Building India-US ties with shared priorities - Hindustan Times
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Building India-US ties with shared priorities

Jun 20, 2024 09:18 PM IST

Amid the complexities of the global landscape, the US-India partnership remains a beacon of hope and progress for all of humanity, including those who can only dream of democratic freedoms.

What a triumph for all Indians the general elections have been. This vote was a giant point of pride for democracy-loving people everywhere, especially in these turbulent geostrategic times. The polls will stand as a testament to the democratic spirit of the Indian people, whose voices have been heard from the furthest villages in the Himalayas to the giant cities of the plains to the hamlets in the Nicobar Islands. As the world’s two largest democracies, the free-spirited people of India and the US foster a deepening trust and mutual admiration, inspiring optimism about the promising future of India and its relations with America and the world.

The flags of the United States and India adorn a conference table during a meeting between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Defence Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on December 3, 2018. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (AFP)
The flags of the United States and India adorn a conference table during a meeting between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Defence Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on December 3, 2018. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (AFP)

Embracing the philosophy of “kaizen” (constant improvement) from Japan, a Quad partner, there are several areas where the collective efforts of India and the US can be intensified to continue growth and achievements.

First, India’s appeal as a destination for foreign investment that yields know-how, jobs, and vital tax revenue can be significantly boosted by simplifying regulatory requirements and improving market access. Expanding US-India bilateral trade to $500 billion remains a crucial benchmark for success. Reducing friction in the flow of capital will help attract trillions of available American investment dollars that are seeking safe harbours. A formal Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) is an example of how the two countries can operationalise trusted supply chains, further bolstering the collective endeavour to build a resilient and secure global tech business ecosystem free from malign interference. This framework, supported by other like-minded countries, promotes economic growth, innovation, and a favourable business environment while safeguarding against geopolitical risks. Simplifying tax codes will further boost investor confidence and draw much-needed FDI.

Second, India and the US should broaden the scope of their digital partnership while enhancing the protection of intellectual property rights. These nations lead the world in digital innovation and must remain leaders in this new frontier of geostrategic competition. The United States–India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), which USIBC helped launch, and the achievements in areas ranging from aerospace to semiconductors show the promise of what can be achieved together. Expanding the iCET framework and institutionalising US-Indian digital cooperation in a digital roadmap could unleash the incredible collaborative economic and social potential in areas like 5G deployment, data privacy, generative AI, and cybersecurity cooperation. Artificial intelligence (AI), especially as India has chaired the Global Partnership on AI, remains a particularly fruitful area.

Third, India is well-positioned to be a global leader in renewable energy shaping the direction of the current green power revolution. From green hydrogen to electric vehicles, India is already a strong clean energy leader with significant potential for further leadership. Critical mineral supply chains, especially refining and recycling, remain a priority area for both the US and India. The private-public partnerships and the vibrant green energy sector are eager to work more with the new Indian government to support environmental, anti-pollution, and commercial targets. Initiatives such as establishing innovation hubs and centres of excellence in emerging fields such as AI, biotechnology, and clean energy can significantly boost India’s innovation landscape and help reduce reliance on hydrocarbons.

Fourth, the current momentum in the defence technology and security relationship should be expanded. This includes reaffirming the iCET and INDUS-X initiatives and considering practical expansions to encompass secure fibre, biotechnology, and more. Quad efforts could be amplified by inviting South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore to coordinate their efforts, while the co-development of defence technologies, such as UAVs and cybersecurity solutions, will bolster defence capabilities and foster innovation. Joint naval patrols in the Indo-Pacific can ensure maritime security and stability.

Moreover, with a burgeoning commercial space sector, there is ample opportunity for collaborative innovation between the two countries. NASA is poised to offer advanced training to Indian astronauts, and the planned launch of the NISAR satellite from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre marks a significant step. As India liberalises its space and satcom sector, tremendous synergies in critical technology development, access to American capital and expertise, and entry into a sizable space and satcom marketplace can be realised.

Finally, it is most important to facilitate the ease of doing business and reinforce confidence within the global investment community as India stakes its claim in uncertain times. Actions like simplifying regulations, reducing duplicative paperwork and reporting requirements, and expanding mechanisms to cut red tape are all welcome. Furthermore, enhancing foreign direct investment (FDI) flows by levelling the playing field and reducing capital flow friction will spur economic growth and attract more international businesses to India.

Amid the complexities of the global landscape, the US-India partnership remains a beacon of hope and progress for all of humanity, including those who can only dream of democratic freedoms. The potential for growth in the bilateral relationship is immense. The path ahead is bright, and with unwavering commitment and collaboration, the US-India partnership will continue to flourish, setting a remarkable example of what two great democracies can achieve together. Free elections are the jet fuel that powers the relationship to new heights of happiness and prosperity.

Atul Keshap, a retired American diplomat, is president, US-India Business Council & senior vice president, South Asia, US Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed are personal

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