India: A responsible partner of the U.S

Indo-US relations are driven by shared values
India deserves a Permanent Seat in the Security Council
USINPAC committed to work for Indo-US Civil Nuclear cooperation
Indian IT companies creating jobs & opportunities in the US 


“The U.S.-India relationship is now beyond a single issue.”  Not by any political convenience, the U.S.-India relationship will continue to be defined as much by shared values as it is by the foreign policies of the two countries, so feels Mr. Sanjay Puri, Chairman of the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) - an influential and powerful forum of the Indian Americans in the US. In an interview by Amitabha Sen he expressed the hope that the Bush Administration will continue to aggressively support USINPAC agenda that includes issues like removing trade and investment barriers, resolving visa issues, supporting the civic nuclear cooperation agreement, drawing attention to the growing AIDS epidemic in India, ending cross-border terrorism, pushing for India to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.    

On Prez Bush’s handling the nuclear issue with India, Mr. Puri asserted: “I take President Bush at his word when he said he would “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India” and would “also seek agreement from Congress to adjust US laws and policies.” For both sides, the civic nuclear cooperation agreement is a very complicated deal that has global implications that reach beyond the U.S. and India. 

“But given India’s growing energy needs as well as India’s history of nuclear responsibility, USINPAC is committed to moving the process forward. For this reason, we are working with key Members of the U.S. Congress, including members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on International Relations, and we will continue to be involved in this effort until it is favorably resolved,” Mr. Puri observed adding that in view of  her restrained and responsible nuclear role, India deserves a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.   

On the US-India trade relations he said that “the US is not just GE and Citibank, the backbone of the US economy is its small and medium businesses which have still not engaged with India economically…..  we are looking to provide Indian companies help when they want to enter the US market so that we can level the playing field for them e.g. make sure that they get incentives when they open up offices and create employment here.” 

On USINPAC’s role to help Indian IT industry’s greater share in the US market the Mr. Puri was candid in his reply: “The story of Indian companies needs to be told i.e. how they are creating local jobs and opportunities. How they are allowing US companies to stay in business and be competitive. How productive increases in the US have to do with the Indian IT industry too.   

We are going to help get the IT companies who open up shop in the US incentives to open up in the US. We are working hard on increasing the H1b quota and also reducing the wait time for visas at the US Consulates in India. One other thing that we are doing is making sure that we clearly highlight the jobs that Indian and Indian Americans create in the U.S.” 

AS: From estrangement in the Cold War era to engagement in dialogues for closer relations, one finds perceptible changes in the US-India bilateral relations today. How would you like to assess the level of mutual trust and confidence between these two Democracies?  

SP: In part, I believe the U.S.-India relationship is now beyond a single issue. Our relations are not driven by politics or convenience but by shared values. Two countries that are Democracies, Capitalist Economies and also pluralistic societies so it makes sense that the biggest economy in the World will engage one of the fastest growing economies in the World. There also so many other soft and cultural reason and factors that I can list below for you:

80,000 students come to the US from India every year and some of them go back and lead companies like Reliance etc. and be the  bridge between these two nations

The IT revolution of India was fueled in a large part by the US: the Y2k Phenomenon and others, still about 30,000 H1bs come to the US from India and in many cases they are the bridge too.

50% of the population of India is under the age of 30 and thus has grown up on American products, media etc. and thus there is a cultural integration

The US has begun to become more aware and accepting of India in a large part due to almost every American has dealt with a Indian Doctor or Professor or Motel owner and takes back a positive impact and in most cases these Indian Americans do talk about India in a positive manner and create an awareness of India. 

AS: Do you find any major shift in the Congress-led coalition government’s foreign policy towards the US from that of the Vajpayee-led UDA government?  

SP: I do not think so. I think the relationship has matured to such a level and point that it will not make much difference if the Republicans or Democrats are in power in Washington or if the Congress or BJP is in power in New Delhi. This is being driven by the entrepreneurs on both sides, by the strategic interests of both countries and the will of the people of the two countries. 

AS: USINPAC is gradually emerging as a propelling force for the Indian Americans to have their due share in the socio-political life of the US. It is also trying to shape up as one of the nodal agencies to boost up Indo-US bilateral economic and trade relations. Could you tell us about the significant achievements USINPAC has made in Prez Bush’s regime so far? What are the major USINPAC issues that still to be resolved by the Bush Administration?   

SP: USINPAC is a bi-partisan organization that is not associated with one political party or a particular Administration. We are a grassroots organization, a constituency, if you will, that raises awareness about issues affecting India and Indian Americans. Some of these issues include removing trade and investment barriers, resolving visa issues, supporting the civic nuclear cooperation agreement, drawing attention to the growing AIDS epidemic in India, ending cross-border terrorism, pushing for India to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. We are moving forward on each of these issues and we are hopeful that the Bush Administration will continue to aggressively support this agenda.   

AS: If asked for, what would be USINPAC’s three major expectations, if we may so, from the US Prez’s visit to India next month?  

SP: The President generally addresses broad themes.  We are hopeful that some of these themes will include our shared concerns over energy, terrorism, education, immigration, trade, HIV/AIDS and the need for collaboration in agriculture, defense, and space. 

AS: What is the greatest achievement, if we may say so, of the Bush Administration in getting closer to India? Occasionally references are made to China in this respect and it is felt that the ‘India-containment’ policy of the US is mainly to counter China’s growing power? How strong or weak is this inference? Do you think a cordial and stronger India-China relations would ensure a more stable South Asian region, a development that the US should welcome? 

SP:  As I mentioned above to you, this relationship is based on shared values and also the other factors in play. As far as the China containment policy is concerned, I think India is a sovereign nation with a growing trade relationship with China and is not going to get into any of these kinds of issues if at all this exists.  

AS: One of the major issues that the Bush government is trying to settle with India and is likely to come up during the Prez’s India visit is the nuclear issue. Not only the Left, many other political parties in India have already expressed grave concern over the US strategy apprehending that Prez Bush is trying to rope in India to launch attack against Iran, next target after Iraq? What is the view of USINPAC as Indian Americans representative body, on Indo-US relationship on nuclear issue?  

SP: I take President Bush at his word when he said he would “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India” and would “also seek agreement from Congress to adjust US laws and policies.” For both sides, the civic nuclear cooperation agreement is a very complicated deal that has global implications that reach beyond the U.S. and India.  But given India’s growing energy needs as well as India’s history of nuclear responsibility, USINPAC is committed to moving the process forward.  For this reason, we are working with key Members of the U.S. Congress, including members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on International Relations, and we will continue to be involved in this effort until it is favorably resolved.   

AS: Do you think that India should sign CTBT and then tell the US that it has signed the treaty, but the US has not?  Do you still hold the same view ? Do you feel there is a greater chance of India getting a permanent seat in India with Veto power if it signs the CTBT? Are you expecting any major announcement in that respect during the US Prez’s India visit next month? 

SP: Regarding the CTBT, let me simply say that India, unlike any other nuclear nation, self-imposed a 24-year moratorium on nuclear testing.  Let me also put the issue of nuclear testing in perspective.

From 1949-1990, Russia conducted over 700 nuclear tests. In roughly the same time period, the U.S. conducted over 1000 nuclear tests.  Between 1960-1991, France conducted more than 200 nuclear tests and in 1996 broke a world moratorium and conducted 6 more tests without being sanctioned by the U.S. or the world community. Since 1964, China has conducted more than 43 nuclear tests. Since 1998, Pakistan has conducted 6 nuclear tests and, in 2004, Pakistan’s most prominent nuclear-weapons scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted that he provided nuclear know-how to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. 

This aside, India has only conducted 6 nuclear tests since 1974. In context of this historical perspective, and also many other reasons like it is the largest Democracy, will be the 3rd largest economy etc. I believe India deserves a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. 

AS: “We no longer see India through the lens of the Cold War as an ally of the former Soviet Union. Instead we see India as important actor on the regional stage and as a nation poised to become a global power,” Mr. Gary Ackerman stated in a HIRC hearing on US Policy in South Asia. Do you think India’s foreign policy on the US may ultimately recognize the country as a US ally or India would prefer to maintain the status of a major partner of the US?   

SP: First and foremost I think it is important to clarify that India was non-aligned during the Cold War and today India is more than a regional actor.  India is on the verge of becoming a major world power no matter whether its relationships are defined as partnerships or alliances.  This said, I believe India has already proven itself a responsible partner of the  of the U.S. not only in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks but as a result of the democratic values we share.  As the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies, the U.S.-India relationship will continue to be defined as much by our values as it is by our foreign policies.   

AS: We understand USINPAC has also launched a forum that aims at boosting up Indo-US trade? All said and done, the FDI inflow into India is much less than China’s. Even the US investments in China is much higher than that of India. Why? What changes USINPAC would be expecting from Indian government to increase US investments in India?  

SP: USINPAC launched the US India Business Alliance (USIBA) to improve the commercial climate between the two countries.  Currently trade between the U.S. and India is over $22 billion. However, it should be $50 billion and will be if Small and Medium Size businesses become part of the equation.   

As I stated in a previous interview, last year 32 Governors went to China. Only 1 went to India. USIBA intends to change this trend and this is why we are taking Governors and Small Medium size business delegations on trade missions and encouraging them to get engaged with India because if you truly want trade to grow then the Small Business in this country needs to get engaged. This country is not just GE and Citibank, the backbone of the US economy is its small and medium businesses which have still not engaged with India economically. Companies that are in states like Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania etc. Also, we are looking to provide Indian companies help when they want to enter the US market so that we can level the playing field for them e.g. make sure that they get incentives when they open up offices and create employment here. Find them the right partners, reduce tariffs and barriers for them. Indian companies are now buying US companies or investing in the US and we need to have the infrastructure in place to provide them the help to level the playing field for them since the Indian entrepreneur is one of the best entrepreneurs in the World. We are going to host 3 Small Medium Industry days in 2006 around the US for Indian companies to match make with their counterparts in the US.  

AS: Considering India’s prowess in software and emergence as a BPO leader-country (as things stand today), could you tell us something about the areas and prospect of Indo-US IT cooperation ? How would you like to look at the IT outsourcing issue so far as the bottom line of the US industry is concerned? Though there are other entities but can USINPAC as well play a nodal role for Indian IT industry to get a bigger share of the US IT market?  

SP: This is already being done. The story of Indian companies needs to be told i.e. how they are creating local jobs and opportunities. How they are allowing US companies to stay in business and be competitive. How productive increases in the US have to do with the Indian IT industry too.

We are taking Governors every quarter to India and having them meet with IT CEO’s so that they can get an idea of the benefits of these companies to their overall economy. It will give the Governors some food for thought before they start politicizing the issue of outsourcing in their States.

We are going to help get the IT companies who open up shop in the US incentives to open up in the US

We are working hard on increasing the H1b quota and also reducing the wait time for visas at the US Consulates in India.  

One other  thing that we are doing is making sure that we clearly highlight the jobs that Indian and Indian Americans create in the U.S.  While the success story of Sanju Bansal with Micrsotrategy, Pradeep Sinhu with Juniper, Desh Deshpande with Syacmore and Sabeer Bhatia with Hotmail and Vinod Khosla with Sun Microsystems has been documented,  our story about how this has translated into American jobs has not been told.  The truth is, Indians and Indian Americans have not only created jobs in the U.S. but have created entire ecosystems that have had a multiplier effect and this needs to be understood by lawmakers and the public at large.  By telling our story one company at a time, we believe we can change perceptions and make it easier for more Indian companies to invest in the U.S. and vice versa.  

AS: Last but certainly not the least. How would you, as USINPAC chief, like to rate Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister of India and if asked, where you would like to place him among first ten global leaders?  

SP: It is not for us to rate Dr. Manmohan Singh. I can only say that the economic performance of India and its perception in the World is continually improving and one has to look at the Davos World Economic Forum for that. This speaks well for the people of India and its political leadership. 

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Mr. Sanjay Puri has been instrumental in leading the strategic direction and growth of USINPAC. He also serves as the CEO of Optimos, Inc., a mid-sized IT services company based in Northern Virginia.

Prior to this, Mr. Puri served as the CEO of Atlantic Microsystems, Inc. a healthcare company. He has an MBA/CPA and has completed his Ph.D. course work from the George Washington University.

February 28, 2006