India-US Relations: A defining partnership of the 21st Century

India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts.

High-Level Exchanges

Regular exchanges at the leadership-level have been an integral element of the expanding bilateral engagement. The outcomes emerging from these visits have been instrumental in further strengthening the multifaceted ties between the two countries.

Since assuming office in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the U.S. a number of times (September 2014, September 2015, March-April 2016, June 2016, June 2017 and September 2019). President Obama paid a State visit to India in January 2015 and participated in the Republic Day celebrations as the Chief Guest. President Donald J. Trump paid a State Visit to India from 24 to 25 February 2020.

PM Modi spoke to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on 17 November 2020 to congratulate him on his victory. They held a telephone conversation on 8 February 2021 and reiterated their commitment to consolidating bilateral strategic partnership. The two leaders also held a telephone conversation on 26 April 2021 committing to work closely together in the fight against COVID-19.

PM Modi spoke to Vice-President Kamala Harris in June 2021. He participated in the Quad Leaders’ Virtual Summit on March 12, 2021, and Leaders Summit on Climate April 22-23, convened by President Biden.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint meeting of US Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington in June 2016. Behind him are then US Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar visited the U.S. in September-October 2019 and for the 2+2 Dialogue in December 2019. Then US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo visited India in June 2019.

The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin visited India from 19-21 March 2021. During his visit, he met PM Modi and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, NSA, EAM.

Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry travelled to India on 6-8 April 2021. EAM Dr. S Jaishankar visited US from 23-28 May, 2021 and held discussion with the Secretary of State Blinken, other political and Congressional leaders and interacted with the business leaders.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken travelled to New Delhi on 27-28 July 2021, called on PM Modi and met EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval.

Bilateral Dialogue Mechanisms

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, India-U.S. cooperation witnessed intense engagement under various bilateral dialogue mechanisms in wide range of areas including defense, security, health, trade, economic, science & technology, energy and people-to-people ties.

2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, led by the heads of Foreign and Defense Ministries of India and the U.S, reviews the bilateral ties in defense, strategic and security domains as well as important regional and global issues. The inaugural India-U.S. Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue was held on 06 September 2018 in New Delhi. The then US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis visited India for the dialogue with EAM Late Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman. Three rounds of the Dialogue have been held (September 2018; December 2019 & October 2020) so far.

Parliamentary Exchanges

There have been regular parliamentary exchanges to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation. In 2019 and early 2020, several Congressional delegations visited India, which included Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), presently the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) Congressmen George Holding (R-NC), Ami Bera (D-CA), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Congresswomen Lois Frankel (D-FL), Julia Brownley (D-CA).

The India-US relations enjoy strong bipartisan support in the US Congress. The India Caucus in the US Congress comprising of the Senate Indian Caucus and the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans is the largest single country Caucus in the US Congress with over 150 members. The Senate India Caucus is led by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and in the House, it is led by Brad Sherman (D-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Ro Khanna (DCA) and Michael Waltz (R-FL). The Caucus regularly meets to discuss important issues related to the India US relations and recently, led a resolution in the House of Representatives titled “Urging the Administration to facilitate assistance in response to the devastating impact of COVID–19 in India.” This bipartisan resolution was passed in the House of Representatives in a unanimous vote reflecting the strong support for India on both sides of the aisle.

Defence Cooperation

India-US defence cooperation is based on “New Framework for India-US Defence Cooperation”, which was renewed for a period of ten years in 2015. In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major Defence Partnership (MDP). The MDP recognizes a shared desire to build a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defense partnership. On 30 July 2018, India was moved into the Tier-1 of the US Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorization license exception.

Bilateral military exercises and defense exchanges are important aspect of deepening military-to-military cooperation. The two countries now conduct more bilateral exercises with each other than they do with any other country. In addition to a number of service-to-service exercises, in 2019 a tri-services exercise– Tiger Triumph- was conducted in November 2019. Bilateral and regional exercises includes: Yudh Abhyas (Army); Vajra Prahar (Special Forces); RIMPAC; Red Flag. In November 2020, Royal Australian Navy joined the U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR Naval Exercise held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Both sides have conducted a number of PASSEX with the US carrier groups in the Indian Ocean Region.


The four Quad partners (India, Japan, United States & Australia) first formed a “Core Group” in 2004, to swiftly mobilize aid during the joint response to the 2004 Tsunami. Since 2017, Quad engagements have increased and intensified. In December 2019, the first Quad Foreign Ministerial Meeting was held in New York. This was followed by the second (Tokyo, October 2020) and third (18 February 2021, virtual) Quad Foreign Ministers meetings.

On 12 March 2021, Prime Minister participated in the th first Quad Leaders’ Summit virtually, hosted by President Biden. In the Joint Statement adopted at the Summit, the Leaders reiterated their common vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The three practical areas identified for partnership at the Summit are affordable and equitable Covid 19 vaccine access for the Indo-Pacific; strengthening climate actions; and critical and emerging technology.

Counter Terrorism Cooperation

Cooperation in counter-terrorism has seen considerable progress with information exchange, operational cooperation and sharing of counterterrorism technology and equipment. India-U.S. Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism oversees the expanding CT cooperation. The last meeting of the Group was held in a virtual format in September 2020. Separately, it was agreed during PM’s visit to the US in June 2017 to launch a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals.

Cyber Security Cooperation

The India-US Cyber Framework signed in September 2016 provides for expanding cooperation in cyber domain. The fourth India-US Cyber Security Dialogue was held in Washington in February 2018. The last meeting of the Dialogue was held in a virtual format in September 2020.

PM Modi with then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then Defense Secretary Mark T Esper during a meeting in New Delhi in October 2020. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, NSA Ajit Doval and then US Ambassador to India Ken Juster are also seen at the third edition of the 2+2 dialogue.

Trade & Economic Relations

The rapidly expanding trade and commercial linkages form an important component of the multi-faceted partnership between India and the United States. The U.S. is India’s second largest trading partner and a major destination for our exports of goods and services. Bilateral trade in goods and services stood at $ 146 billion in 2019. Significant increase in bilateral hydrocarbon trade between India and U.S.A. has been registered, touching $ 9.2 billion during 2019-20.

During financial year 2020-21, India received the highest ever FDI amounting to $ 81.72 billion, as per data published by Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The US replaced Mauritius as second largest source of FDI into India during 2020-21 with inflows of $13.82 billion. US is one of the top 5 investment destinations for Indian FDI. According to a survey conducted by CII (June 2020) Indian companies employ nearly 125,000 people in the US, with tangible investments exceeding $ 22 billion across diverse sectors, including pharmaceuticals and life sciences, telecommunications, aerospace and defense, financial services, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, design and engineering, automotive, food and agriculture, energy and mining materials

There are several bilateral dialogue mechanisms in place to discuss issues of mutual interest. These include:

  • India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum:Established in 2005, the Trade Policy Forum serves as the leading bilateral mechanism to discuss trade related matters. The 11th Trade Policy Forum (TPF) Meeting was held in Washington DC on 26 October 2017. CIM Piyush Goyal and USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai during their telephone calls on 25 March and 14 May 2021 discussed reviving the Trade Policy Forum. Meeting of the TPF Intellectual Property working group was on 30 June 2021 co-chaired by JS, DPIIT and Deputy Assistant USTR for South and Central Asia from the US side.
  • India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue:India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue focuses on cooperation in areas such as standards, ease of doing business, travel & tourism, and other important issues of commercial significance. The meeting is chaired by the Minister of Commerce & Industry and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The first session of the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue under the new structure was held in Washington DC on 27 October 2017. CIM Piyush Goyal and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in a telephone call on 29 April 2021 discussed early convening of Commercial Dialogue.
  • India-U.S. CEO Forum:The India-U.S. CEO Forum was established in 2005. The Forum meets on the sidelines of the India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue. The recommendations from this forum feeds into the India-U.S. Commercial dialogue. The CEO Forum last met virtually in July 2020.

    Members of India-US CEO Forum with President Obama and PM Modi in January 2015 in New Delhi.

Strategic Energy Partnership / Climate & Clean Energy Agenda

India and US have a strong bilateral partnership in energy sector. In 2010, bilateral Energy Dialogue was launched. At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate held during April 22-23, 2021, the United States and India launched a new high-level partnership, the “U.S.- India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership,” which envisages bilateral cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Partnership will proceed along two main tracks i.e. Strategic Clean Energy Partnership; and Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue.

S&T and Space Cooperation

India-US cooperation in Science and Technology is multi-faceted and has been growing steadily under the framework of the India-US Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement signed in October 2005, which was renewed for a period of ten years in September 2019. The Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), a bi-national autonomous organization established to promote cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation has continued to play an important role in strengthening cooperation in this field. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, both India and the US are focusing on collaboration particularly in health and medical research. India and the U.S. have a long history of cooperation in the civil space arena in Earth Observation, Satellite Navigation, Space Science and Exploration. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been actively pursuing civilian space cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Page 10 of 13 (NOAA); US Geological Survey (USGS) and academic institutions.

Cooperation in combating Covid-19 pandemic

The long-standing bilateral cooperation in healthcare sector has been a source of strength for both countries in meeting the manifold challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two sides worked together to strengthen supply chains of essential items such as medicines, exchange best practices on Covid-19 management, and expand cooperation on development of therapeutics and vaccines to counter Covid-19. Last year (2020) India responded to the US request for pharmaceuticals, PPEs, masks and other essential medical supplies. As the second wave of pandemic hit India in April 2021, the U.S. Government, the Congress, States, the private sector and the American people extended their support in India’s efforts to confront the COVID infections. President Biden and Prime Minister Modi spoke on 26 April 2021, during which President Biden conveyed that just as India had helped the US in its difficult situation last year, the US will “stand shoulder to shoulder with India” and support India’s efforts by quickly deploying resources. President Biden committed to provide emergency relief to India, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine raw materials, therapeutics and identifying sources of raw materials to be made available for manufacture of vaccines in India. Starting with two flights airlifting supplies on 28 April, a total of seven flights carrying emergency supplies from the US Government landed in India by 17 May 2021.

Education Cooperation

Education partnership is an important pillar of India-US ties and both the countries share strong linkages and history of higher education collaborations. The United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) was set up after a bilateral agreement on education exchange was signed between India and the US in 1950. In July 2008, India and the US signed a new agreement, whereby India and the US committed to fund the Fulbright Program as equal partners. USEFI was renamed USIEF (United States-India Educational Foundation). The USIEF has awarded around 20,000 Fulbright and other grants to US and Indian scholars, professionals and students since its inception in 1950s.

India-U.S. Higher Education Dialogue, launched in 2012, laid out a road map for promoting strategic institutional partnerships, deepening collaboration in research and development, fostering partnerships in vocational education and focusing on junior faculty development. Under the “21st Century Knowledge Initiative”, started in 2012, both India and the U.S. pledged $ 5 million, which has funded University linkages and Junior Faculty Development. During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US in September 2014, it was decided to establish the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) to facilitate visits by 1000 U.S. teachers annually to teach in India.

US is one of the most favored destination of Indian students for higher education. As per the annual report of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), there were 2,07,460 Indian students in the U.S. in 2020, thus accounting for almost 17% of total international students in the U.S. The majority of Indian students in the U.S. come for graduate (masters) programs. For the academic year 2019-20, the impact of Indian students on the US economy was approximately US $ 7.70 billion.

Diaspora/People-to-People ties

About 4.2 million Indian Americans/Indian origin people reside in the US. The Indian Americans [3.18 million] constitute the third largest Asian ethnic group in the US. There are a number of Indian American community organizations as well as several professional organizations of Indian Americans. Indian Americans are one of the most successful immigrant communities in the US and are excelling in diverse fields, including politics. The Indian diaspora has been a catalyst in cementing closer ties between India and the U.S.

Source: MEA

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