U.S.-India relations in Asia: balancing or enmeshing?

Scholars and analysts in the United States often frame US-India relations in the context of a pivot with respect to China. They talk of balancing China’s rise in Asia. The question is: does India want to be seen in this role? What are India’s motivations in improving India-US relations? In a recent speech at Brown University, Nirupama Rao, India’s Ambassador to the United States, spelled out India’s priorities in the region. She carefully lays out what Asia and China mean to India and then offers opportunities for US-India engagement. What should the US read into this?

2 Responses to “U.S.-India relations in Asia: balancing or enmeshing?”

  1. aanders2 says:


    The perception that India is engaging in relations with the US to balance China is not in India’s best interest. However, this is not to say it should not engage in deepening relations with the U.S., but it must be aware of its perception in the eyes of its geographical rival. China’s proximity and the consequences of that proximity cannot be ignored. The U.S. cannot forsake its dialogues with China in favor of India, but must pursue relations with both. In a speech on March 21, 2013, Assistant Secretary to the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs reiterated the importance of the U.S.-India relationship in terms of converging interests. Economic cooperation, education, security in Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean, and climate change display these opportunities. It is also important for the U.S. to understand the nature of India’s non-alignment. Until it is forced to, India will not make alignments that isolate any of its partners. India cannot give unconditional support to the U.S. because China would not take it well. India’s priority is in a stable Asia, and a partnership with the U.S. will be pursued, if it serves this purpose. It is important for India and the U.S. to focus on the interests expressed by Rao and Blake, and not overestimate the nature of the relationship.

  2. Sean Rushlow says:

    It is clear that India cannot be neutral in Asia as China rises. The Chinese have made it clear that they would like to isolate and subjugate India, and as the traditional Russian allies of India are still recovering their power from the breakup of the Soviet Union and because those allies are currently closer to China than to India it becomes clear that the USA is India’s next best ally. Ultimately India is too distant and too large to be dominated by the USA, making them an ideal ally. Were India to choose to become a satellite of China for the sake of peace the Chinese would likely have an easier time bullying India due to their (relatively, since India is almost as large as the European Union in land area) proximity to each other. The USA for it’s part would need to beef India up to resist Chinese diplomatic/economic/military aggression, which would grant India the benefit of American technological and economic assistance. China would obviously abstain from any outright aid to an India that chose to be in the Chinese sphere of influence since China would want to ensure it’s dominance over India. The claims that India would not benefit from a cold war with China ignore the fact that China has already silently begun hostilities against India, from its alliance with Pakistan and funding of Pakistani terrorist organizations to it’s likely support of the Naxalites and China’s attempts to diplomatically bully India. India cannot afford to “be neutral” when the spearhead of Chinese aggression is already pointed southward towards the Ganges.

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