India and the United States: The Contours of an Asian Partnership

India and the United States
The Contours of an Asian Partnership

by Walter C. Ladwig III and Anit Mukherjee
January 30, 2019

This essay explains the rationale and assumptions underlying this special issue by examining the concepts of strategic partnership and foreign policy cooperation and situating them within the historical context of Indo-U.S. cooperation in Asia.

Executive Summary


This special issue of Asia Policy scrutinizes the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership by examining the prospects for bilateral cooperation in Asia. Although peacetime foreign policy collaboration between major powers is a rarity, China’s rapid rise in the international system appears to have forced the United States and India into unusually close consultation on regional security issues. Will this consultation mature into active cooperation? To answer this question, this introductory essay first examines the concept of strategic partnership—a nebulous type of political relationship that has proliferated since the end of the Cold War. It then highlights the obstacles to peacetime cooperation between major powers in other regions of the world. Following this, attention turns to the articles in this special issue, which examine the history of Indo-U.S. cooperation in various subregions of Asia. Collectively, these articles challenge misperceptions and misunderstandings of each country’s policies and past behavior, as well as identify the differing understandings they have of both the bilateral relationship and the region. Taken together, they provide a clearer sense of the geopolitical scope and depth, as well as the important limitations, of the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership. This essay concludes by identifying the key insights that come from this collection and offers some thoughts on the overall trajectory of bilateral relations.

  • Bilateral Indo-U.S. cooperation in Asia is often hindered by an “absent dialogue” between the two sides, highlighting the need for constant communication between officials in both countries.
  • Although there is an apparent congruence of interests in the countries’ regional and foreign policy objectives, sustaining and developing the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership will require considerable attention and imagination.
  • India and the United States urgently need to focus on developing infrastructure and enhancing connectivity in Asia.

Walter C. Ladwig III is an Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He is the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (2017).

Anit Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

About Asia Policy

Asia Policy is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal presenting policy-relevant academic research on the Asia-Pacific that draws clear and concise conclusions useful to today’s policymakers. Asia Policy is published quarterly in January, April, July, and October and accepts submissions on a rolling basis. Learn more