The White House's recognition of India's geopolitical importance as a counterbalance to China has had a significant impact on how they planned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit. In his recent address before Congress, Modi underscored the core of the bilateral relationship between India and the United States, emphasizing their shared ideals as the world's two major democracies. He echoed President Biden's belief that this collaboration is crucial and extends beyond individual interests, highlighting that democracy, demographics, and destiny bind them together for the greater good.
During his speech, Modi also addressed the intended recipients of this strengthened relationship, emphasizing the challenges posed by coercion and hostility in the Indo-Pacific region. By choosing the term "Indo-Pacific Region" instead of the more customary "Asia-Pacific Region," Modi implicitly indicated the alliance's anti-China stance. This deliberate choice of phrase reflects heightened concerns about regional stability and serves as a veiled reference to China's assertive actions in the region.
While the alliance between Washington and New Delhi against China is of great importance, it remains more symbolic than concrete. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), consisting of Australia, India, the United States, and Japan, serves as the primary platform where both nations unite against Beijing. However, the QUAD primarily functions as a political advisory forum, in contrast to the more military-focused AUKUS alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Despite India's complex relationship with China, which includes ongoing border disputes, New Delhi is cautious about escalating tensions with Beijing and is not eager to exacerbate the situation.
As the United States seeks to strengthen its ties with India, it often finds itself in a position where it either overlooks or silently criticizes India's autonomous activities. Although India has made efforts to reduce its reliance on foreign arms imports, it still acquires 50% of its armaments from Russia. However, due to sanctions and counter-sanctions, India has effectively become a "rear base" for American companies seeking alternatives to China. Companies like Apple have already shifted a significant portion of their iPhone manufacturing to India and plan to expand it further to reduce their dependence on China. Additionally, Russian oil shipments to India have increased significantly, with Russia emerging as India's second-largest supplier after China.
Modi perceives the changing global landscape as the dawn of a genuinely multipolar era. Ahead of his visit to the United States, he emphasized India's aspirations for a more prominent and influential position on the global stage. Notably, US authorities did not publicly confront Modi's views on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis during his visit, demonstrating a level of flexibility and mutual respect. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Modi articulated India's perspective on the matter, emphasizing that they are not neutral but advocate for all countries to uphold international law and respect the sovereignty of others.
Overall, Modi's visit to the US and his speech to Congress underscored the significance of US-India cooperation as a crucial pillar of stability in the Indo-Pacific region. While the alliance against China is still in its nascent stages, the economic and strategic dynamics between the two nations are evolving, paving the way for potential avenues of future collaboration.