By Manali Joshi
Since President Barack Obama, assumed office on January 20, 2009, India has experienced a healthy US-India bilateral relationship, compared to George W. Bush’s tenure. Today, the Indian and American governments discuss issues more frequently than thought possible with the strained relationship in the 1970s and 1980s. However, one area in which the two countries have so far failed to make a significant breakthrough is defence collaboration. It is true that they today enjoy almost unprecedented military-to-military relations. However, the military ties are observed to be getting stronger in the ASEAN Summit held in Manila.
Takeaway from the summit
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pledged that the US and India should have the world’s greatest militaries as they discussed a bilateral strategic partnership and shared a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, according to the White House. The two leaders met on Monday on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, the Philippines. The two leaders discussed the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, according to a White House statement.
President Trump expressed appreciation that Indian purchases of oil from the United States have surpassed 10 million barrels in recent months, and expressed confidence that stronger energy cooperation will be a geopolitical and economic game changer for both countries. The talks between Trump and Modi came after officials of India, the US, Japan, and Australia held their first meeting to give shape to the much talked about “quadrilateral alliance” to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open.” The meeting between both the leaders has India to looking forward to strengthening military ties, open Indo-Pacific region for free trade and better trade and investment opportunities especially in case of trade of petroleum.
Free and Open Indo-Pacific region
According to the White House statement, President Trump and PM Modi discussed “the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and India and their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region”.
This development is based on India’s recent decision to join a quadrilateral architecture to secure its interests in the Indo-Pacific. As a counter to China’s ‘one way, one trade rule’, India, the US, Japan, and Australia held their first official talks in Manila with a focus on keeping the Indo-Pacific region “free and open”. The Sunday meeting led India, Australia, and Japan to issue separate statements listing the Indo-Pacific as the major area of the deliberations and resolved to expand cooperation to uphold and respect international law in the strategically important region.
A stronger force to reckon with
The two leaders also “pledged to enhance their cooperation as major defence partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries.” During his visit to India last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US would provide India with the best technologies for its military modernisation, which include offers to supply F-16 and F-18 fighter jets. After holding wide-ranging talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Tillerson said the US supports India’s emergence as a “leading power” and it will continue to help New Delhi strengthen its military capability. Conforming to these statements, India based its focus on enhancing its military strength with support from the US.
The Indo-US conversation mainly revolved around bilateral, regional and global issues relating to economics, trade and investment. The two sides also discussed matters relating to defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, the Korean crisis, and the situation in West Asia and the Gulf. Prime Minister Modi briefed Trump about allied issues like the recent supply of wheat to the land-locked country of Afghanistan through the sea route and about Myanmar’s Rakhine State where violence against the Rohingyas has forced more than 600,000 people to flee the country to Bangladesh.
Extension of trade relations
President Trump appreciated purchase of more than 10 barrels of oil from the US by India in recent months. He also expressed his confidence that stronger energy cooperation will be a “geopolitical and economic game changer” for both countries. As reported by Reuters last month, India is set to emerge as a key market for American crude oil exports in the coming months as the country’s refineries are ramping up “test” purchases of US grades to diversify their imports.
In August, Indian Oil Corporation bought 950,000 barrels of light sweet Eagle Ford shale oil and 950,000 barrels of heavy sour Mars crude for end-October delivery from trading firm Trafigura. In October, the company bought 1 million barrels each of US Southern Green Canyon (SGC) and WTI Midland crude. Moreover, India’s Reliance Industries Ltd, the world’s largest refining complex, purchased 1 million barrels of Midland and a similar-sized cargo of Eagle Ford crude for November delivery.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit
Lastly, PM Modi expressed that India will be hosting the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit, showcasing innovation and collaboration between India and the United States. President Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump will be attending the plenary session of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre from 28th to 30th November 2017.
Featured Image Source: PMIndia.gov.in