Following the election of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government in May 2014, we have seen a sharper and more vigorous focus on foreign policy in India. Modi has embraced a more strategic outlook than his predecessors, which signals a break from India’s traditional policy of “non-alignment”. The focus of the Modi government’s foreign policy efforts has been to refresh ties with immediate neighbors, while also strengthening relations with great powers in Asia including Japan, the United States, and Australia.
In 2015, India’s strategic rivalry with China will continue to expand to the maritime domain. The recent passage of Chinese submarines through the Indian Ocean—and docking in Sri Lanka—is rippling through New Delhi’s security community. Such activities will help position President Obama’s visit to India in late January as an opportunity to continue looking for new ways to elevate the US-India strategic partnership.
The ten-year U.S.- India Defense Framework Agreement expires this summer. Both sides are committed to renewing the Agreement, and may find ways to expand elements of maritime cooperation. Maritime cooperation seems particularly opportune given the explicit inclusion of their shared interest in a stable South China Sea as part of the Joint Statement issued following Prime Minister Modi’s September 2014 visit to Washington.
We may also see the elevation of the important U.S.–Japan-India trilateral dialogue to the ministerial level, as suggested in the September Joint Statement. Raising the seniority of this dialogue could open the door to important new areas of cooperation, including the maritime space.