subramanian38_Win McNameeGetty Images_modibiden Win McNamee/Getty Images

Understanding Biden’s Big Bet on India

With its new, unprecedentedly generous approach to India, the United States would appear to be giving away quite a lot in exchange for very little. Yet when considered from a long-term perspective, the American strategy makes sense for an increasingly multipolar world.

PROVIDENCE – The unprecedented lovefest between the United States and India has been striking and, frankly, puzzling. Following the pageantry of US President Joe Biden hosting a state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and of US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy inviting Modi to address a joint session of Congress for a second time, one wonders if America is giving away the store and getting very little in return.

After all, symbols such as these are the least of it. Among other things, the US is transferring sensitive military technology to a non-treaty partner, nudging its companies to invest in India, easing visa restrictions for Indian nationals, and desisting from publicly chastising Modi’s government for its democratic backsliding. In effect, America has drawn India into a one-sided quasi-alliance: it seems to have taken one, at most one-and-a-half, to tango. The strategic rationale, of course, is the need to counter-balance China. But what is the Indian quo for the American quid?

The former US diplomat Ashley J. Tellis believes the US is making a “bad bet,” because India will never participate in coalition warfare with the US against China unless its interests are directly threatened. In a Sino-American conflict over Taiwan, India would remain on the sidelines, despite the generosity the US has shown it. Even US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has acknowledged this.

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.