Overcoming deficit: Significance of Indo-US strategic dialogue

The Strategic Dialogue between India and the United States has gained salience in the context of the emerging international and regional security environment. The timing of the second Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, which got concluded during the third week of July 2011, was such that it got preceded by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai at three different locations.

It is ironical that such incident keeps taking place in India despite the fact that there is a bilateral understanding between India and the United States on counterterrorism measures and mechanism. It is evident that the counterterrorism efforts put forth by India and the United States have not yielded any desired results.

The idea of having a Strategic Dialogue between India and the United States was felt couple of years ago because of the fast changing international security environment. The objective has been to build trust and confidence through this Strategic Dialogue.

It seems that both the nations, India and the United States have been discussing on a number of pertinent strategic issues impacting global security and stability since the launch of inaugural Strategic Dialogue in 2010.


The two sides have expanded their strategic consultations to include all the major issues and regions of the world. Both the nations, India and the United States have in recent years intensified the counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.

The progress made in the defence cooperation is yet to reach satisfactory level. The United States has made a number of commitments with regard to the waiver of technological sanctions and de-list the institutions from their entities list. But, somehow, these commitments are mere commitments and have not produced any positive result for India.    

The expansion of growing partnership on export controls and non-proliferation in the current circumstances is being debated. It is anticipated that such Strategic Dialogues might help in reaching a bilateral understanding and building a consensus for India joining Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).

With regard to non-proliferation, India’s credentials are very high despite the fact that India is a non-signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). India has not proliferated and has been maintaining a stringent national export control laws in commensurate with the international requirements and standards.

The Indo-US collaboration in the field of science and technology has also not shown any signs of remarkable progress and achievements despite the commitment made over the years in all the track one meetings. The Strategic Dialogue should have helped both the nations in terms of understanding the areas of collaboration in the field of science and technology. India has not been able to harness diplomatically in meeting its requirements.

There seems to be an element of trust deficit. The United States would require providing with essential requisites in science and technology, which can augur well with the emerging Indo-United States bonhomie in the bilateral relationship.

The expansion of strategic consultations also provided an impetus to both the United States and India to have a comprehensive evaluation of the challenges to the global stability and prosperity. The two sides have also reaffirmed their commitment for consultation, coordination and cooperation on the pressing requirements of dealing with Afghanistan.

The Indo-United States Strategic Dialogue provided a framework for joint effort in bringing normalcy in the Afghanistan. It was agreed that there should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and inclusive reconciliation where both the United States and India will have a defined role.

It was also acknowledged during the Strategic Dialogue that increased trade, transit and commercial linkages across South and Central Asia will benefit Afghanistan and contribute to the region’s long term peace, stability and prosperity.

Undoubtedly, the issues relating to the defence, security and counter-terrorism featured the larger part of the Strategic Dialogue. It should be noted here that both India and the United States mutually decided upon a program of cooperation in the field of megacity policing, combating counterfeit currency and illicit financing, cyber security and also jointly upgrading the existing technologies.

Joint efforts

The protection of critical infrastructure will in due course also form a part of the joint effort. These efforts will ultimately lead to a robust counter-terrorism cooperation and enhance intelligence sharing, information exchange and access to advanced counter-terrorism technology and equipment.

The Strategic Dialogue also emphasized on the need to eliminate safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The dismantlement of terrorist networks in all its forms will be given a top priority in due course.

The methods adopted to dismantle all the existing terrorist networks would be explored. It will certainly help in bringing normalcy and stability not only at the regional level but at the global scale. The United States seems to have again committed during the Strategic Dialogue that it will put pressure on Pakistan to help in the dismantlement process.

The broad range of cyberspace issues also featured as a major part of the Indo-United States Strategic Dialogue. The likely nature of warfare by 2020 will significantly change. It is certainly not going to be a war between the countries or among the countries. The attempt made would be to destroy the critical infrastructure through attacking cyber.

The Indo-United States bilateral cooperation in the cyber areas would become dominant in the future. The various terrorist groups have also been attempting to attack cyber and the United States and India have always been on the top of the degree of vulnerability.

The United States and India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding between India’s Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and the United States CERT to exchange information on cyber attacks and the mutual response to cyber security incidents.

Both India and the United States would require to cooperate on cyber security technology. There is certainly a need to exchange information on cyber-security policy and best practices and capacity building. It would also imply exchange of experts.

The progress made in the field of defence bilateral exchanges especially in the field of military exercises, counter piracy and maritime domain has to a greater extent helped both the countries in reaching to a consensus on the challenges emanating in the current international security environment. Both the countries, India and the United States have agreed to continue consultations on maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

On Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation, the confusion which had erupted in the recent past regarding the clean waiver granted by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) in 2008 formed a part of the discussion during the second Strategic Dialogue.

It was emphasized by the United States that the cooperation in this regard will continue. One has to see how best India can conduct nuclear trade and commerce with 46 members of NSG in the recent context.

There have been adamant postures reflected by few members of NSG in the recent meeting at the Hague that India shall sign nuclear non-proliferation treaty and also abide by the full scope safeguard regime. The benefits of the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation can only be realized when all the members of NSG fully cooperate with India and supply both nuclear reactors and technology.

Hence, one can conclude by saying that the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue certainly has started a process by which both the nations would be able to build trust and confidence.

The mutual suspicion on a number of strategic issues still exists and it is hoped that both the United States and India would be able to achieve lots of consensus on the theme relating to the mutual interest in due course through the Strategic Dialogue. There will be a great challenge for both India and the United States in terms of addressing the concerns of the emerging geopolitical order through this Strategic Dialogue.