The US-India Relationship In 2024

Nirvikar Singh
January 2024

The US strategy of reducing its economic dependence on China, in parallel with greater attention to military containment, has put a spotlight on the U.S.-India relations. For somewhat similar reasons, India has been an enthusiastic participant in new collaborations on several fronts. An “initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology” (iCET) was announced in May 2022, with an inaugural meeting in January 2023, covering a range of areas, including semiconductors, space, defense and telecommunications, as well as broader issues: innovation ecosystems and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) (White House, 2023a). November 2023 marked progress on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), also launched in 2022. IPEF includes the U.S. and India, and a dozen other nations, and includes attention to climate change, supply chains, and the control of corruption (White House, 2023b).

Notably, the IPEF meeting included the PGI IPEF Investment Forum – aimed at increasing (US) private investment in the non-US IPEF members that are developing nations. PGI stands for “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment,” and the Investment Forum included corporate leaders, especially from the financial sector, along with government officials. The goal is to provide developing IPEF members with expertise as well as investment, and India can and will compete for both. The success of India’s diaspora in the US, including leadership of major US corporations in technology, finance and other sectors; becoming thought leaders in business schools; and making a mark in the media, law and politics, are a source of advantage in that respect. Indian American academics have a strong presence not just in STEM fields, but also in the humanities, arts and social sciences, where they represent a locus of soft power for India, as well as sometimes being the voice of conscience.

More broadly, consistent with the earlier findings reported in Chakravorty, Kapur and Singh (2016), the Indian American community has remained heavily aligned toward the Democratic Party in the U.S., according to an attitudes survey (Badrinathan, Kapur and Vaishnav, 2020), though this preference may have weakened in the last few years as the diasporic community has grown and become more heterogeneous. With respect to attitudes towards India, the survey found that “Regarding contentious issues such as the equal protection of religious minorities, immigration, and affirmative action, Indian Americans hold relatively more conservative views of Indian policies than of U.S. policies” (Badrinathan, Kapur and Vaishnav, 2021, p. 2), which raises questions about the reasons for this difference, and the possibilities for constructive dialogue and debate on these matters in an integrated conceptual framework. The core values that distinguish open, democratic societies are presumably not culturally contingent, and neither are the risks that such societies face in many national contexts around the world.

While the current White House has incorporated worker and environmental protections in the IPEF (White House, 2023b), ethical concerns such as these may not survive a change in administration. Corporate leaders, whether in the U.S. or India, and whether of Indian ethnicity or not, are primarily driven by profit motives, and the ultimate source of values that guide their behavior, whether directly, or indirectly through government officials, has to be citizens and civil society.

About the authors: Nirvikar Singh is a distinguished Professor of Economics in the University of California, Santa Cruz

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