The enemy of my enemy: India and the US deepen security cooperation

Briefly: Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval travelled to Washington on Tuesday (31 January) to meet his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan. The pair promised to bolster security and tech ties in several key areas.

2022 was a weird year for India-US relations: On the one hand, they became new BFFs (best friends forever) thanks in part to The Quad, a US/India/Japan/Australia partnership to balance China support a free and open Indo-Pacific.

On the other hand, the US felt pretty jilted when India not only stayed near-silent over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but even served as an economic lifeline to the Kremlin (India-Russia trade hit a new record). India also buys 85% of its arms from Russia, which India will need if things get nasty with China or Pakistan.

So, the US wants to offer India some non-Russian alternatives. Doval and Sullivan agreed to share advanced defence and computing tech and potentially transfer some production of General Electric fighter jet engines to India. India also sought American support in the great global semiconductor race (PM Modi’s $10B “India Semiconductor Mission” still looks puny compared to the much larger US, EU and Chinese strategies).

Intrigue’s take: The US-India relationship is a classic case of national interest at play. Both see in the other a partner to counter-balance China’s assertive behaviour (including border clashes with India). But China isn’t the only tricky neighbour on India’s doorstep; think Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Russia… it’s quite the block.

So America’s begrudging silence on India’s continued dealings with Russia – and Washington’s willingness to help wean India off Russian arms – suggests the US understands (though doesn’t like) India’s position.

Also worth noting:

The Indian government proposed a 13% defence spending increase for the 2023-2024 fiscal year on Wednesday (1 February).