Since the turn of the millennium, India has focused on strengthening her diplomatic ties with
countries near and far.
In the present day, India shares a strong bond of friendship and cooperation with all major countries with the exception of China and Pakistan. Russia remains the country’s number one ally, ahead of Israel. America remains a distant friend, and the story behind this arm’s-length friendship is a lengthy tale.
The first litmus test for cooperation and support from America came in the 1971 Liberation of Bangladesh. Bangladesh became a territory of Pakistan after the 1947 Partition of India; since the forced mesh of two cultures, the region had been a hotbed for riots and protests against Pakistan. Pakistan had created a mandate to make Urdu the official language of the province, replacing the traditional Bengali. War broke out over this decision. India became involved when she came to Bangladesh’s aid to usher the adsorbed country toward independence.
In the 1971 Liberation Struggle, America showed support towards Pakistan by politically pressuring India to step back from the conflict. President Richard Nixon sent threatening warships with nuclear weapons into the Arabian Sea, and for the first and last time, the U.S and China cooperated as allies in a war. Under pressure from their Western allies, even the United Arab Emirates and Britain were forced to clamp down on India.
It was in this time of need that the Soviet Union entered the fray to aid India’s forces in support of Bangladesh. Soviet Forces detected the United Kingdom warship Eagle in the Arabian Sea. While Indian forces were nullifying Pakistani troops in the border terrain, Russia sent submarines to counter the threats created by American and U.K. warships. By the time America realized Russia’s intervention, the US already withdrew from the war.
The next chapter in this story is the 1999 Kargil War over the Kashmir territory in India. The U.S once again sided with Pakistan in the conflict. Russia helped India diplomatically instead of militarily, likely because of Russia’s economic recession and change of leadership. They influenced nations in Eurasia to support India’s cause.
On the opposite side of the conflict, Israel supplied military aid to India that provided aerial images of the Pakistani troops, allowing India to make accurate counter-terrorism strategies. Israel also provided laser-guided missiles for Indian Air Force Mirage 2000H fighters. The precision bombing material then limited the advantage of the Pakistani soldiers based on high position, and helped India without violating the orders to not cross the Indian LoC (Line of Control).
Meanwhile, America supplied surveillance aircraft and anti-ship missiles to Pakistan as they crossed the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir frontier. Even though the United States pressured Israel to withdraw their arm supplies to India, Israel persisted in their support.
In the past, the United States has stood alongside Pakistan, while Russia and Israel aided India. These partnerships changed drastically in the post 9/11 world.
The previous foreign policy of the United States simply involved a combination of hard-line approaches, while incentivizing Pakistan to support the curbing of extremism in Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network, which operates along the length of the northwestern frontier of India to Afghanistan, was the brainchild of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 2000s. This spy network promoted an active brand of terrorism and joined hands with the Al-Qaeda.
After 9/11, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of this network, sought refuge in Pakistan’s tribal district of North Waziristan and became one of the first anti-American commanders based in the border areas. For the first-time ever, America’s own spy network in the Indian subcontinent turned against their masters. This prompted the CIA to revise their approach towards the India-Pakistan conflict.
Recently, India’s relationship with the US has grown by leaps and bounds, most notably due to the democratic roots of the two countries, and the fact that India is one of the only democracies in the Indian sub-continent, along with Nepal and Sri Lanka. Despite the positive overtones in this current relationship, the divisive history between the countries cannot be blunted.
Despite the U.S.-India diplomatic strides, Russia still remains India’s number one defense partner. From 2012-2016, Russia has supplied 68% of India’s arms import. The US is a distant second with 14% and Israel follows with 7.2% percent.
The potential of a U.S.-India alliance is limitless. Both these countries have first-hand experience of terror in their lands, and have become partners in combating radical Islamic terrorism. President Trump has also indicated, in the recent joint meeting between Prime Minister Modi and himself, that India has contributed significantly to humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, in conjunction with the US.
India, being the world’s largest democracy, has urged the US to further consolidate her message of democracy with the belief in the Law of Land, in the event of further rise of the left in the East, or else they will continue to stick with Russia.
So, with another stand-off between India and China in a Bhutan tri-junction, a conflict in the North-Eastern frontier is looming. India will hope America will learn from her past and choose her allies wisely.