U.S.-India Relations Under the Modi Government

Nisha Desai Biswal
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
As-delivered remarks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Washington, DC
July 24, 2014

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Chabot, Ranking Member Faleomavaega, thank you for having this hearing and inviting me to testify today. I want to just echo the sentiments on the dais about how wonderful it is to see you sitting on the dais again, Mr. Faleomavaega. It is a wonderful time to have this hearing and an important time to have this hearing and I’m glad to be here with my good friend Arun Kumar. In the interest of time, I’m going to summarize the points which all of you have made so eloquently on the importance of the relationship and the opportunity we have, and ask that my full statement be entered for the record.

Chairman Chabot: Without objection, so ordered.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

There is no better time than now to re-examine the U.S.-India relationship. The historic elections, as you’ve noted, this spring conferred an unprecedented mandate on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, and also created a historic opportunity for the United States and India to re-energize our relationship. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and I traveled to New Delhi two weeks ago to meet with Prime Minister Modi and key members of his Cabinet. Secretary Kerry will travel soon to India to co-chair the next round of our Strategic Dialogue, and he will be joined by Secretary of Commerce Pritzker in underscoring the vital role of our economic partnership.

Mr. Chairman, the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia is a strategic bet on the consequential role of Asia’s 4.3 billion people in the 21st century and Asia’s growing importance to America’s security and prosperity. But for Asia to comprise 50 per cent of global GDP, as many project, its citizens and governments must make the right choices –- to foster sustainable and inclusive growth, to promote open and free trade, and to combat terrorism and extremism. In all of these areas, India has a vital role to play. Its rise as a regional and global power, and its economic and strategic growth, are deeply in the U.S. interest as has been noted by members on the dais. Like the United States, India increasingly sees its future in a secure, connected, and prosperous Asia Pacific. We not only share democratic values but also a deep interest in a peaceful and rules-based order.

But if India is to achieve its potential, it will need to address myriad economic and governance challenges. Much of the excitement that the new Modi government has generated in India, around the world, and most notably in the business community, has been around this idea of accountable and effective government that can unleash India’s economic potential.

While my colleague will discuss our economic and trade partnership in greater depth, I just want to underscore that our economies, our businesses, our universities, and our people can partner in helping India realize sustained and inclusive growth and enjoy a vision of shared prosperity. Our trade has already grown five-fold since the year 2000 to almost $100 billion annually. We can grow that five-fold again in the years to come. We are committed to addressing the inevitable frictions over trade through dialogue and engagement.

Our energy cooperation, one of the brightest areas of the partnership, is helping India meet its growing energy needs and creating opportunities for our businesses through contracts for the export of American LNG and fulfilling the promise of delivering cutting-edge nuclear energy technology as well as collaboration on clean energy solutions.

But as I noted at the outset, the locus of our convergent strategic interest is across the Asian landscape. When Prime Minister Modi invited regional leaders to his inauguration, he demonstrated his commitment to strengthening India’s ties within its immediate region. We see a partnership with India that spans east, west, north, and south to advance our shared interests across the Indo-Pacific region. Our collaboration on counterterrorism and homeland security has grown tremendously in the past several years and has already helped bring to justice several of the terrorists in the Mumbai attacks. We are committed to further strengthening this robust cooperation in order to protect both our nations and both our peoples.

Defense cooperation continues to play a vital role in our partnership, which Secretary Hagel’s visit to India in early August will help to underscore. The breadth and depth of military exchanges and exercises have grown tremendously. And the Indian navy is participating in the RIMPAC maritime security exercise in Honolulu for the first time this year. Additionally, as we speak today, we have begun our joint naval exercise MALABAR, and this year also with the participation of Japan. This is a great example of our trilateral cooperation and a manifestation of the U.S.-India-Japan trilateral dialogue. These military ties are complemented also by our growing defense trade. We are overcoming bureaucratic hurdles and paving the way to increase defense trade and potential for co-production and co-development.

Mr. Chairman, the true potential of this relationship was best characterized by Prime Minister Modi himself when he said to us two weeks ago that it is not just benefits to the Indian people and the American people, but that the true value of the U.S.-India relationship is that when the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy come together, it is the world that stands to benefit.

We deeply appreciate the strong support of the U.S. Congress and of this committee as well as members of the Senate and the House in the India Caucus in advancing the U.S.-India partnership, and we look forward to closely collaborating with you in the years ahead as we forge an ever increasingly closer partnership between our two countries.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will conclude my remarks here and look forward to answering any questions that you and the Committee may have.