Theoretically Unveiling Intricacies Of US-India Relations – OpEd

There is no free cup of tea in international politics. What matters the most, is the states’ interests. The policies are based on preferences set by the state itself through a sound analyses of domestic factors and international order. A question often troubles students of international relations is what is a good foreign policy? Scholars have presented different views regarding this intricacy. Some consider that a foreign policy decision can be analyzed while looking at the results it has achieved.

On the other hand, some anticipated a good foreign policy is based on the soundness of process adopted during its formulation. However, events have unveiled that no foreign policy can be termed as good or bad beforehand. A lot of policies based on sound processes resulted in undesirable results and vice versa. What one can hope is foreign policy to be good if it considers domestic and international order in coherence during its formulation. If America thinks that India is a reliable partner that would help it in every good or bad situation, the US must reconsider its approach.

There are multiple cases when India has adopted quite a different approach from the US, sometimes even against the US. The non-alignment approach, India’s leaders adopted right after their country’s inception, must better be perceived as multi-alignment. India kept good relations with Soviet Russia as well as with America. The strategic autonomy which present-day India promulgates traces its base from this multi-alignment approach. The concept identifies a state’s foreign policy is based on its sovereign rights and not bound to any other state’s pressure. It shows that no state can push the other to adopt a specific approach toward other states. When the US along with the West was pushing countries to condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine, India abstained from voting in United Nations. And still, it has adopted a very balanced approach. India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar’s statement evinced this rightful approach when he argued that Europe must not expect the world to consider its problem as theirs.

Different realist perspectives present arguments on these aspects of foreign policy. Either its power transition theory or the world’s division into different categories of states based on their relative power capability. For example, power transition theory says there are superpowers at the top, major powers, and smaller powers coming downside in the hierarchy. When a major power tries to enter the superpower sphere, it leads to war. Thucydides Trap also supports this argument of a possible war between a hegemon and an emerging power. India is today a rising power that holds a considerable influence in international politics.

If India has not challenged any US decision or challenged its power internationally is just because it’s not in a position to do that. Analysts blame China that it is challenging rule-based international order and US hegemony. I have a discordant view when it comes to China challenging the US around the world. But I can anticipate India will be doing this most certainly in the coming future when it reaches the status of a major power. If the US remains unable to cater to India’s rise as it is doing against China, the Elephant will remind the former to be within its limit.

So, the only reason India and the US have been on the same page so far is the convergence of interests and India’s inability to challenge the US power. It has challenged US decisions, but not US influence around. But, the day it becomes capable of doing that, the US would get defensive. So, India although looks like a very reliable strategic and diplomatic partner of the US where all things look good in their relations, the future can be anticipated as different. It depends upon India’s relative power capability visa vis the US. As Mearsheimer had put forth that there exists no hegemon, but regional powers.

The US is a regional power and is able to rule the world. It can only hold its position until no other regional power emerges. The whole struggle of curtailing China is to restrain it from emerging as a regional hegemon. The US support of India also backs this narrative. But if the US will perceive India as an emerging threat, it will do the same with later as it is doing with China. And both states must be mindful of this interest-based relation that may diverge due to discordance of interests.