India and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to their growing partnership and a shared focus on the Indo-Pacific, touching on critical world issues at high-level talks this week.

As the Israel-Hamas conflict rages, the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, and China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific continues.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their Indian counterparts in New Delhi.

Blinken arrived in New Delhi from South Korea, the final leg of a marathon trip that included a G7 foreign ministers meeting in Japan and a turbulent tour of the Middle East.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US in June, which included agreements to strengthen cooperation in key areas such as defense, space and trade, has led to closer ties between the two nations.

This week’s discussions followed Modi’s successful visit to Washington and President Joe Biden’s trip to New Delhi for the G20 summit in September.

“We’re building on a pretty remarkable year of engagement, and I think it’s just a testament to the fact that we have not only the strongest bilateral partnership we’ve ever had, but also a regional and even a global one,” Blinken said in his opening remarks.

Contains China

Former diplomats and experts believe that the ongoing momentum can be used to further strengthen bilateral ties and build strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific vis-à-vis China.

“Deepening ties between India and the US ensure a favorable balance of power in Asia and slow authoritarian China’s push for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific. In addition, the US expects India to play an offshore balancing role in shaping and correcting the region’s “architectural balance,” Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, tells DW.

Will India become an economic superpower?

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“The US wants India to take a more active role in the sub-regions where it will act as a facilitator, aggregator and liaison. They want India to be part of the ‘hub and spoke’ model,” Chaulia said, adding that the US calls on its allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific to help deter China’s aggressive behavior.

In the “hub-and-spoke” model, the United States acts as the hub, while Asian nations with military ties to it form the spokes. It is a system that helps the US consolidate its political influence over Asian allies, monitor cooperation between alliances and increase cooperation.

In the background there is a war between Israel and Hamas

As the Israel-Hamas conflict continues, India has urged both sides to avoid violence, de-escalate the situation and create conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

India has historically balanced its relations with Israelis and Palestinians. But after the horrific Hamas attack on October 7, India expressed solidarity with Israel while reiterating its support for a two-state solution.

“The subtle shift in India’s position on the Palestinian issue that has been observed is part of the broader shift in India’s foreign policy towards rapprochement with the US and the West. And Israel has become a trustworthy partner in recent years.” Former Indian ambassador Mohan Kumar told DW.

The conflict has likely put new initiatives on hold, such as a planned economic corridor between India and the Middle East and cooperation between the I2U2 grouping of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

“India is one of the few countries that can credibly speak to both the Palestinian Authority and Israel. So India can potentially play a mediating role. It remains to be seen whether India will be specifically asked by both sides to mediate and whether it has the “agency” to do so,” Kumar added.

Meera Shankar, a former envoy to the US, also claimed that while India supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, it also reiterates its support for a two-state solution and for alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza have.

“The impact of this crisis on the wider region and on the India-Middle East corridor is likely to play a role in the discussions. India would also be concerned that the US does not lose sight of the situation when dealing with these crises.” “There are major challenges in the Indo-Pacific,” Shankar said in an interview with DW.

Expand U.S.-India relations

“Both sides would also review their bilateral relations and the progress made on the important decisions taken by President Biden and Prime Minister Modi to strengthen their strategic partnership,” Shankar added.

An ambitious list of agreements was unveiled during Modi’s visit to the US, ranging from cooperation in high technology to climate change and production of fighter jet engines to investments in semiconductors and counterterrorism.

Narendra Modi pays a state visit to the USA

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“We expect progress in the bilateral negotiations on strategic defense partnerships, particularly through negotiating an early conclusion of the Security of Supply Agreement and the Mutual Defense Procurement Agreement,” said KP Vijayalakshmi, professor and head of geopolitics and international relations at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education said DW.

“India is seeking to offset China’s challenge by promoting its partnership with the US, with which it has signed fundamental agreements, intensified trade dialogue and signed the Critical and Emerging Technologies Initiative (iCET),” Vijayalakshmi added.

New Delhi has invited Biden to India’s Republic Day celebrations as part of its plan to host the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue leaders’ summit in January 2024.

“The relationship will get a further boost if Biden agrees. After that, both countries will be in election mode next year,” Chaulia said.

Edited by: John Silk

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