‘Looking forward to work with India to advance our shared goals’

U.S. House committee congratulates ‘Indian people’

Updated - May 23, 2019 10:59 pm IST

Published - May 23, 2019 10:43 pm IST - Washington

The U.S. House [of Representatives] Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement on Thursday congratulating “the Indian people” on the elections.

Interestingly, the listing of priorities for the India-U.S. partnership mentions human rights first. It also refers to climate change. “The Indian people have spoken, and the U.S. Congress looks forward to continue working with India, and the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government to advance our shared goals on a host of issues, including human rights, defense, trade and economic growth, and climate change.” Committee chair Eliot L. Engel (Democrat) said in a statement.

Richard Verma, U.S. Ambassador to India during the Obama years, referred to the U.S. and India helping to guarantee the democratic and liberal order.

“Especially as America’s challenges with China continue to escalate — on trade and on security issues — our relationship with India takes on even more importance. Both of our nations can be the guarantors of the democratic and liberal democratic order. Working together, across the range of sectors, will ensure a more prosperous and secure future for both our countries,” Mr. Verma, said via email to The Hindu .

“We now need to move past the transactional aspects of the relationship. We need to think big, and draw upon the huge potentials of our people to work together, to innovate, to solve the challenges that confront us. If we do that, then I’m very confident for our ties and for our people in the years ahead,” Mr. Verma wrote.

Other commentators too have drawn a link between the Indo-U.S. relationship and the strain on the China-U.S. ties.

“While the U.S. may quibble with some of Delhi’s policy choices near the end of the Modi government’s first term, stability is crucial. Our leaders have personal connections, and have developed working relationships. We have a serious divide that seems nearly-impossible to broach: A deepening defence partnership, with a worsening trade relationship,” Rick Rosso told The Hindu via email. Mr. Rosso holds the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “Looking ahead, there are both bright spots and potholes in the coming months,” Mr. Rosso said, citing some of the positive aspects and challenges in the relationship. “But the challenges the U.S. faces in Asia, paired with India’s importance as an economic partner, should ensure that we avoid serious self-inflicted wounds to the relationship,” he said.

China, the growing challenges in the relationship and the impact of President Donald Trump’s transactionalism were recurring themes in the discussion of the relationship.

“Modi’s massive victory will be welcomed in Washington. But that should not obscure the fact that the growing dissonance in the U.S.-India relationship is, for the first time in many years, threatening to drown out the melody. It is not clear that a returning BJP government will be any more inclined than before to accommodate the Trump administration’s short-sighted transactionalism,” Joshua White said via email to The Hindu .

Mr. White was a senior adviser in Presdient Obama’s National Security Council and directed its South Asia affairs and is currently a professor at Johns Hopkins.

“On the heels of Modi’s election win, Washington will be focused principally on two things: whether Modi has a credible and ambitious economic reform agenda; and whether he is willing to adopt a more assertive approach to China on trade, technology, and defense,” Mr. White said.

The Indo-U.S. relationship is likely to see a continuity in defence and strategic ties, Alyssa Ayres, a former high-level American diplomat and South Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Hindu .

“But I do wonder what comes next for the economic leg of the relationship, which has long had frictions and those are mounting. The Modi government has been less reformist than its supporters had hoped, and the backsliding on some tariffs in India plus issues like IPR and price caps on medical devices has not improved the situation. On top of that, the Trump administration has added its own new trade frictions — steel and aluminum tariffs, revoking GSP, its geoeconomic focus on Iran sanctions--just a lot of new dimensions. I think the trade discussion is likely to remain contentious,” Ms. Ayres wrote.

Nisha Biswal, President of the U.S.-India Business Council, an industry body, and formerly the top South and Central Asia diplomat at the State Department, commended the progress made on the business and economic front over the last five years. Ms. Biswal’s statement cited the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the bankruptcy code, and other regulatory reforms, which contributed to India’s Ease of Doing Business improving from 147 to 77 .

“These reforms laid the foundation for India’s strong record of economic growth. Still, much remains to be done to unlock the expansive growth potential of the Indian market. With a strong mandate from the Indian people, Prime Minister Modi will have an opportunity to usher in an era of global economic and strategic leadership for India,” Ms. Biswal said. “A strong U.S.-India commercial partnership will support these goals, helping India to grow into a $5 trillion economy in the next five years.”

The perception that the NDA government has a strong economic reform record was also reflected in the reaction of the U.S-India Strategic Partnership Forum, an advocacy group with a U.S. and India presence.

“This renewed mandate is also a vote in favour of the long-pending economic reforms undertaken by the government in the last five years by prioritising long-term benefits over short-term goals. With five more years of Narendra Modi in office, we can expect that India will continue on its path of reforms and accelerate its integration in the global economy,” USISPF said in a statement.

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