13 July 2012
There is an old saying in India: “Come visit India as a tourist, and you will leave as a family member.” It certainly sounded like a friendly family gathering last month. From June 11th to 13th, senior government leaders from the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy convened in Washington, DC for the third annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and India’s Minister for External Affairs S. M. Krishna co-chaired this interagency dialogue to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues that aim to promote greater people, private, and public sector engagement between the two countries. In addition, a number of new initiatives specifically addressed increased cooperation in science, technology, counterterrorism, higher education, and women’s empowerment.
During the dialogue, Secretary Clinton stressed the “strategic fundamentals” of the U.S.-India partnership—shared democratic values, economic imperatives and diplomatic priorities—which are resulting in a convergence of interests and objectives for both countries. She also emphasized the need to “convert common interests into common action” in order to continue to build trust and take the U.S.-India relationship to the next level. In that regard, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is an important platform by which to address all aspects of bilateral cooperation and chart the way forward on economic, strategic and civil society engagement. This year’s dialogue addressed a number of mutual goals of both countries, highlighting several historic achievements as well as what still needs to be accomplished going forward.
On defense and security cooperation, both the U.S. and India acknowledged unparalleled levels of commercial and high-technology trade as well as increased military exercises between the two countries. This was also underscored by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during his recent visit to India. Both countries articulated their shared vision for peace, stability, and prosperity in the South Asian subcontinent and the rest of Asia, specifically Afghanistan, where the U.S. and India have pledged to work together to promote development. Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna also applauded progress in counterterrorism and homeland security cooperation and emphasized the need to deepen collaboration in cybersecurity.
The United States and India welcomed some progress towards the implementation of the Civil Nuclear Initiative including the Memorandum of Understanding between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), which commits both sides to negotiate an Early Works agreement for the preliminary steps needed for reactor construction in the state of Gujarat. Similarly, both the U.S and India were encouraged by the ongoing progress between General Electric-Hitachi and NPCIL to move forward on their Memorandum of Understanding. While these developments are a step in the right direction, the U.S. needs to continue to see substantive and concrete political commitment from the Indian government to bring these projects to full implementation.
U.S.-India cooperation in renewable energy was acknowledged by Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna as an area where significant progress has been made and there is potential to achieve much more. Building on the success of President Obama and Prime Minister Singh’s Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE), USAID, the Indian Ministry of Power, and the Indian Ministry of Renewable Energy announced a new five-year, $20 million technical assistance partnership to scale up clean energy projects. Furthermore, on key education programs, the U.S. and India also announced the award of the first eight grants under the Obama-Singh Knowledge Initiative, which aims to strengthen higher education linkages, research collaboration, and faculty/student exchanges.
On economic and trade cooperation, arguably one of the most important pillars of the U.S.-India partnership, Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna emphasized that bilateral trade and investment may exceed $100 billion this year, up tenfold since 1995 and up more than 40 percent since 2009 when the Strategic Dialogue was first launched. However, both leaders recognized that there is significant room for improvement and highlighted the importance of advancing negotiations on the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) to fuel economic growth in both countries. U.S. businesses, in particular, are experiencing growing problems, obstacles, and barriers to opportunity in India. If an agreement can be reached, this will create the enabling environment necessary for greater two-way investment and trade, thus deepening economic engagement and truly strengthening the economic partnership between the two countries.
The deliberations of the third annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue demonstrated that the U.S. and India have many common values and also share a number of strategic interests in the world. In an international environment that is currently experiencing economic instability and political unrest, the United States and India are global partners committed to working together for long-term peace and prosperity. The U.S-India partnership is not only significant for mutual bilateral relations but also critical for shining the light of democracy, freedom, and human rights around the world.
Tim Roemer, a former U.S. representative from Indiana, was the U.S. ambassador to India from 2009 to June 2011. He is a senior director and strategic adviser at APCO Worldwide.
Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 13, 2012. State Department photo.
This article was originally published in the July/August edition of the Diplomatic Courier.