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The Candidates on U.S. Policy toward India

October 3, 2008

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Issue Trackers trace the positions of candidates from the 2008 presidential campaign on major issues related to foreign policy.

Between its burgeoning economy and major nuclear deal with the United States, India’s international profile has soared in recent years. Outsourcing to India and India’s role combating environmental problems like climate change are among the issues that have figured in U.S. policy discussions. The Indian-American population neared two million as of the last census in 2000, and political lobbies like the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) have become increasingly influential. Perhaps more than any past election, presidential candidates are making a concerted effort to appeal to this constituency and its top donors. Indian voters, according to USINPAC, want immigration reform, a strong geostrategic partnership between the United States and India, and a viable plan for combating HIV/AIDS and other public health crises in India.

All of the remaining candidates serving serving in Congress voted for groundbreaking legislation aimed at opening civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and India as well as a range of other economic deals.

Democratic Ticket on U.S. Policy toward India

Barack Obama
Democratic Party Nominee - President

Obama has said he will build "a close strategic partnership" with India. Because India and the United States have both experienced major terrorist attacks, "we have a shared interest in succeeding in the fight against al-Qaeda and its operational and ideological affiliates," Obama wrote in a February 2008 article in India Abroad, a newspaper on Indian affairs published in New York.

Obama voted to approve the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in October 2008. He voted in favor of the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006. In September 2008, Obama praised the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for deciding to allow its members to cooperate with India on nuclear issues.

South Asians for Obama published this list (PDF) of Obama's stances on issues of interest to the South Asian community in the United States.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Democratic Party Nominee - Vice President

Sen. Biden (D-DE) called U.S. ties with India the "single most important relationship that we have to get right for our own safety's sake" (Rediff.com). He faced criticism in 2006 for commenting that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent" (AP). But, Biden says, he has had a "great relationship" with the growing Indian population in Delaware. Rediff.com called Biden "the driving force" behind the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, which was intended to help India develop its nuclear energy program. Biden voted to approve the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in October 2008. He called that bill's passage "a victory for U.S.-India relations," but said there is "still much to be done in India," including U.S. support for Indian energy production, counterterrorism, and public health efforts.

Biden cosponsored the Energy Diplomacy and Security Act of 2007, which calls on the secretary of state to establish "petroleum crisis-response mechanisms with the governments of China and India."

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Republican Ticket on U.S. Policy toward India

John McCain
Republican Party Nominee - President

Sen. McCain (R-AZ), has noted India's potential to be one of the "natural allies" of the United States. He stresses the "importance of securing greater U.S. market access to [India's] economy of a billion consumers."

In a March 2008 speech, McCain said he believes India should be included in the G-8.

McCain voted in favor of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in October 2008. He also voted for the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006. In a May 2008 speech on nuclear security, McCain said he supports the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord "as a means of strengthening our relationship with the world's largest democracy, and further involving India in the fight against proliferation." He also said the United States should "engage actively" with India to "improve the security of nuclear stockpiles and weapons materials," and to construct a secure global nuclear order that eliminates the likelihood of proliferation and the possibility of nuclear conflict."

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Sarah Palin
Republican Party Nominee - Vice President

Palin's stance on U.S. policy toward India is unknown.

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Democratic Primary Candidates on U.S. Policy toward India

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Democratic Primary Candidate

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) enjoys strong support from the Indian-American community (NY Sun). Indian Americans for Hillary 2008, founded by prominent hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, plans to raise at least $5 million for the Clinton campaign (Hindustan Times).

With Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Clinton announced plans in April to form a Senate India Caucus (The Hindu), which she would cochair.

In June 2007, the Barack Obama campaign sparked controversy by circulating a memo accusing Clinton of pandering to the Indian-American community. That memo notes the “tens of thousands” Clinton has received from companies that outsource jobs to India.

Clinton voted for the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006.

Editor's Note: Sen. Clinton withdrew her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on June 7, 2008.

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Christopher J. Dodd
Democratic Primary Candidate

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) voted for the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006. Other than that, however, little is known about Dodd’s stance on U.S. policy toward India.

Editor's Note: Sen. Dodd withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 3, 2008.

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John Edwards
Democratic Primary Candidate

Edwards has said a “strong U.S.-Indian relationship will be one of my highest priorities” as president. He told the Indian American Center for Political Awareness that the United States and India should “enhance our efforts to cooperate in law enforcement, intelligence sharing, and nonproliferation.” He also said he would support India’s efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

In late 2005, Edwards said he was “generally supportive” of the proposed U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement.

Editor's note: Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination on January 30, 2008.

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Mike Gravel
Democratic Primary Candidate

Gravel’s stance on this issue is unknown.

Editor's Note: Mike Gravel ended his bid for the Democraticnomination on March 26, 2008. He then ran for the LibertarianParty's presidential nomination before announcing the end ofhis political career on May 25, 2008.

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Dennis Kucinich
Democratic Primary Candidate

Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) opposed the U.S. and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006, arguing that it would “threaten global security and unilaterally modify the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”

Kucinich also cosponsored a May 2007 House resolution that the United States “should address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.” That resolution passed in the House, but has not yet been voted in on the Senate.

Editor's Note: Rep. Kucinich withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 25, 2008.

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Bill Richardson
Democratic Primary Candidate

Richardson says the relationship between the United States and India can potentially serve to deter extremism and counterbalance China economically. He also says India should join the G8.

Richardson said, if elected, he would have held an Asian Energy Summit with India, China, Japan, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations Environment Program to “adopt a ten-year strategy for a major energy transition in Asia.”

In a January 2008 Foreign Affairs essay, Richardson praised the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, which he said would "help bring a great democracy, a natural ally of the United States, into the global nuclear regime."

Editor's Note: Richardson withdrew his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 10, 2008.

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Republican Primary Candidates on U.S. Policy toward India

Sam Brownback
Republican Primary Candidate

Sen. Brownback (R-KS) calls India “one of our most important strategic partners in Asia.” Like Richardson, he has stressed India’s potential role as a “counterweight” to China’s economy.

Brownback, who formerly chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, has long advocated engagement with India. In 1999, he called for an end to economic sanctions intended to force India to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Brownback voted for the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006 in part, he said, because “India has protected its nuclear program for thirty years and has not proliferated.”

Editor's Note: Sen. Brownback withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on October 19, 2007.

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Rudy Giuliani
Republican Primary Candidate

Giuliani views India’s rapidly growing economy as a potentially lucrative market, saying the United States should “take advantage” (CNBC) of the “large number of consumers that are emerging in India.” In particular, Giuliani said, the U.S. stands to “make a lot of money in India” in new energy technology.

Editor's note: Giuliani dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 31, 2008.

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Mike Huckabee
Republican Primary Candidate

Huckabee’s stance on this issue is unknown.

Editor's Note: Huckabee withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on March 4, 2008.

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Duncan Hunter
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Hunter (R-CA) has often expressed concern that too many U.S. jobs are being outsourced to countries like India and China.

Hunter voted for the U.S.and India Nuclear Cooperation Act of 2006.

Editor's note: Hunter dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 19, 2008.

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Ron Paul
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Paul (R-TX) has addressed India in terms of U.S. policy towards Iran. He says U.S. "provision of nuclear materials to India is a clear violation of the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)], which contradicts "anti-Iran voices" claiming that Iran is violating the NPT. In fact, says Paul, Iran is entitled under the NPT to develop nuclear power "for peaceful purposes." Further, he argued, "If Iran had a nuclear weapon, why would this be different from Pakistan, India, and North Korea having one? Why does Iran have less right to a defensive weapon than these other countries?"

Paul opposed the U.S. and India Nuclear Cooperation Act of 2006.

Editor's Note: Rep. Paul withdrew his candidacy for theRepublican presidential nomination on June 12, 2008.

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Mitt Romney
Republican Primary Candidate

Romney views India as potentially profitable for U.S. marketing and investment, due to its flourishing economy and huge population. Romney said in 2005 that although outsourcing to countries like India is a problem, "we'll see new opportunities created selling products there. We'll have a net increase in economic activity, just as we did with free trade."

Editor's note: Romney dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on February 7, 2008.

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Tom Tancredo
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Tancredo (R-CO), whose candidacy focused almost exclusively on immigration issues, has not often spoken about India. However, his failed proposal to end the H-1B visa program during the 108th Congress may have turned some Indian-American voters against him. USINPAC has called for the cap on H-1B visas to be eliminated altogether.

Tancredo voted for the U.S.and India Nuclear Cooperation Act of 2006.

With Rep. Kucinich and others, Tancredo cosponsored a May 2007 House resolution calling on the United States to “address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.” That resolution has not yet been voted on.

Editor's Note: Congressman Tancredo formally withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on December 20, 2007.

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Fred Thompson
Republican Primary Candidate

Thompson’s stance on this issue is unknown.

Editor's note: Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 22, 2008.

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Tommy Thompson
Republican Primary Candidate

The former health and human services secretary has boasted of a “productive bilateral relationship” with India in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He cited funding granted for Indian scientists on AIDS vaccine research and for the expansion of “government and free market interventions in HIV, TB, and malaria treatment and prevention efforts” there.

Darshan Dhaliwal, the Indian-born head of Bulk Petroleum (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), has pledged to raise $1 million for the Thompson campaign.

Editor's note: Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on August 12, 2007.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.