Great Expectations: Asking Too Much of the US-India Strategic Partnership

Paper
|
The Washington Quarterly

Great Expectations: Asking Too Much of the US-India Strategic Partnership

After India re-elected Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in May 2019 in a landslide victory, President Trump congratulated him, tweeting that “great things are in store for the US-India partnership with the return of PM Modi at the helm.” In June, Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver echoed this sentiment, anticipating “a lot of convergence on the strategic landscape” between the United States and India. Nevertheless, on the eve of Secretary of State Pompeo’s June visit to New Delhi, analysts of the region warned that an emerging crisis could force a highly disruptive reckoning for the relationship. Recently, two of the original architects of US-India strategic alignment—former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, and former senior advisor to the US embassy in New Delhi, Ashley Tellis—have warned of “creeping disappointment and doubt” from both countries. Publicly, the US-India relationship has achieved rare status, touted as one of the greatest bipartisan successes and crowning achievements across the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. Yet privately, some US policymakers have raised “serious concerns” about India’s defense decisions. Our own private conversations with US government officials and policy experts reveal frustration and concern over the supposed pattern of US concessions and Indian shortcomings— criticized as “all talk and no show.”