President Trump’s two day trip to India has helped to emphasize the importance of the US-Indian relationship to the world. Even though there are still some obstacles remaining, namely in trade matters, the United States and India are moving closer on many fronts. Defense is certainly one of them. While with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump announced the two countries would sign a $3 Billion defense deal which will provide India with American helicopters and other military equipment. Trump was quite pleased when he was welcomed by 100,000 people at an Ahmedabad cricket stadium in a rally-type of event dubbed “Namaste Trump.” As relations with him and Modi become closer, the relationship between the nations they lead becomes more critical to both as we move deeper into the 21st Century.
The US considers India to be a natural counter-weight to China. As China has enjoyed a meteoric rise in economic, and military power this century, India’s own accomplishments in these areas have been equally impressive. Politically and religiously the two countries are polar opposites. There is no democracy in China per se. The communist party maintains control, and leaders are not selected by the citizens they serve. India bills itself as the most populous democracy in the world where the people choose their national, regional, and local leaders. Hinduism is the majority religion in India with Islam the largest minority. In China there is no official religion although the government does recognize a select number, namely Buddhism. China has the largest population in the world and India has the second largest. The two nations are geopolitical rivals striving for influence and power across the continent and the world. They share a common border which has seen its fair share of tension, and skirmishes. In 1962 a dispute over the sovereignty of the Aksai Chin region led to a full-fledged war between India and China. The border area remains a thorn in the sides of both nations. Needless to say, the Sino-Indian rivalry remains alive and well.
The United States is determined to continue to grow its relations with India and strengthen ties. This policy has been pursued by successive administrations going back to President Carter, with varying results. Given the track US-Indian relations appear to on now, it would seem that the Trump Administration is on the right track.