Right from its independence at midnight on 14/15 August 1947, India’s
political ties with the US government did not start out on a friendly note.
Scholars of international relations (Ganguly, 1994; Hiro, 2015; Jain, 2008;
Tahir-Kheli, 1997) have shown that during the early years of the Cold War
period, India, led for many years by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, refused
to join any superpower-led military alliance that would seek to curtail India’s
independence in terms of following its foreign policy. Instead, India opted to
freely conduct its own foreign affairs by helping to found the Non-Aligned
Movement in 1961.
Another thorn for Indo-US relations during the Cold War era was Nehru’s
friendship with the USSR, which involved strong diplomatic and military ties.
While Russia buttressed India’s stand on Kashmir and other contested issues
regarding India’s rivalry with Pakistan, successive US administrations
supported Pakistan’s quest to wrest control of the entire state of Jammu and
Kashmir from India. In three wars between India and Pakistan, in 1948, 1965 and
1971, Pakistan used airpower and its army against India (Hiro, 2015; Ganguly,
1994) with more or less open support from the USA.
However, after the Cold War ended, India and the USA became friends,
collaborating particularly on fighting international terrorism (Hiro, 2015).
Defence and economic ties between the two nations improved significantly (Jain,
2008), with huge strategic, geopolitical and also trade-related implications
(Singh et al., 2020).
As part of this growing friendship, the USA signed a Civilian Nuclear
Deal with India in 2005, according international recognition to India as a
nuclear power. India’s relations with the USA have thus moved from being
unfriendly during the Cold War towards developing closer relations after the
This significant change of political climate and relationship between
the two largest democracies in the world offers an opportunity for analysts to
examine to what extent the changed diplomatic, political and economic relations
are reflected in press coverage, testing also how this compares with published
The research underlying this article, from a media studies perspective,
therefore, scrutinised in what ways the reporting in a major US newspaper, The
Washington Post, reflected the changed Indo-US relations. The article first
presents a brief account of the earlier unfriendly Indo-US relationship and its
recently changed nature. It then outlines the research methodology, including
the indexing theory of Bennett (1990) as a research tool.
The qualitative analysis of the findings regarding press coverage on
India in The Washington Post covers a period extending over 24 years, basically
from the collapse of the USSR and the consequent end of the Cold War on 26
December 1991 to 25 December 2015.
The study identifies that certain themes in reporting about India
predominated during this period. Importantly, it also shows that the press
coverage matched the academic literature on Indo-US relations, as well as US
foreign policy, thus confirming also that the indexing theory and methodology
remains a viable research tool.