Context: As the campaigning to the US President poll reaches the concluding phase, a look at how the bilateral ties between India and US has evolved, irrespective of whether the President has been a Democrat or a Republican.

Importance of US Presidential election to India:

  • Bilateral engagement: economically, strategically and socially - American Presidents can make a real difference to bilateral ties, including on trade, immigration policies, and larger strategic issues.
  • The diaspora card: 
    • The Indian diaspora in the US is one of the most successful expatriate communities. 
    • While their political preferences may differ, they all favour a closer bonding between India and US. 
  • The Chinese belligerence: It is the frightening prospect of a powerful, belligerent and hegemonic China that has helped New Delhi build its relationship with Washington in recent times.
    • Both the contenders for the post of US President recognise the grave threat from China.
    • Hence, India’s China policy would have to be customised to the US’s response and coordinated with Washington. 

Three clear strategic choices with India:

  • Hedging: It offers the prospects of continuing cooperation with China on areas of mutual interest, while building India’s defences and confronting Beijing at a time and place of New Delhi’s choice. 
  • Bandwagoning: It is a defeatist option of capitulation and accepting Chinese hegemony. 
  • Balancing: It is the most challenging and confrontational option. India is not in a position to balance China on its own, and balancing (soft and hard: economic, diplomatic and military) would demand building a coalition with the US and other like-minded states.

Balancing: Its structure and form that India would prefer:

  • The shape of a Quad: With Australia, Japan and the US. Or
  • A full-fledged military alliance: Such as an Asian NATO. 

India should ensure that it should not be comfortable participating as a junior partner in any such balancing arrangement. Whoever becomes the next US President, India needs to ensure that it would not leave it’s deeply held belief in strategic autonomy, defined as the independence to make choices about war and peace.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

  • It is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
  • It is also known as the Quad.
  • It has a shared objective of ensuring a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
  • The idea of grouping was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.

Source: ORF