The U.S.-India partnership is as consequential as any relationship in international affairs. Our strategic partnership is designed to strengthen both countries and to have a beneficial impact on the Indo-Pacific region.
The United States and India have made enormous strides together during the last 17 years. Some of the landmark steps along the way include the expansion of our defense cooperation and combined military exercises, the work of the High Technology Cooperation Group and the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, the historic civil nuclear deal, the nearly six-fold increase in U.S.-India trade, the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative and the designation of India as a Major Defense Partner, and many other initiatives related to commerce, energy, the environment, science, technology, health, and other fields. Significantly, there has been strong, consistent, and sustained support for this partnership from the major parties in each of our countries, across multiple changes of government.
And yet, despite all of this, we still get asked, “Is the United States a reliable partner that will remain fully engaged in the region?” or “What will be the next signature initiative to propel our relationship forward?” While I believe these questions are misplaced, they nonetheless represent anxieties that we must overcome. Only when we stop doubting our mutual commitment to this partnership and stop looking for another initiative to prove its worth, will we really know that things are proceeding well.
Over the last 17 years, we have laid a strong foundation for a strategic partnership that can have a significant, positive impact on the 21st century and beyond. It is now time to build upon this foundation in a flexible but purposive manner. We must move beyond our growing pains and create something that makes sense for both of us over the long term – something that helps shape a stable architecture for the region.
We need to make sure that the strategic partnership is a durable partnership. The longstanding commitment of the United States to a free, secure, and open Indo-Pacific has underpinned the stability and remarkable economic rise of this region -- to the benefit of all of us. The United States will remain committed to this region -- as we are to the rules-based international order -- because our future is inextricably linked to it. We welcome India’s leadership with us in this venture -- as partners bolstered by conviction and working with like-minded nations on a regional architecture to ensure that the Indo-Pacific -- in the words of Secretary of State Tillerson -- is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity, rather than one of disorder, conflict, and predatory economic policy.
There are five pillars of cooperation that provide the framework for our durable partnership: (1) defense and counter-terrorism, (2) economic and commercial relations, (3) energy and the environment, (4) science, technology, and health, and (5) regional cooperation.
In today’s turbulent world, one constant is -- and always should be -- the strength of the U.S.-India partnership. While both India and the United States cherish our independence and sovereignty, the true value of our partnership is that it can better enable each of us to positively influence global affairs and achieve our greatest aspirations for the security and prosperity of our people. Of course, for this to happen, we must approach our task as friends – with respect, trust, acceptance, confidence, and resilience and constancy.
President Trump has referred to India as a “true friend.” And Prime Minister Modi has echoed Prime Minister Vajpayee’s description of our countries as “natural allies.” It is now up to us to give further content and substance to these terms. We must build a partnership that is strong and durable, while also flexible and adaptive. Let us seize the opportunity before us, so that future generations look back on this period as a time when we truly transformed U.S.-India relations.
About the Author: Kenneth I. Juster serves as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of India.
Editor's Note: This blog is adapted from and includes key points from Ambassador Kenneth Juster's January 11 inaugural address as the U.S. Ambassador to India. This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.