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US-India Relations: A Paradigm Shift

74th United Nations General Assembly

World leaders have gathered in New York City this week to take part in the 74th session of the UNGA. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan have also reached the United States and by the looks of the reception they received there, there’s a fair chance of guessing who will draw greater attention at the UNGA.

PM Mr Narendra Modi is on a week-long visit to the United States from September 21 to 27. His US tour included address to the business and the Indian-American communities and the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly, among various other events. While on his visit to the United States, PM Narendra Modi will focus on his country’s contribution to development, peace, and security fronts as a responsible member of the global body. 

He will address the UN General Assembly on Friday.

On September 22, PM Modi attended the “Howdy, Modi” event at NRG stadium in Houston, having a strength of approximately 50000 people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump met at an Indian-American rally in Houston, Texas, as their nations negotiated for easing trade tensions.

Also ,Prime minister of Pakistan Mr Imran Khan has reached the US, who is visiting the United States for the second time since becoming the Prime Minister. Interesting to note is the marked difference in the manner in which the heads of both these countries were received in the US. While PM Modi was received by Director of Trade and International Affairs, Christopher Olson, US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, and other officials at the airport, PM Imran Khan received a colder welcome on reaching there. As per reports, there was only one higher official from the White House at the Dallas International Airport to receive the Pakistani PM. It must be noted that the Pakistan PM reached the US through an airline of Qatar Airways instead of a private jet.

PM Narendra Modi was given a red carpet welcome when he arrived in Houston on Saturday while Khan was only received by Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi.

Usually, a team of higher officials is present to welcome a foreign head and this difference in fanfare and reception has very clearly been noted by media worldwide which puts Pakistan in an embarrassing position.

US concerned over China – Can India be a savior?

This disparity in welcoming the two nations speaks a great deal about what US has in mind. Suddenly, there seem to be new avenues of interests in India for US. In the past, on account of the Cold War politics, the United States was more concerned with the containment of Soviet Union in an unpredictable Asia. With the passing of the age of Cold War, a new dynamic impacted the relationship between the United States and Asia. In this phase of changing relationships, Americans started exploring the similarities that unite them with some Asian countries and India fits the bill perfectly. This has given rise to several positive alliances with India, which are showing a higher degree of stability. 

Besides the disintegration of Soviet Union, several factors like India’s liberalization of its economy and its desire to improve relations with the United States, Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons in contravention of US laws that necessitated the withdrawal of aid, all weighed heavily in American policymaking. Ultimately India emerged as a winner and Pakistan a loser in this new dispensation.

In particular, the urgency to cultivate a strategic engagement with India has been driven by the aggressive rise of China on the continent. At a higher level, the United States sees China as a power which seeks to develop an alternative to the West-led liberal order. However in the immediate context, the fear has arisen since China has abnormally expanded its military and economic footprint in the region. This was visible when China claimed sovereign rights over the strategically important and resource rich South China Sea. Rejecting the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, China claims ownership to 90 percent of South China Sea and has increased its military presence in the disputed waters. Similarly, Chinese investments under its Belt and Road Initiative project have caused internal economic upheavals in several recipient countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which are suffering from “debt traps” and loss of sovereign rights over their own territory. Such an assertive China poses a threat to the American credentials in the region. Considering the United States’ geographical handicap, it is India alone which can play the role of a counterweight to China. Unlike China, India is a democratic, liberal and perceived by the United States as an evolving mirror image of it. The United States seeks to project India as an alternative to China in Asia. 


With India acquiring all the technical capabilities and its economy growing at a healthy pace, the US has no other option but to change its policies towards India. As the shadow of China is looming large in Asia and the rest of the world, the Americans need an ally in Asia, that has the potential to rival China in size, population and economy. Considering all these growing concerns that US has, it is clear, that India currently may not need US as much as US needs the support of India in the times to come.

25 Sep 19/Wednesday                                  Written by: Saima Ebrahim

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