Article: ‘America First’ clashes with India’s bid for strategic autonomy

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‘America First’ clashes with India’s bid for strategic autonomy

P.K.Balachandran, 01 May 2021

Colombo, May 1: India and the US have designated themselves as “strategic partners” with political, economic and military dimensions to the relationship. But the partnership has kept coming under strain.

The reasons are two-fold: Firstly, its contours are not defined. Secondly, Washington’s ‘America First’ policy and its tendency to pursue a foreign policy almost exclusively in its own immediate interest, clashes with India’s penchant for maintaining ‘strategic autonomy’ despite its increasing economic and military dependence on the US.

Vaccine Raw Material Controversy

The latest irritant was the US refusal to supply raw materials to India for the manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The US said that it needs the raw materials for its own manufacturing program. The Biden Administration quoted a law under which an item could not be exported if the US need for it was not met first. A US spokesman even went to the extent of saying: “It is not only in the US interest to see Americans vaccinated; but it is in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.”

It was only when India argued its case at the highest level amidst an uproar in India, that the US relented. In Indian eyes, the strategic partnership seemed to be lacking in moral content. It was not even transactional because India had gone out of the way to help America when the pandemic was doing its worst in the US.

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