This week’s visit of an incumbent US president to India—for a second time, and as chief guest on India’s Republic Day for the first time ever—is in and of itself significant. Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance of foreign and security policy will know that relations with the US constitute among the more important, if not the most important, bilateral ties for India. The visit of President Obama was important not only for the elevation of these ties but also for efforts relating to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, particularly concerning the US-India joint strategic vision document. Its significance was further acknowledged yesterday, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted his ambassador to the United States, who laid the groundwork for the summit meeting, to the role of foreign minister.

As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the US have worked over the last two decades to develop steadily evolving relations. There are nearly 40 dialogue mechanisms in place, demonstrating both the wide canvas and depth of the relationship. In assessing these, it is useful to set aside the hype that usually accompanies summit-level interactions of this kind and seek a clinical perspective.

The US is the world’s largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of 18 trillion USD or more, twice the size of the Chinese economy and nearly 10 times the Indian economy, which has a GDP of less than 2 trillion USD. There are obvious benefits to India maintaining a close relationship with such an economic powerhouse, but this doesn’t mean that things have always gone smoothly. Read more