CONGRESSIONAL INDIA CAUCUS

Republican co-chair Joe Wilson says:
 

  President Bush added momentum to Indo-US relationship
  Tariff disputes main obstacles
  India-bashing on outsourcing unfortunate

THE Indo-US relationship under President George Bush who is seeking second term, has strengthened further and this is strongly reflected in historic joint military exercises, increase in bilateral trade, and in better understanding and appreciation of India’s security concerns, so feels Mr. Joe Wilson, Republican co-chair of the US Congressional India Caucus. In an wide-ranging interview with Amitabha Sen, Mr. Joe spoke out his mind on major issues like bilateral trade, outsourcing, Kashmir and India’s demand Security Council membership.   

“On trade issues, I believe both nations must find a way to resolve tariff disputes, as this is the main obstacle blocking advancements in increased trade. In 2003, U.S. exports to India increased by 23%, and this is a very positive sign. I want to see bilateral trade increase as fast as possible. This is a crucial element to India’s rise as a respected, global leader”, he said. 

On the issue of outsourcing that has raised so much political dust on the eve of the President’s election in the US, the Republican co-chair was quite candid when he said: “it is unfortunate to see the India-bashing that is going on during this campaign over outsourcing. I feel India has become a scapegoat over this issue… We only discuss outsourcing, but do not mention all the jobs insourced, that is jobs created by overseas companies in the U.S. This constitutes nearly 6.5 million jobs, including 60,000 American jobs created by 170 Indian IT companies.” 

About Indian Americans he maintains they are “helpful in educating lawmakers about India, Kashmir and bilateral trade issues. I am very optimistic about the work of Indian American staffers in Congress, they are making a difference.  I believe the election of Bobby Jindal from Louisiana to Congress this November is a major step in the right direction in raising the profile of Indian Americans in this country.” 

AS: How would you like to assess Indo-US relations during the Bush Administration?

JW:
I believe U.S.-India relations under President Bush can be summed up best by restating the sentence in the Joint Statement issued by the President and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 21, 2004, where the two leaders noted “bilateral relations had never been as close as they were at present.” India has gotten stronger through its relationship with the U.S. under President Bush. We have seen historic joint military exercises, an increase in bilateral trade, and a better understanding and appreciation of India’s security concerns. President Clinton applied a double standard to India’s defense needs, dismissing India’s legitimate national security concerns as unnecessary. He also sanctioned the world’s largest democracy. Under Clinton’s watch, Pakistan went from a democracy to military theocracy, the Taliban was created and sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI in 1994, Pakistan detonated a nuclear device, both North Korea and China illegally transferred weapons systems to Pakistan but Clinton waived sanctions on them, and A.Q. Khan’s illicit nuclear trading ring flourished. 

Under President Bush’s leadership, India and the U.S. initiated the historic Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) and successfully completed Phase I, we have dismantled A.Q. Khan’s illegal trading program, the Taliban have been defeated, Afghanistan is turning from a terrorist haven to a free democracy, and al Qaeda is being decimated by joint U.S.-Pakistan military actions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. All of these actions will make South Asia safer and India will benefit from the closer relationship that it is developing with the U.S. 

AS: Could you identify areas and suggest political steps that may in effect strengthen further the Indo-US understanding wiping out whatever hesitancy or misgivings still might be affecting the bilateral relationship of these two Democracies? 

JW: I am focused on improving bilateral trade and military ties. I think it is unfortunate to see the India-bashing that is going on during this campaign over outsourcing. I feel India has become a scapegoat over this issue. 

On trade issues, I believe both nations must find a way to resolve tariff disputes, as this is the main obstacle blocking advancements in increased trade. In 2003, U.S. exports to India increased by 23%, and this is a very positive sign. I want to see bilateral trade increase as fast as possible. This is a crucial element to India’s rise as a respected, global leader. 

AS: One important decision that both the countries took is to re-energize the bilateral Economic Dialogue agreed upon by President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2001. The Indo-US bilateral trade has increased substantially with the balance in favour of India. Could you suggest steps that both the countries should take to raise it to a greater level?  

JW: The main item to focus on are tariffs. India maintains very high tariffs on a number of products, mainly to protect domestic industries. However, India maintains these tariffs on some products that are not made in India at all. Also, the same arguments on protectionism are taking place here. The more open India’s economy becomes, the more prosperity will reach its people. 

AS: Could you tell us the areas where Indian Americans can help effectively and meaningfully towards building up a stronger India, particularly in the fields trade and economy and eradication of poverty? 

JW: Indian Americans are helpful in educating lawmakers about India, Kashmir and bilateral trade issues. I am very optimistic about the work of Indian American staffers in Congress, they are making a difference. I have been fortunate that one of my staff members, Dino Teppara, is Indian American and has been with me for three years, advising me on various issues. The influence of Indian Americans will continue to grow as more people enter the legislative and political fields. I believe the election of Bobby Jindal from Louisiana to Congress this November is a major step in the right direction in raising the profile of Indian Americans in this country. 

AS: The recent controversy over ‘outsourcing’ to India is seen by many as a temporary political hue and cry as most of the US corporations are to substantially cut costs in order to survive, grow and expand in coming years and outsourcing can be one such effective cost-cutting measures. What do you feel about the prospect of BPO so far as India is concerned?  Is it a real threat to Indian IT industry or it’s the other way round? 

JW: I believe the U.S. can be competitive in any industry in the world, we just need to be on a level playing field. I feel the outsourcing issue has been politicized by Democrats in conjunction with labor unions. We only discuss outsourcing, but do not mention all the jobs insourced, that is jobs created by overseas companies in the U.S. This constitutes nearly 6.5 million jobs, including 60,000 American jobs created by 170 Indian IT companies. So we need to have an intelligent debate on the issue before we make decisions that affect international trade.  

AS: Post 9/11 India’s immediate response to the US call to join the war against terrorism had brought significant transformation in the relationship between these two countries. What spin-off effects of such decision of the Indian government you had expected of the US Administration and where they are today? 

JW: I believe both our countries are sharing vital intelligence on the al Qaeda network and we are shutting down the hawala money transfer system. We are continuing to work together on various fronts on the Global War on Terrorism, and we are making significant progress.  

AS: What is your view on the Kashmir issue?  

JW: I have stated on the House Floor that Pakistan must stop the infiltration of militants into India’s portion of Kashmir. Until the attacks on civilians and soldiers stop, very little progress can be made. Funding for madrassas must also be curtailed. I believe we are on the right track. Both India and Pakistan have opened historic rail, land and air ties between themselves and have begun opening the separate portions of Kashmir to one another. My own proposal is to make the Line of Control (LOC) the permanent border between the two countries, with the people of Kashmir having the freedom to visit each side freely. I believe this is the best solution because neither portion of Kashmir has the ability to exist in an independent state, due to its small size and population. I feel this is the best solution because both Pakistan and India should have responsibilities toward the people of Kashmir, to integrate them into the national economy and be responsible for their education and healthcare needs. At the same time, the people of Kashmir should not be denied family reunification. Resolving this dispute will be of great advantage to India, as more tourist dollars will flow into the area and India can decrease military expenditures once democracy and freedom flows into Kashmir, the way it successfully exists in India. 

AS: The US government is yet to take a clear stand on India’s demand for Security Council membership. On the other hand India is asked to sign NNPT without officially recognizing the country as a nuclear power. Your views please. 

JW: I am not holding India to a different standard from the U.S., as I believe this would be hypocritical. I understand that India is the world’s largest democracy in a sea of undemocratic regimes throughout Asia. Accordingly, India has legitimate security concerns dealing with proliferation and terrorism. 

As for membership on the U.N. Security Council, India is the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous nation. We have seen an orderly transition of power from one political party to another, when nearly 400 million people voted earlier this year in India. India’s economy in the 4th quarter of 2003 was the fastest growing in the world. We cannot ignore this. Yet, on the other hand, India does not have the economic clout yet that would make admission to the Council readily apparent. I feel strongly that if India can build its infrastructure in the power sector, develop a national road and highway system, and ensure a consistent supply of water, a strong case can be made to the global community. India’s economy is taking off, and every effort should made to ensure this momentum continues into the future.  

AS: Assuming President Bush is voted back to power again, what strategy you would be expecting from his government in terms of strengthening both political and economic relations with India further? 

JW: I believe President Bush will continue to implement the goals of the strategic partnership, and I think he will make stronger India-U.S. ties a priority in his Administration, I have no doubt about that.  

AS: In case the Democrat candidate wins over, would you be expecting any dramatic change in Indo-US relationship?   

JW: I am confident that President Bush will be reelected, and I am working hard to ensure that happens. I believe U.S.-India relations will be best under President Bush, so I think Indian Americans should support him.

 

October 13, 2004


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