came when Washington imposed sanctions on the purchase of Russian defense equipment and Iranian oil imports for India–critical both for India’s security and economy.

Read more: US warns India NOBODY has ‘special protection’ from US sanctions

China holding together US-India partnership

Perhaps, this time the Democrats of the Biden Administration still remember how Modi put all his baskets in the Republican camp by openly supporting President Trump in his election campaign. After all, Howdy-Modi slogan was not in the very distant past and Trump comparing Modi with Elvis was a feat for Modi followers.

But the bottom line for Delhi has been that the US India convergence revolves around US-led China containment policy. India hopes the US will support Indian defense needs in its border dispute with China.

Read more: With China menacing India’s northern borders, India looks for military allies.

Though, the talk of US-India as a strategic partnership of the century having a common map to reference all challenges facing India was more confined to rhetorical levels rather than grounded in reality.

For now, the unreliable US-India partnership will not force a rethink in Delhi. For India, coexistence with a certain level of unpredictability of the US bilateral relations is worthy of cause given the bigger leverage asset of US partnership in containing China in the Indian Ocean region to the South China Sea, regardless of the perception of Washington being an unreliable partner.

Read more: Exposing the unreliable alliance between India and US as they take on China

The writer is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan, and an ex-adviser to the Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. He is also Chairman of the Centre for Geo-Politics & Balochistan. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.