Count­down to Lift-Off

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Tim Roe­mer

We are liv­ing in a highly volatile time with un­cer­tainty in world af­fairs. As­sum­ing the role of leader of the free world is both an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity and an im­mense chal­lenge. The new pres­i­dent is en­ter­ing of­fice at a time of seis­mic change, where a lo­cal brush­fire can fast be­come an all-con­sum­ing re­gional firestorm at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

Dous­ing these fires and man­ag­ing crises is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of every pres­i­dent. Amer­ica can and must con­tinue to lead and serve as an ex­am­ple of the world we aspire to leave for the next gen­er­a­tion. But Amer­ica is not alone. We have strong re­la­tion­ships and deep part­ner­ships with other na­tions that have been built over decades; none more im­por­tant than our re­la­tion­ship with In­dia. Every pres­i­dent and their na­tional se­cu­rity team must also de­vote time and re­sources to the care­fully cal­i­brated set of strate­gic pri­or­i­ties that will de­fine their pres­i­dency.

Eight years ago, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama en­tered a com­pli­cated global stage. When he asked me to serve as the US am­bas­sador to In­dia, I knew it was an op­por­tu­nity to not only rep­re­sent the coun­try I love, but to help shape the defin­ing part­ner­ship of the 21st cen­tury with In­dia.

Our many sim­i­lar­i­ties may not be in­stantly ap­par­ent, but they are strik­ingly deep. Our con­sti­tu­tions be­gin with the sim­ple phrase, ‘We the Peo­ple’. Our ci­ti­zens are proud, in­no­va­tive and al­ways look­ing to­wards the fu­ture. A world in which Amer­ica suc­ceeds is a world in which In­dia suc­ceeds, and vice versa. We are both pro­mot­ing com­mon in­ter­na­tional val­ues of democ­racy, free­dom, di­ver­sity and hu­man rights. We will have a new US am­bas­sador to In­dia. And Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will have fre­quent con­ver­sa­tions with PM Naren­dra Modi and re­alise the in­cred­i­ble ben­e­fits of this part­ner­ship.

These dis­cus­sions must in­clude the goals and strat­egy to mov­ing this re­la­tion­ship for­ward. There are four ar­eas the US should work on to build on past progress. These will help Pres­i­dent Trump’s goals to strengthen Amer­ica, and also fur­ther deepen the re­la­tion­ship that can de­fine the 21st cen­tury.

First, de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased at the bi­lat­eral level and should be ex­panded to tri­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships with Aus­tralia, Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan and Malaysia. Coun­tert­er­ror­ism and in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing have im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly. Still, on­go­ing ten­sions with Pak­istan will con­tinue to create in­sta­bil­ity on the bor­der.

Acalm­ing of po­ten­tial hos­til­i­ties with Pak­istan will al­low In­dia to look to­wards greater re­gional se­cu­rity op­por­tu­ni­ties with Afghanistan. With the South China Sea a ris­ing hotspot, the US, In­dia and Asean part­ners can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in coun­ter­bal­anc­ing forces of in­se­cu­rity and in­sta­bil­ity. The In­dian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca are now crit­i­cally im­por­tant trade routes for the world econ­omy.

Sec­ond, In­di­ans could be in­cluded in more ef­forts world­wide to com­bat ISIL and in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism. In­dia and the US are set­ting a gold stan­dard for global se­cu­rity by tack­ling the most press­ing is­sues that face the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to­day, in­clud­ing coun- tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions, in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion and cy­ber se­cu­rity. A strate­gic Di­a­logue on Home­land Se­cu­rity, started in 2010, should be reen­er­gised.

Third, eco­nomic and trade is­sues need at­ten­tion and so­lu­tions, and new sec­tor or state-to-state agree­ments are worth ex­plor­ing. Both Pres­i­dent Trump and PM Modi in­ti­mately un­der­stand how busi­ness is con­ducted. While bi­lat­eral trade can be a ma­jor frus­tra­tion in the re­la­tion­ship, mak­ing progress on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts and cut­ting need­less red tape could help un­lock the great eco­nomic power of our two na­tions. With tar­geted work and im­por­tant break­throughs, we can in­crease an­nual bi­lat­eral trade be­tween the US and In­dia from just over $100 mil­lion to $200 mil­lion or $300 mil­lion.

Fi­nally, ed­u­ca­tion and health ini­tia­tives are driven by gov­ern­ment agree­ments, but also peo­ple-to-peo­ple ties, so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tions. Our re­spec­tive democ­ra­cies can be even bet­ter aligned in these cru­cial ar­eas, in­clud­ing com­mu­nity col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

Work­ing closely, the US and In­dia have in­creased treat­ment suc­cess rates of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis to 87% and re­duced the spread of AIDS in In­dia by a third over the last decade. We have also en­gaged in mean­ing­ful stu­dent ex­changes.

To­day’s world can be over­whelm­ing, lurch­ing from one cri­sis to the next. There are “prob­lem coun­tries” (e.g., North Korea, Iran) and prob­lem-solv­ing coun­tries. In­dia is a prob­lem-solv­ing coun­try. The “fires” the ad­min­is­tra­tion man­ages on a daily ba­sis can seem never-end­ing.

As the US looks for­ward to op­por­tu­ni­ties to strengthen world peace and serve the Amer­i­can peo­ple, the crit­i­cal bi­lat­eral part­ner­ship with In­dia — built on years of friend­ship, trust and hard work — can solve prob­lems and pro­mote global pros­per­ity. The Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion must pri­ori­tise this re­la­tion­ship, and the sooner the bet­ter.

The writer is for­mer US am­bas­sador to In­dia

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