India’s relations with the United States have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years overcoming significant hurdles, including legacy issues and some mutual distrusts — all of this with the broad approval of the commentariat and the public.
The recent COVID-19 assistance imbroglio, however, caused a ripple, which was amplified by some commentaries advocating ‘caution’ in pursuing closer ties with the US. This advice was buttressed with references to the recent passage of a US warship, without due notification or permission, through waters India considers its economic zone; the looming CAATSA sanctions for the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system; and the threat of sanctions straining our relations with Iran.
In the wake of the US State Department statement, former Indian Army Chief Ved Prakash Malik tweeted “Remembering an old lesson… Not to become over dependant on the US for defence weapons and equipment.”
It all started with the April 22 statement by the State Department spokesperson in response to the health crisis in India. This was seen as a continuation of the US policy preventing exports under the Defence Production Act (DPA), which prioritises production of vaccines, vaccines-related material and even PPEs for the US.
This bald and rather insensitive statement sparked off a flurry of official activity, including discussions between the NSAs of the two countries and culminating in a conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.