Russian aggression and China aggression strengthen India-US relations, but Delhi's "Ultimate Balancer" strategy may not live up to US expectations.

The recent state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US was subject to a lot of fanfare. It is being hailed as a crucial turning point in the expanding strategic partnership between the two top democracies.
Russian aggression and China aggression strengthen India-US relations, but Delhi's "Ultimate Balancer" strategy may not live up to US expectations.
US President Joseph Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Aside from his record-breaking popularity, PM Modi brought to the US legitimate hopes for a developing and ambitious India.

The schedule suggested that this visit would be given priority. Defense agreements, such as the $3 billion purchase of the long-delayed Reaper armed drones, have been finalised in the lead-up to the visit. The transfer of technology (ToT) of FE-414 engines for Tejas-2 fighters has also been approved by the US.

The visit's schedule appears to cover the majority of the bases: formal and informal events, defence agreements, interactions with the diaspora, and meetings with tech titans and related media. Yet, it is appropriate to look past the hype and consider the specifics. A few difficult decisions could lead to the development of lasting and significant strategic alliances.

American expectations are founded on the relationship's complying, if not client, nature. These expectations in Washington are fueled by the enormous asymmetries between two potential allies, particularly in terms of defence technology and net hard power.

India, on the other hand, is renowned for being a challenging ally who aggressively defends her strategic autonomy—a more sophisticated form of non-alignment. Bilateral foundation agreements had new, personalised names as a result of Indian hesitation.

It was necessary to modify and customise the Logistics Services Agreement (LSA) into a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with India and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) into a Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).

The constraints of the promised relationship and the potential for India to change course have been highlighted by experts like Ashley Tellis as a result of this intricacy, which is frequently referred to as bureaucratese.

Being the voice of the "Global South," India aspires to be recognised as the "ultimate balancer" and a proponent of multipolarity. Even when it is the net beneficiary or benefits in the short- and medium-term, New Delhi insists on a partnership.

India has been compelled by geopolitical imperatives to join the Quad in an effort to deter its aggressive neighbour, China. India is aware of the limitations of these connections and does not demand on-the-ground presence. It also accurately assesses how Washington-led coalitions, like I-5 and Quad, function when India is absent.

India was happy to satisfy Chinese sensitivity until 2020 given their concern with Pakistan. Because they were unaware of the 1962 disgrace, millennials were willing to stick to their geo-economical emphasis.

On this topic, the US needs to engage millennials. Growth in tandem with China appeared to have already been accomplished, as envisioned by Deng.

Its strategic aspiration has been crushed by Xi Jinping's aggressive and skillful manoeuvre on the Sino-Indian border. Self-sufficiency, decoupling, and resisting bullying are becoming a part of India's new rhetoric. China has clearly widened the strategic gap between the two nations, even though America may not have been able to shape India the way it had hoped.

Washington may not have a perfectly obedient ally in the future, but it can still rely on a rising India to compete with, oppose, and balance Beijing. Convergence is therefore inevitable despite differences.

India had relied on Russia for its weapons and ammunition since 1971, when Nixon-Kissinger were courting China with the help of the Rawalpindi brass. Pakistan was a member of the Central Treaty Organization, which needs to be emphasised again (CENTO.)

Eventually, in order to stay relevant and provide American weapons, Pakistan abused the great game in Afghanistan. Russia has been a reliable partner, but its options in the aftermath of the Ukraine are severely limited.

More significantly, persistent reliance on essential components exposes the fiction of Russian ToT. It was a licenced production, in essence. The first concrete requirement is sincere hand-holding with "print to design" (know-how and so know-why.)

India likely has the greatest arsenal deployed in warlike situations, including a proxy conflict with Pakistan in the West and the deployment of combat-ready forces to stave off China in the North. Unlike to many smaller countries, India has not only shown the guts to oppose China but has also carried out quid-pro-quo (QPQ) operations to disprove that country's invincibility.

Indian crews possess a miraculous ability to master equipment and improvise, or "jugaad," as it is known in India. This has been shown by numerous subpar Gnats defeating Sabre planes and nearly obsolete Centurions erecting a Patton tank graveyard. Regrettably, Pakistani forces were using American equipment to their advantage.

In a lightning strike in 1971, Indians once more defied the riverine landscape. T-55s and medium tanks struggled across marshy areas and PT-76s floated through powerful rivers while helicopters transported men. They revere and are committed to their weapons. Many renowned weapon systems were thought to be invincible until conflicts in the Ukraine and elsewhere, mostly as a result of poor handling.

One is reminded of a horse breeder who made his clients do required riding tests. It is possible for the US military-industrial complex to have vested interests, such as the desire to sell its products to professional armed forces who can deploy them effectively.

With a sincere dedication to empowerment and guaranteed life cycle support, a partnership can thrive. It ought to equip hosts with the capacity to refurbish, repair, and replace parts. Indians are renowned for not throwing away their tools in a rush.

The T-55 tanks on which I received my commission are still in use. Retrofitting and life cycle extension would be in line with Indian culture. Russia provided India with weaponry in a well-known gun for bananas barter deal. Another one is the recent sale of oil at a discount.

Due to cost-related issues, the Reaper drone deal was postponed. In developing costing packages, particularly for life-cycle support, it is hoped that the Russian experience will inject some practicality.

The ideal situation would be to establish a local hub for repairs and services. Coordination for collaborative space missions to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024 is developing. The Artemis Accords will also be ratified by India. Chip manufacturing and semiconductors will receive significant investment from Micron and Applied Materials.

Even if it is not state-of-the-art, it can build a manufacturing ecosystem. The Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) was replaced by the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET), which is not included in the INDUSX-India US Military Acceleration Ecosystem. However, the main issue in utilising these agreements and new empowering mechanisms is to It can build a manufacturing ecosystem even when it is not cutting edge. INDUSX- India US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem is not bundled with the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET), which replaced the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). However, the real challenge in leveraging these agreements and new empowering mechanisms is to jump-start our indigenous ecosystem.