Nov 04, 1999 -

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Upcoming Event

India-U.S. Relations: An Indian Political-Economic Perspective

Thursday, November 04 -
The Brookings Institution
St. Louis Room

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

At the Brookings India/South Asia roundtable on November 4, 1999, Jairam Ramesh, Economic Affairs Secretary of India’s Congress party, presented a paper (in a personal, non-official capacity) on prospects for improving India-U.S. relations. India’s political community has begun to adopt a more pragmatic approach towards the United States. Past Indian suspicions of the U.S., based on Cold War antagonisms and a historical distrust, have given way to a recognition that India-U.S. ties should be built on new pragmatic realities. To build stronger ties, the areas of converging and diverging interests have to be identified. The following three areas must be explored more closely.

1.  Security and Nuclear Issues

This remains the area of least accommodation, but even here, three positive steps are discernible. First, New Delhi held eight rounds of talks on nuclear issues with Washington in 1998-99, with a ninth round imminent; the length of this dialogue is a sign of a willingness to negotiate on security issues. Second, New Delhi now holds a positive view on (which could lead to its signature of) the CTBT. Third, New Delhi has expressed a willingness to pass legislation that would formalize its already prevailing clean record on nuclear and missile export controls. Despite these positive steps, disagreements remain. (moderators comment: these disagreements are on the scope of India’s nuclear and missile activity, and on India’s draft nuclear doctrine which appears excessively expansionist).

On India-Pakistan relations, their bilateral dialogue shows signs of stalling in the post-Kargil period; New Delhi’s reluctance to deal with a military regime in Pakistan further complicates the issue. Washington could play a persuasive (but not a mediatory) role in bringing about a resumption of this dialogue.

2.  Commercial Economic Issues

India has previously focused on seeking greater investment from the U.S.. It should now focus on increasing trade, and removing trade barriers. There is a greater convergence of Indian and U.S. interests in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Seattle round. While India-U.S. trade disputes remain, these should be settled through four channels-formal multilateral rounds, formal bilateral rounds, a back-channel government-to-government track, and a back-channel dialogue between industrial and economic groups. Both governments should play a less dominating role in attempting to determine economic ties, and instead allow the private sector and markets to determine the scope of bilateral economic activity.

3.  Noncommercial Issues

The Indian and U.S. governments should actively improve ties in the agricultural, health, science and technology, energy, and environmental sectors. The PL-480 program is important in this respect. There is scope for greater collaborative ventures in these non-commercial but vital sectors.

In summary, recognizing the areas of disagreement and agreement on security and economic issues would place India-U.S. relations on firmer ground.