As the second innings of bilateral cooperation between India and the U.S. kicks off after the lull in activity forced by the high-voltage U.S. election campaign, both sides expect broad continuity and sustained progress in a range of policy areas including defence sales, civil nuclear energy cooperation, counter-terrorism intelligence-sharing, trade and investment and spheres of trilateral cooperation including in Afghanistan and Africa.
However on the Indian side official concern has not abated regarding certain difficult questions, such as the matter of H1-B visa refusals by the U.S. rising alarmingly, with a negative fallout in India’s IT services sector.
Even under the second Obama administration jousting on the contentious issue on both sides is likely to persist. Indeed from New Delhi’s point of view nothing would be off the table, not even consideration of whether the World Trade Organisation could be an arbiter in some of these disputes.
Yet it is clear that the depth and maturity of joint collaboration efforts between the two nations have expanded to such a degree that India was able to set aside the lack of objectivity in the super-charged campaign rhetoric here, which often saw outsourcing being blamed for some of the U.S. economy’s ills.
Such minor bumps in the road would not appear to have derailed prospects for added momentum in new vistas for cooperation, including in Myanmar, which President Barack Obama will be visiting in the coming days.
Specifically it has been confirmed that Washington and New Delhi have engaged in conversations on Myanmar, where India’s experience in dealing with the leadership in Nypyidaw for a number of years has been seen by the White House as a valuable basis for consultations on investment and development opportunities in that country.
Similarly no major wobbles are expected in the triangular relationship with Iran, where some in India earlier expressed reservations about cooperating with U.S.-led efforts to impose crippling oil sanctions against the regime in Tehran, a key exporter of crude to India.
While the review of the “exception” granted to India from being slapped with penalties relating to the amount of oil imports from Iran is not expected to produce any nasty surprises next month, Indian officials have been watching this volume dry up steadily, as most banking channels for payments have been shut down and from next February only payments in rupee denomination will be permitted.
While negotiated outcomes in these areas are expected to keep bilateral cooperation on track, the broader swathe of joint ventures encapsulated in the Strategic Dialogue agenda will steam forward under Obama 2.0, New Delhi believes.
Thus in the civil nuclear energy cooperation the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Early Works Agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse has been followed up with further discussions between NPCIL and General Electric-Hitachi. Both sides would appear to be working hard to overcome the perceived obstacle posed by India’s nuclear liability law.
In defence sales, up to $9 billion in projects is said to be in the pipeline with regular, ongoing policy dialogues focused on keeping up the momentum. Similarly India’s ascension to various multilateral export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement are under consideration.
On trade overall India’s exports to the U.S. were said to have increased by a healthy 13.5 per cent in the first nine months of the year, with exports in goods touching $47.1 billion. While India continues to enjoy a net export surplus with the U.S. so far as goods are concerned, contrary to expectations it is the U.S. that has a surplus vis-a-vis its net services exports to India.