Act: An ‘all win’ agreement
NEED FOR CLOSEST INDO-US ALLIANCE
The shared values of the United States and India should be obvious to anyone. Here we have the oldest democracy and the largest democracy in the world. Both societies are multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-religious. Some of the closest-knit relationships in the world today are those that exist between democratic, pluralistic societies with liberal economies. Just on these bases alone, the U.S.-Indian relationship should have always been one of the closest. As we know, however, for the better part of the 20th century the Cold War subsumed all of international politics and so too it prevented a closer alliance and deeper cooperation between the United States and India.
Many observers see the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement (or the Hyde Act) as the linchpin in U.S.-India relations. Although clearly the focal point these days, this agreement does not represent a linchpin. Despite the monumental importance and historic nature of this agreement, it would never have come about if shared values, converging interests, and strategic imperatives had not already existed between the two countries. Stating this, however, does not diminish the critical importance of the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement and the fundamental alteration in the global nuclear nonproliferation regime it represents. Nor does this minimize the extent to which this agreement is capable of accelerating the positive evolution of U.S.-India relations.
Strategically-speaking, the United States and India share concerns about the rise of China. Sharing a northern and an eastern border and having fought a border war with China in 1962, India does not require any cajoling to be attentive here. India’s million-man army, the world’s fourth largest, and its blue-water navy make it a natural buffer. By the middle of the 21st century, a demographically and economically vibrant India can serve as a counterweight not only to expanding Chinese influence in Southeast Asia but also to China’s great-power ambitions in other locations around the globe.
As hinted at initially, however, most current questions about U.S.-India relations center on whether the process began by the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement will move forward to completion or not. In order for this to happen, the United Progressive Alliance government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must successfully weather the domestic dissent surrounding this process and conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). After the IAEA agreement, the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group must agree to modify its export control standards to permit nuclear cooperation, and then the Section 123 Agreement implementing the cooperation between the United States and India can be sent to the U.S. Congress for its endorsement.
SHELF-LIFE & TIME CLOCK
Under the circumstances, predictions of success or failure here are probably not very helpful. It is important to note, however, that the historic nature of this process, the tremendous effort for its passage by the Indian-American community and others in the United States, the intensity of the political opposition in India, and the election-year focus in the United States all contribute to the assessment by many that
The U.S.-Indian relationship did not begin with the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement, but rather this process was borne out of the already frequent and strong cooperation that existed between the two countries. As all of this did not begin with this process so too it will not end with this effort if that is the final outcome here. Who benefits if the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement succeeds? Well clearly, energy and defense interests in India and the United States benefit, but are they the only winners here? Not really, truthfully we all win, even the critics and the opponents, because the U.S.-India relationship is one that makes sense on all levels. This is not to say that both partners and all interests and individuals in both countries will always win equally, just as they will not always agree on everything in either society for that matter, but rather the undeniable underlying dynamic here is quite logical and should not be fought. It should in fact be cultivated, facilitated, and nurtured resulting in a relationship where both the United States and India continue to grow in what they gain positively from one another. This is the kind of relationship that the Indian-American community desires. This is the kind of relationship that the U.S.-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), an organization I founded five years ago and still lead, will continue to support.
ARCHITECTURE OF TRADE RELATIONSHIP
One area of the U.S.-Indian relationship deserving of special attention is trade. Bilateral trade has developed enormously in the past six years. Not only have trade flows more than doubled, but – with the creation of the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) and the CEO Forum – we have created the architecture of a trade relationship that should serve both countries well in the years ahead.
NEED FOR FTA
Positive trends and policies notwithstanding, there are a number of ways USINPAC believes U.S.-India trade relations can still be enhanced. One of these areas is to open discussions on forming a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. This suggestion gained momentum recently with Congressman David Dreier’s (R-CA) announcement at the World Economic Forum held in December 2007 of his intent to introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress calling for FTA talks.
Other areas requiring enhancement are:
January 7, 2008