from International Institutions and Global Governance Program

The United States and India: A Shared Strategic Future

A CFR-Aspen Institute India Joint Study Group Report



The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Aspen Institute India (Aii) have cosponsored a U.S.-India Joint Study Group to identify the shared national interests that motivate the United States and India. The group is releasing its conclusions from meetings held in New Delhi, and Washington, DC. It recommends:

Christopher Clary

International Affairs Fellow in India

Robert D. Blackwill
Robert D. Blackwill

Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy

Naresh Chandra

Ambassador of India to the United States

  • The United States express strong support for India's peaceful rise as a crucial component of Asian security and stability.
  • The United States and India endorse a residual U.S. military presence over the long term in Afghanistan beyond 2014, if such a presence is acceptable to the government of Afghanistan.
  • The two countries resume regular meetings among the so-called Quad states (the United States, India, Japan, and Australia), and should periodically invite participation from other like-minded Asian nations such as South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Representatives of the Quad states have not met since 2007.
  • The group comprised business, policy, and thought leaders from the United States and India, and was co-chaired by Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, and Naresh Chandra, chairman of National Security Advisory Board.

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United States


Politics and Government

Other members are:

Graham T. Allison – Harvard Kennedy School

K. S. Bajpai – Delhi Policy Group

Sanjaya BaruBusiness Standard, India

Dennis C. Blair – Former Director of National Intelligence

More on:

Security Alliances

United States


Politics and Government

Pramit Pal ChaudhuriHindustan Times

P. S. Das – Former commander-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy

Tarun Das – Aspen Institute India

Jamshyd N. Godrej - Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd.

Richard N. Haass – CFR, ex officio

Stephen J. Hadley – United States Institute of Peace

Brajesh Mishra – Observer Research Foundation

C. Raja Mohan – Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

John D. Podesta – Center for American Progress

Ashley J. Tellis – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Philip D. Zelikow – University of Virginia

The following are select policy recommendations from the report, The United States and India: A Shared Strategic Future.

On Pakistan:

  • Hold classified exchanges on multiple Pakistan contingencies, including the collapse of the Pakistan state and the specter of the Pakistan military losing control of its nuclear arsenal.
  • The United States should heavily condition all military aid to Pakistan on sustained concrete antiterrorist measures by the Pakistan military against groups targeting India and the United States, including in Afghanistan.
  • The United States should continue to provide technical assistance to Pakistan to protect its nuclear arsenal, and to prevent the transfer of this technology to third parties.
  • India should continue its bilateral negotiations with Pakistan on all outstanding issues, including the question of Kashmir. India should attempt to initiate quiet bilateral discussions with Pakistan on Afghanistan as well as trilateral discussions with Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan:

  • India, with U.S. support, should continue to intensify its links with the Afghanistan government in the economic, diplomatic, and security domains.
  • The United States and India should determine whether large-scale Indian training of Afghanistan security forces, either in Afghanistan or in India, would be beneficial.

On China and Asia:

  • The United States and India should jointly and individually enlist China's cooperation on matters of global and regional concern. Neither India nor the United States desire confrontation with China, or to forge a coalition for China's containment.
  • Given worrisome and heavy-handed Chinese actions since 2007, the United States and India should regularly brief each other on their assessments of China and intensify their consultations on Asian security.

On the Middle East:

  • The United States and India should collaborate on a multiyear, multifaceted initiative to support and cement other democratic transitions in the Middle East—with Arab interest and agreement.
  • India should intensify discussions with Iran concerning the stability of Iraq and Afghanistan.

On economic cooperation, the United States and India should:

  • Enhance the Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by the U.S. secretary of state and Indian minister of external affairs to include economics and trade.
  • Begin discussions on a free trade agreement, but recognize that it may not be politically possible in the United States to conclude negotiations in the near term.

On climate change and energy technology, the collaboration should:

  • Include regular, cabinet-level meetings focused on bridging disagreements and identifying creative areas for collaboration.
  • Conduct a joint feasibility study on a cooperative program to develop space-based solar power with a goal of fielding a commercially viable capability within two decades.

On defense cooperation, the United States should:

  • Train and provide expertise to the Indian military in areas such as space and cyberspace operations where India's defense establishment is currently weak, but its civil and private sector has strengths.
  • The United States should help strengthen India's indigenous defense industry. The United States should treat India as equivalent to a U.S. ally for purposes of defense technology disclosure and export controls of defense and dual-use goods, even though India does not seek an actual alliance relationship.

This Joint Study Group, cosponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Aspen Institute India, was convened to assess issues of current and critical importance to the U.S.-India relationship and to provide policymakers in both countries with concrete judgments and recommendations. Diverse in backgrounds and perspectives, Joint Study Group members aimed to reach a meaningful consensus on policy through private and nonpartisan deliberations. Once launched, this Joint Study Group was independent of both sponsoring institutions and its members are solely responsible for the content of the report. Members' affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement.

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