For close to two decades now, the transformation of U.S.-India relations has been a bipartisan project in Washington. It has also been uniquely successful, as alternating Republican and Democratic administrations have worked with governments led by both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress Party to exorcise the ghosts of old corrosive Cold War disagreements. As a result, the United States and India, once sharply divided by the issues of alliances and alignment, today routinely declare their commitment to a durable strategic partnership.

Ashley J. Tellis
Ashley J. Tellis is the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security and U.S. foreign and defense policy with a special focus on Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
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Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, arguably the progenitor of the new collaboration, once boldly declared the United States and India to be “natural allies.”1 At that moment in 1998, the vision of fraternity seemed like fatuous rhetoric. But to the credit of Vajpayee’s successors (Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi) and their U.S. counterparts (George W. Bush, in particular), his ambition was brought to fruition rapidly and productively enough for Barack Obama to assert that U.S.-India ties could become the “defining partnership” of the century ahead.

The first section of this essay discusses the potential implications of the “America first” agenda that Donald Trump outlined during his presidential campaign for U.S.-India relations and regional security more broadly. The second section then assesses several challenges facing the bilateral relationship...

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This article was originally published in Asia Policy by the National Bureau of Asian Research.