Washington, July 16 (IANS) A leading US think tank has proposed three key focussed policy initiatives – a bilateral investment treaty, accelerated defence trade and educational collaboration – to unleash the full potential of the India-US relationship.
Given the current combination of economic and political compulsions, any new initiative in US-India relations may need to wait until among other things the US presidential election, Karl Inderfurth, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), acknowledged.
But these goals are “achievable”, Inderfurth, who served as US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term, told IANS in an interview.
Discounting “concerns expressed by some that the US-India relationship is at rest or stalled” as “sort of exaggerated” he said looking at the high-level attention given to it in both the capitals, “I remain very enthusiastic about where the bilateral relationship is headed.”
“Over the last decade US-India relationship has come a great distance during a short period of time and our view is much more can be done to unleash the full potential of that relationship, starting with the economic trade and commercial areas,” Inderfurth said.
“There is no question that even though US-India trade overall has surpassed $100 billion a year for the first time, much more can be done,” he said outlining the role of Bangalore based Wadhwani Foundation, set up by Silicon Valley (California)-based entrepreneur Dr. Romesh Wadhwani.
“That’s why we are focussing on that particular initiative here at the Wadhwani Chair that is to see the two countries move as expeditiously as possible on concluding a bilateral investment treaty (BIT).”
“I think everyone sees this as a potentially achievable goal right now as both governments have placed our economic relationship at the top of our agenda,” he said.
Inderfurth said the Wadhwani chair can “contribute to that with pushing forward a good solid analysis of BIT and what that will mean to both countries” and working with others, including the US-India Business Council (USIBC), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Another initiative is a report prepared by CSIS on “US-India Defence Trade: Opportunities for Deepening the Partnership.”
The report analyses the current state of bilateral defence trade and provides a series of recommendations for both the US and India in order to help them “unlock the full potential” of their defence partnership.
“We believe that overall defence relationship between the US and India is an important component of our security for both countries and one part of that is defence trade, which is a concrete manifestation of the change in our relationship,” said Inderfurth who has penned the foreword of the report.
“Yet another initiative that is showing great traction and interest is in the whole area of US-India educational cooperation especially with respect to community colleges,” he said, noting that it had become the focal point of discussion, including at the recent US-India educational dialogue here.
This is one area that the Wadhwani Foundation and the Wadhwani Chair are pursuing, Inderfurth said, as “we see the connection of US-India educational collaboration and skills training collaboration as one of the key means of advancing and accelerating India’s economic growth.”
Noting that India’s under 25 population made up half of India’s overall 1.2 billion population, he said: “This could either prove to be a demographic benefit (with education and skills training) or demographic disaster (without it).”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)