Strength­en­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions

SP's MAI - - MILITARY INDO-US RELATIONS - The writer is Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Com­mer­cial Global Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment, Gen­eral Atomics Elec­tro­mag­netic Sys­tems Group. [ By Dr Vivek Lall ]

The invitation to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to visit In­dia in Jan­uary is a mea­sure of the sig­nif­i­cance In­dia puts on its strate­gic part­ner­ship with the United States. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has very pub­licly sig­naled a re­shap­ing of In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy and in par­tic­u­lar pol­icy to­wards the US. It also is a defin­ing mo­ment in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions as this is the first time that a Pres­i­dent of the US will be Chief Guest at In­dia’s Repub­lic Day cel­e­bra­tions – con­ver­gence of the world’s largest democ­racy and the world’s old­est democ­racy.

On the US side, Pres­i­dent Obama’s ac­cep­tance points to the fact that the US con­sid­ers In­dia an im­por­tant part­ner. It also sig­nals a restora­tion of US con­fi­dence in In­dia that in the years since the path-break­ing Civil Nu­clear Agree­ment was signed, had been de­clin­ing on ac­count of var­i­ous fac­tors. It also tells us that Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to Wash­ing­ton in Septem­ber gave a sig­nif­i­cant new boost to bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

How­ever, mov­ing beyond the sym­bol­ism of the invitation and visit, both In­dia and US will need to work closely to strengthen and ex­pand the US-In­dia strate­gic part­ner­ship. In­dia and the United States have much in common: deep-rooted re­spect for demo­cratic val­ues, multi-cul­tural so­ci­eties and free mar­kets. To­day there is an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­gree of con­ver­gence be­tween the in­ter­ests of the two coun­tries such as geopol­i­tics, re­gional se­cu­rity and de­fence.

It goes with­out say­ing that US-In­dia bi­lat­eral re­la­tions will im­prove if the business re­la­tions im­prove. To­wards this, we hope that the of­ten-cited im­ped­i­ments such as In­dia’s Nu­clear Li­a­bil­ity Law and chal­lenges in the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights (IPR) regime are ad­dressed. Since 1991, when In­dia ush­ered in wide-scale eco­nomic re­forms, much has been ac­com­plished. How­ever, there is a lot of work ahead for In­dia’s pol­icy mak­ers to pro­vide an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for trade and in­dus­try to flour­ish. Clearly the present gov­ern­ment has al­ready taken great strides in that di­rec­tion.

The US-In­dia De­fence Tech­nol­ogy and Trade Ini­tia­tive (DTTI), has the po­ten­tial to trans­form bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and needs nur­tur­ing. Co-pro­duc­tion im­plies a par­a­digm shift for both coun­tries and of­fi­cials on both sides need to work to­gether and en­sure that the DTTI be­comes the cat­a­lyst of en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries. The DTTI rep­re­sents a com­mit­ment from the US side to build­ing an in­dige­nous In­dian in­dus­trial base by pre-screen­ing projects for co-pro­duc­tion. This will lead to in­dus­trial in­te­gra­tion and in­ter­de­pen­dence which will strengthen the foun­da­tion for an en­dur­ing US-In­dia se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ship.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of DTTI is as much a test of the Modi Gov­ern­ment di­rect­ing its bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses as it is the US com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing the two coun­tries will set up an en­dur­ing part­ner­ship.

There is a need to gal­vanise DTTI and both gov­ern­ments need to make sure that of­fi­cials and cor­po­rates work­ing at the ground level take for­ward the vi­sion ar­tic­u­lated by the re­spec­tive lead­er­ships. It is hoped that Pres­i­dent Obama’s visit to In­dia will re­sult in the two lead­ers strongly en­dors­ing very spe­cific time­line and ac­tions to im­ple­ment DTTI projects which will send a strong mes­sage to bu­reau­cra­cies and cor­po­rate board rooms in each coun­try that the DTTI re­mains a top pri­or­ity.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi meet­ing Pres­i­dent Obama at the White House, Wash­ing­ton DC, on Septem­ber 30, 2014

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