It’s an open question whether the South Asian nation can truly be a counter to China.
India is drawing closer to the United States. After decades of being heavily dependent on Moscow for its military hardware, New Delhi is no longer sure it can count on Russia as its strategic position weakens. This shift comes as Beijing continues to intermittently clash with India along their border in the Himalayas. India has thus been forced to adjust its historic position as a nonaligned nation, but it’s an open question whether Washington can capitalize on the opportunity and promote its partnership with India to anything other than a defense alignment against China.
India and the U.S. understand the potential of the opportunity. Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington this week, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity from the Biden administration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at the annual India Ideas Summit of the U.S.-India Business Council, while National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to New Delhi for a two-day visit. Separately, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in New Delhi earlier this month to finalize a roadmap for U.S.-India defense cooperation.
The latter agreement is designed to fast-track technology cooperation and joint manufacturing in air combat, land mobility systems, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, munitions and undersea operations. A separate deal – the one with General Electric to manufacture engines to power India’s Tejas Mk 2 fighters and potentially for fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft – is a notable step forward in enhancing the defense partnership. That Washington is sharing cutting-edge defense technology with the world’s largest weapons importer makes it an important step in growing U.S.-India relations writ large.
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