Building a durable US-India partnership

[Kenneth I Juster]

The US-India partnership is as conse quential as any relationship in international affairs. Our strategic partnership is designed to strengthen both countries and to have a beneficial impact on the Indo-Pacific region.
Over the last 17 years, we have laid a strong foundation for a strategic partnership that can have a significant, positive impact on the 21st century and beyond. It is now time to build upon this foundation in a flexible but purposive manner. We must move beyond our growing pains and help shape a stable architecture for the region.
We need to make sure that the India-US strategic partnership is a durable one. The longstanding commitment of the United States to a free, secure, and open Indo-Pacific has underpinned the stability and remarkable economic rise of this region – to the benefit of all of us.
The United States will remain committed to this region – as we are to the rules-based international order – because our future is inextricably linked to it. We welcome India’s leadership with us in this venture – as partners bolstered by conviction and working with like-minded nations on a regional architecture to ensure that the Indo-Pacific – in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity, rather than one of disorder, conflict, and predatory economic policy.
Our cooperation on defence and counter-terrorism has been a key pillar of our partnership. US defence companies have already invested in India, producing components for complex defense systems. We seek to assist India’s efforts to build up its indigenous defence capabilities, as well as enhance the inter-operability of our two forces as major defence partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
We should put the same strategic lens on our economic relationship that we have applied to our defence relationship. A number of US companies have reported increasing difficulties conducting business in the largest market in the region – China. Accordingly, some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest at alternative markets.
India can seize the strategic opportunity – through trade and investment – to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region. Free and fair trade will support and accelerate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort to improve India’s long-term growth in a sustained way. Moreover, ‘America First’ and ‘Make in India’ are not incompatible. Rather, investing in each other’s markets will increase our economic interactions and volume of trade; lead to collaboration on emerging technologies; and create jobs in both countries.
Accelerating the economic and regulatory reform process already begun by Prime Minister Modi will help ensure India is seen as an increasingly efficient, transparent, and well-regulated market, further promoting growth and development. Continued reforms and trade liberalization will also enable Indian products to more readily become part of the global supply chain, thereby accelerating job creation.
There are many benefits to growing our bilateral economic relationship and making India a regional hub for US usiness. We saw on display at the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad the critical and positive impact that an enabling environment for innovation has on a nation’s economy. America is a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, and already has extensive linkages with India in the technology sector. Opening India’s market further to US trade and investment will spur India-US collaboration on many emerging technologies that will drive and protect our economies, including those related to advanced manufacturing and cyber security.
Greater US trade and investment, combined with a strong environment protecting intellectual property, will lead to increased flows of capital and sharing of intellectual know-how. Technological transformation requires constant upgrades, which occur when countries are involved in unimpeded international economic and data flows.
Increased openness to US goods and services, and an expanded presence of US companies, will also stimulate private sector investment in improved infrastructure and overall connectivity. As an example, US companies have innovative technologies that could support India’s ambitious goal to create 100 smart cities across the country.
Another area ripe for cooperation is energy. The United States is uniquely positioned to offer India a comprehensive energy partnership. This includes all forms of energy – coal, crude oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, as well as technology related to clean fossil fuels, smart grids, energy storage, and renewable resources. Last year the United States exported its first major shipment of crude oil to India. The United States can also help provide the supporting services, infrastructure, and technology that are necessary for India’s efforts to further develop domestic sources of energy and enhance energy security.
Increased heft in India-US economic relations would necessarily provide a broader and deeper, long-term US commitment to India and the Indo-Pacific region. This would complement our growing defense and counter-terrorism partnership, and moderate any policy differences that might arise along the way.
One constant in today’s turbulent world is – and always should be – the strength of the US-India partnership. While both India and the United States cherish our independence and sovereignty, the true value of our partnership is that it can better enable each of us to positively influence global affairs and achieve our greatest aspirations for the security and prosperity of our people. (The writer is the United States Ambassador to India)