U.S.-India Relations

U.S.–India Relations

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Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at CFR, discusses how the United States and India should work together to improve their shared interests in the cyber domain, global health, climate change and clean energy, and democracy, as part of CFR's Academic Conference Call series.

Learn more about CFR's resources for the classroom at CFR Education.


Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations


Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

FASKIANOS: Good afternoon from New York, and welcome to the CFR Academic Conference Call Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you for joining us.

Today’s call is on the record, and the audio and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org, if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates.

We’re delighted to have Alyssa Ayres with us today to talk about U.S.-India relations. Dr. Ayres is CFR senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia. From 2010 to 2013, she served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia. And prior to that, she led the India and South Asia practice at McLarty Associates, a Washington-based international strategic advisory firm.

She has coedited three books on India and Indian foreign policy, and her book on nationalism, culture, and politics in Pakistan, Speaking Like a State, received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies Book Prize for 2011 to 2012.

She writes regularly for the CFR blog Asia Unbound and is a contributor to Forbes.com. You can also follow her on twitter at @AyresAlyssa.

Dr. Ayres recently served as the project director for the 2015 CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S.-India relations, which we distributed as background reading in advance of today’s discussion.

Alyssa, thank you very much for being with us. In light of the task force report that was issued, I thought it would be great if you could talk about the findings and recommendations that you outlined in that report on how the U.S. and India should work together on shared interests.

AYRES: Sure, happy to do that. Thank you very much for convening this call. And I understand we’ve got a great group of universities dialed in. So look forward to the conversation.

Our task force—let me just say at the outset that as we got together as a task force and began our series of meetings and conversations to think about how the United States should best try to work with a rising India, one of the most important elements that everybody agreed on quite early on was that as we lay this out, we should be thinking of a time horizon of at least a decade. Our U.S. relationship with India isn’t something that changes quickly. India is a country that doesn’t change quickly. And so, to be thinking about how to orient U.S. policy, we all agreed that the time horizon should be at least a decade.

And so I think that also helps explain how we came to our findings and recommendations. They’re very much focused on sort of larger strategic and economic issues rather than specific micro-issues that might be more the warp and weft of what you do in diplomacy, working on a particular issue on any given day.

So with that as the kind of backdrop, our group very easily came to the consensus quite early on that India now matters to U.S. interests in virtually every dimension. So as we thought about that and we thought about the way the world is changing, we’ve got a rising China that is turning in a more authoritarian direction, Russia that is also turning in a more authoritarian direction, there’s real opportunities here to strengthen the relationship between India and the United States.

India is also in a process of shifting away from what previously used to be its orientation to nonalignment. That is a process that remains incomplete, but the Modi government doesn’t talk much about nonalignment in contrast with its predecessor.

So our first finding that kind of lays the ground for all of our recommendations is that we see Indian and U.S. interests in a process of structural realignment. The task force found that this structural realignment creates natural opportunities for the U.S. and India to work together by a process of mutual self-interest.

We secondly took a close look at what we thought would be the most important factors going ahead in the following decade. And for us, we came to the conclusion that those are really economic. We had the consensus view that if India can maintain its current growth rate, let alone attain sustained double-digit growth rates, India really is a unique country that has the potential over the next two or three decades to become another $10-trillion in the world. There are not very many countries in the world that have this potential. India is probably unique in being so.

So we thought that this is something with our second finding actually that really places India at what we saw was a kind of moment of choice. The right choices could propel India to become a much larger economic player on the world stage in the manner that China has been transformed over the course of the last two decades.

And so that also led us to the consensus finding that nothing is more important to India’s future success across all facets of national power than the ability to achieve those sustained high levels of annual economic growth.

That led us to the conclusion that India’s combined economic, national security, and global policy potential means that a rising India offers one of the most substantial opportunities to advance American national interests over the next two decades. That’s really the core reason why developing an even stronger relationship with India is in U.S. national interests.

Our fourth finding is something that has struck some people as unusual, not the type of finding that always shows up in kind of a U.S. foreign policy document. But as we looked at the trends and the economic issues, we also came to the consensus view that for India to realize its own ambitions, it will need to tackle barriers that hold back women and girls. You’ll see in the course of the task force report there’s some new data that’s been coming out. India’s female labor force participation rate has been dropping over the course of the last eight, nine years or so, which is a little bit of a surprise and something that is increasingly being discussed as a barrier to helping India attain that kind of faster economic growth that it seeks. This is something that the ILO, the IMF, McKinsey have all been looking at, lagging female workforce participation rates.

We also took a look at India’s participation in global trade arrangements. And we came to the finding that, of course, structures some of our recommendations, that India does risk being left behind in global trade. India is not as integrated into the world of global commercial flows in the way that other countries in Asia have become. It is not as open and has not negotiated the kinds of much more open trade agreements that many other countries have done. And it’s not deeply integrated into global supply chains, which has been the pattern that’s unfolded for China and across all of Southeast Asia.

So finding a way for India to become more deeply integrated in global supply chains would boost India’s efforts to grow its manufacturing sector, a key priority of the current and well as previous governments, and grow its economy.

Our sixth finding was that—and it’s very much related—ambivalence, political ambivalence within India about the role of markets and open competition will continue to constrain its economic growth if people don’t more decisively turn to embrace more open markets.

Turning now to some of the security issues, our consensus conclusion on the findings was that we have a barrier to a much deeper relationship with India, and that’s tied to U.S. policy toward Pakistan. The United States has tried very hard over the course of the last decade to do what’s called “de-hyphenating” our relationships between India and between Pakistan. You know, through most of U.S. foreign policy history, up until really around 2005 or so, the United States tried to balance what it did with India with what it would do with Pakistan and try to maintain a balance in those relations.

That policy was abandoned around 2005 when we embarked upon the civil nuclear agreement and a very transformed, different kind of relationship with India. But what has happened in recent years with the kind of continued problems of terrorism that have not been fully dealt with in Pakistan is now a kind of skepticism among the Indian officials, a skepticism that the United States can ever fully be trusted as a security partner when they see the United States perhaps not acting—or demanding tough action from Pakistan on the terrorist groups that have targeted India as well as the United States.

We, of course, noted that Pakistan has problems of its own. But India has a very different trajectory, a trajectory for power and prosperity if it can remain focused on its own domestic issues, its domestic transformation, and that the risk of conflict with Pakistan can drag India down. So we came to a consensus finding that India should not have to endure decades of having its strategic options as a rising power limited by Pakistan.

Also looking regionally, our group came to the consensus finding that U.S. policy toward Afghanistan has created some difficulties in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship, because it’s been a little bit unclear what U.S. policy will continue to be in the out years, looking ahead. India worries quite a bit about instability, as I’m sure everybody can appreciate. And the United States has had, you know, a departure date, then you know, we’re going to retain certain troop levels. It’s a little bit unclear what will happen with the change in administration in the United States. And so that is something that creates uncertainty for regional security within South Asia.

Our task force came to the finding that the defense and strategic ties between India and the United States have progressed very well compared to the past but can continue to grow further and deepen further. We thought that there was great potential on both the strategic operational consultation as well as defense, industrial, and technology tracks. We also observed that homeland security and technical counterterrorism cooperation has gotten off to a good start but not progressed as well as it could.

Coming to the slate of global issues, we decided to focus on four. There are a million different kinds of global issues we could have taken a look at, but we are trying to really be prioritized in what we examined. We thought that in cybersecurity and in global health, that India has a very advanced technical capacity and a very large, capable talent pool. We’ve got great private sector cooperation that has been under way in both these fields, with American and Indian partners.

So our task force found that India and the United States share significant interests and unique capabilities in these two fields, in cyber and health, that offer the potential for potentially transformative bilateral cooperation.

We also took a look at climate change issues, and we found that India’s development pathway and its domestic politics would not likely permit its government to change its views on the likelihood of a legally binding emissions framework. That’s exactly what ended up happening in Paris, although India showed great leadership in trying to develop kind of a new global conversation about the use of renewable energy. That’s something we can talk about later.

And our final finding was that the United States and India should be obvious partners and work to share lessons from and promote democracy elsewhere in the world. It’s a little bit harder to do because of some of India’s own hesitations on that front. So we can come back to that later.

Now, turning quickly to some of the recommendations, and then we can open this up to a broader conversation on those recommendations. We recommended that in terms of working with a rising India, India’s size and its class-of-its-own sense of self, and its fierce independence make for a bilateral relationship that won’t resemble at all the kinds of relationships the United States has with other countries.

We suggested, instead of thinking about this relationship as on a process to becoming an alliance, which carries different kinds of expectations, that we should instead think about it as a joint venture, where we’re going to overlap on a significant number of issues and can work together very briefly, but we’ll also have some disagreements that will be a little bit harder to bridge. So we shouldn’t expect to see agreement on all fronts.

We also recommended that the United States move up to the very top priority of its bilateral agenda with India the transformation of economic ties with India in the same way that strategic ties had been placed at the top of the bilateral agenda a decade ago and has been truly transformed.

We recommended as well—unusually—normally these task forces make recommendations to the United States—we made a recommendation to the government of India and to Indian political leaders that they should work to try to convince their publics about the urgency of an economic reform agenda to help India make those changes that will allow its economy to grow and deliver that domestic transformation people seek.

We made some recommendations on how the United States should structure its relationship with Pakistan to prevent chances of conflict. We made some recommendations on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and making a sustained commitment there to help relieve questions of potential instability.

We also made the recommendation that on the defense and security agenda we should really pay some close attention to the security relationship across the whole spectrum and placing additional emphasis on doing more together on homeland security and counterterrorism cooperation.

And then finally in the basket of global issues, we made the recommendation that we should really pay substantial attention to the four areas I outlined earlier. The special opportunities in cyber and public health, we recommended taking a close look at technical cooperation and clean energy and creating signature joint ventures there. Climate change—there’s a lot that we can do together, but we should emphasize the technical aspects of that collaboration, given some of India’s own concerns.

And then finally, we also emphasized that on the democracy front, the United States should approach India as a front-line partner, focused on cooperation at the technical end, meaning the process of putting together elections and some of the great capacity-building strengths that India has.

So that—I just have kind of walked through our different findings and recommendations. We have a lot of information in the report, including some issues that I didn’t talk about but would be happy to, about U.S. students studying abroad and language study and things like that. So, happy to open this up to discussion.

Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Great. Alyssa, thank you very much for that overview and of course for the significant work that you did on the task force to produce such interesting and insightful findings and recommendations.

Let’s open it up now to the group, students, for questions and comments. And we look forward to hearing from you.

OPERATOR: At this time we will open the floor for questions.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

Our first question comes from the Texas Women’s University.

Q: Good morning, and fascinating, insightful discussion about incredible India. One question—this is Mahesh, or Michael, Raisinghani. And a quick question I have is, what recommendations do you have for both India and for U.S. to improve the bilateral talks?

AYRES: Well, I just walked through—(off mic)—bilateral talks, specifically?

Q: Yeah, I guess what—most specifically, a lot of it has been done in the past with less-than-optimal results, shall we say. So if, let’s say, you were the president and you were in charge of this, what would you do differently to have more optimal outcomes?

AYRES: Sir, we lost almost all of your question. It cut out, and we couldn’t hear anything until the very end.

Q: So I’ll just rephrase that. If you were the president, what would you do differently to achieve more optimal results that we have in the past, to cut through the rhetoric, to get it done? What would you do differently?

AYRES: I think we’ve actually achieved some great results, so I’m not sure that I would completely overlap with the way you framed the question. I think we’ve actually come very far with India compared to the last fifteen years. That strategic transformation that took place between 2005 and 2010 has been absolutely vital. And our task force noted that that process should continue to deepen. As I said earlier, we did recommend taking an approach to kind of plus-up, taking a look at the homeland security and counterterrorism cooperation in that basket.

What we thought was really important to do differently—and this is what I outlined at the outset—was raising the priority of the economic relationship between India and the United States, so really trying to find ways to transform the economic conversation in the same manner that the security conversation was the subject of a lot of very careful diplomatic work from 2005 forward.

We have a pretty detailed list of recommendations, things that the U.S. and India could work on together. Our top recommendation on the economic front was for the United States to commit to ambitious targets for bilateral economic ties, along with developing some steps to get there. So, first of all, taking leadership of a global diplomatic effort to support India’s entry into APEC, something that India has been asking for. There was a membership moratorium that lasted from 1997 through 2010. No new members have been inducted since the moratorium was lifted. India is, you know, the second-largest economy in Asia if you go by PPP terms. So we recommended that, working carefully to complete a bilateral investment treaty that has been under way, under negotiation for nearly a decade.

We also recommended taking a look at trying to start very high-level discussions on bilateral sectoral agreements, like in services, where there’s a lot of commercial engagement under way, but we don’t have a solid agreement there; trying to envision what it might take to develop a pathway down the line—it’s not possible now—but taking a look at what it might take to develop a free-trade agreement or Indian membership in an expanded TPP. We’ve got our own domestic issues. Let’s see what happens with TPP going down the line. Our Congress still has to ratify it.

And then a number of possibilities like initiatives with—of technical exchange that could be focused on infrastructure financing or shared work with international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank on infrastructure, issues that are of core and urgent priority for India.

We have more there, but that just gives you kind of a sense of how we tried to specify the ways that a reprioritized—a higher priority for the economic relationship, what steps could be taken to try to do that.

Is that helpful? Does that answer your question? Sir?

FASKIANOS: I think we might have closed his line to move on to the next question. So if he has a further question, we can come back to him.

So let’s go on.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Syracuse University.

Q: (Inaudible.) My question, please, is India is having so—a lot of problems with regard to the terrorism being supported from the Pakistan. And the United States government, although—it also acknowledges that Pakistan is not doing enough to curtail the terrorism against India from its side.

So when the U.S. government completely knew that that it is the Pakistan, that they are implicitly and tacitly supporting the terrorism also, why, despite strong protests from India also, it is selling the F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan? How India can trust U.S. government in this type of—(inaudible)—when U.S. knew that it is the Pakistan terrorists creating problem in India, but despite knowing that fact and acknowledging that also, U.S. government is selling the F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan? If this is how the U.S. plays a hypocritical role with India, then how can India and the U.S. can be very good partners in bilateral relationship now? This is my question.

AYRES: So this is a really important question, and I think that’s something that we highlighted pretty high up in the report as a real barrier that is growing larger than it has been in the past because of the fact that despite all these years of the United States trying to impress upon Pakistan the importance of dealing with the terrorist groups operating from its soil, there are still groups that appear to operate with impunity.

So we actually did go into some detail about the problem, for example, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, where you have the head of this organization, who is an international U.N.-designated terrorist both for the group as well as an individual designation. He’s a designated terrorist under U.S. terrorism laws. And yet this person is out giving speeches very freely and publicly.

So it’s a real problem. I’m sure you are familiar with all the examples, so I don’t have to walk through all of those examples. What our task force recommended was that the United States should—I mean, as a matter of policy, our task force recommended that India should want to improve its relationship with Pakistan as, you know, an investment in its own rise on the world stage.

But we also made the recommendation that the United States should be much more focused and demand that Pakistan meet its obligations as a state to tackle terrorism emanating from its territory. So our recommendation was that Washington should be prepared to end U.S. taxpayer funding for any defense equipment sales to Pakistan as well as the coalition support fund’s reimbursement, which is very substantial, if Pakistan is unwilling to tackle terrorism from its soil.

So the F-16s issue had not happened when we finalized our task force recommendations. But you can see that we sort of anticipated that something like this might happen. So one of the interesting things, I thought, was that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in reviewing the administration’s request on the F-16, issued a letter just stating that he was not satisfied with the level of cooperation Pakistan had exhibited in the last several years, particularly with respect to the Haqqani network and he would not approve the use of U.S. taxpayer financing for any sales of these F-16s. So that’s something that has been quite a public statement and a public discussion around here in Washington.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Georgetown University.

Q: Hi, I have a question with regards to U.S. initiatives of the New Silk Road initiative and then now that is more pressed is the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor. Both of these initiatives have yet to really take off with U.S. initiatives.

Do you—has that factored in at all to your findings or recommendations for what the U.S. can do to engage within the framework of these two initiatives?

AYRES: Now, what do you mean these haven’t taken off? What would your definition of “taking off” be?

Q: Well, the New Silk Road initiative specifically tries to bring in India into a north-south transit. But with the security issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan, really the only success we’re seeing is with TAPI and the CASA-1000. But it seems that India is quite hesitant or—I don’t know, isn’t really that motivated to get engaged in Central Asia through this initiative.

AYRES: Okay. So the New Silk Road vision is clearly a priority for the United States, but one of the things to factor in is that the United States is really no longer in the business of sort of major infrastructure projects. That’s something that we used to do in the 1960s but we don’t do as much as a government.

So that constrains us globally in terms of what we can offer. We’ve done some smaller support for things like a bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, I believe. The CASA-1000 is something the U.S. has been involved with. The U.S. has helped work with the Istanbul Process. Within that there is a whole sub- working group that focuses on commercial engagements across the Istanbul Process countries.

So there is a lot of conversation and activity there, but a lot of that has been eclipsed by some of what you see happening with China’s One Belt, One Road effort, because they are really placing a lot of development funds towards that. So that is a real issue.

I would say that India has been quite focused on its engagement with Afghanistan and what it could do. It is the fifth-largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan. It built Afghanistan’s parliament, built the ring road that connects Afghan transit corridors through—down into the part of Iran that can lead down to the coast.

India’s transit route into Afghanistan can’t cross Pakistan because Pakistan has not been willing to provide that access. That’s actually an issue that has become a source of contention between Pakistan and Afghanistan, because Afghanistan would very much like for, for example, its fruit and dried fruit, its farmers to be able to have transit access all the way through to India, where there’s a huge market for their pomegranates and their grapes and their apricots and other things. But Pakistan has not provided complete transit access there.

Finding a way to better connect India and Pakistan commercially would really unlock that whole region as a zone of trade and economic connectivity. That is a priority for the SAARC, the South Asian Area of Regional Cooperation. But they haven’t always been so successful. This is the least economically integrated region in the world.

So I would say that this is a diplomatic priority, the New Silk Road vision, certainly a diplomatic priority for the United States, for India as well. The difficult relationship between India and Pakistan has made that transit corridor be much less integrated than it would be if there were a different kind of political situation in the region.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our next question comes from Monmouth University.

Q: Hi. My name is Rae Kunetsa (ph), and I’m from Monmouth University. I really enjoyed the overview as well as the report. And you started off saying—citing the rising prospects of political U.S.-India ventures, which is very exciting.

I was wondering if you could share some of your thoughts on how you think the U.S. presidential elections will impact on some of those ventures or some of those possibilities, if you will. Thank you.

AYRES: This is going to be my shortest answer. I actually—you know, there is huge bipartisan consensus in the United States on the relationship with India. And it makes it actually a really nice foreign policy issue to work on, because you don’t have big partisan fights over what the U.S. and India should be doing together.

So I would suspect that no matter who wins, there would probably be continuity and a focus on trying to further deepen U.S.-India ties looking ahead in the future. You know, our task force is very much a bipartisan task force. We had people from different backgrounds, different political beliefs, and affiliations. And you know, we had great, great consensus on these findings and recommendations.

So I would definitely anticipate to see continuity and an interest in deepening the engagement.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Pitzer College.

Q: Hi. My name is Ramon, I’m from Pitzer College.

And I’d really like to—(inaudible)—view, but—I probably might have missed it, but I don’t think you mentioned anything about the immigration policy. And I was wondering what recommendations you would have for the U.S. to improve its immigration policy. And what do you think about the current immigration policy and where it has to do with international students, for that matter, trying to work abroad. I know Obama said, I think last year, about attracting young entrepreneurs and students getting STEM degrees. But we really haven’t seen any updates on that—on that front.

So I was wondering what your recommendations would be while talking about U.S. immigration policy.

AYRES: So we did take a close—not a close look—this was a subsection in our economic section at some of the immigration issues. It’s on page thirty-six and thirty-seven if you’re taking a look at the report or if you can get to it later.

We framed these as three economic third rails: on the U.S. side, skilled worker visas, a Social Security agreement; and on the Indian side, intellectual property rights. We thought that these are three issues that are sufficiently complex and difficult in both their policy resolution as well as in domestic politics in each country, that these are issues that are not likely going to be resolved very easily between India and the United States.

So the issue of immigration policy is extremely complex. In the U.S. you saw efforts three years ago in the Senate and in the House, where people tried to come up with new bills. They were not able to reach agreement either in the House or the Senate on pushing these bills forward. So we ended up with no comprehensive immigration reform.

To make any changes to immigration issues, it has to go through Congress. It’s just fundamental to the way the United States’ immigration law and policy is developed. And so that’s something that has to be worked out politically. I don’t think there’s a likelihood of it being changed soon.

India—relatedly, on the high-skilled worker issues, India has a complaint about Social Security totalization, which is a very arcane debate, so I won’t get into all the details on that, because I’m sure it would put all of you to sleep. But it—the Indian government has been complaining for some time that they would like to see a totalization agreement. And one of the challenging things about that is that there’s a very specific U.S. law that governs these agreements, and India’s structure of its own Social Security equivalent doesn’t meet the provisions in U.S. law.

So that would mean, to make any kind of change to this, members of Congress would have to pass a new law. And again, these things are real kind of hot-button issues, so it doesn’t look very likely that there would be a new law focused on this Social Security issue coming up anytime soon.

By the same token, one of the most difficult issues between India and the United States commercially is this question of India’s intellectual property rights and India’s IPR laws. There’s a lot of unhappiness among U.S. industry with India’s IPR. And our task force took a look at this and just felt that there is very little likelihood of substantial changes to India’s IPR law in the near term. So this will remain an issue of some dissatisfaction between both countries and something that we’ll really have to keep talking about to try to manage.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the University of Notre Dame.

Q: Hi. My name is Ashton.

And I’m wondering if India’s strong, consistent economic growth that they’re on track with right now—would that somehow lead to them also wanting to grow their military at a rapid pace? And if so, how would the United States handle them wanting to build their military and also other world powers such as China? Will there be some intimidation factor, or would they work together?

AYRES: I couldn’t quite hear—could you just repeat the last half? Your question is about India’s economic growth and growing its military? Could you just repeat it?

Q: Yes. Will their rapid economic growth somehow lead to them also wanting to grow their military rapidly? And if they do, how will world powers such as the United States and China handle it? Will there be some kind of intimidation factor, or will they work together and support it?

AYRES: The answer to this is India has now embarked upon one of the world’s largest military modernizations. India at this point now is the largest importer of defense equipment platforms. The United States has committed itself to being a partner with India in India’s own military modernization. And as I mentioned previously—and I’ll give you some more examples—this strategic and defense cooperation between India and the United States has very dramatically changed in the last fifteen years. When President—actually in 2005 India and the United States signed what was called an agreed minute on defense that laid out some areas of cooperation to work on together. Those have now been expanded.

When President Obama visited India, he committed to, you know, very publicly a joint strategic vision between India and the United States, looking at the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the way that our countries would continue consulting on the important changes in this huge region, the way our militaries would continue exercising together and deepen that relationship.

India’s military exercises more now with the United States than with any other country. So it’s a very strong relationship, continuing to deepen.

For the first time in history, India’s defense minister visited the U.S. Pacific Command out in Hawaii. That took place in December. It was a really big deal. It had never happened before. So you can see with that visit our Pacific Command is focused on navies and, you know, maritime military engagement. So that’s a very, very positive area of cooperation between India and the United States.

India has increasingly procured defense platforms from the United States. Russia—the former Soviet Union, now Russia, had been India’s primary partner for decades. But over the course of the last decade, India is diversifying the countries from which it procures new systems. So the United States has now become a very major partner for India in this process of modernizing its platforms.

The last part of this answer is that India and the United States have embarked on something called the DTTI, the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative. And this initiative is focused on not only the kind of partnership that would happen with one country buying military equipment from another but how that relationship can be deepened further through what’s called co-production and co-development of new kinds of systems.

So they have different working groups, including a working group that’s looking at aircraft carrier technology. So that is a really, really significant area of partnership, an area of India’s strengthening power with the United States over different administrations. So on a bipartisan basis, the United States has really welcomed that rise.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Washington University.

Q: Good morning. Thank you. My question is related to China. I’m wondering, for the U.S. global leadership and the U.S. interests, what’s the difference between the rising of China and rising of India? And as—

AYRES: Sorry, what’s the difference between what?

Q: What—for the sake of U.S. leadership involved and for the sake of U.S. national interest, what’s the difference between the rising of China and the rising of India? And—

AYRES: The difference between the relationship with China and the relationship with India?

Q: No, the difference between the rising of China and the rising of India. Excuse me?

AYRES: Well, we did not address that in our task force report. That is well beyond the scope of what this task force looked at. I think as we talked about in the beginning, in sort of our initial set of findings, one of the issues that we thought was actually quite important for looking ahead was the changes that we’re seeing around the world in—you know, the growth of authoritarianism in China. That is a phenomenon that has been unfolding over the last couple years and, as I’d mentioned at the top, authoritarianism in Russia as well.

So this kind of very vibrant democracy in India represents a different approach to public life and democracy and a kind of important country with which the U.S. really needs to continue to deepen its relationship in order to signal the U.S. support for democracy around the world. So it’s of great importance for U.S. interests.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Syracuse University.

Q: (Inaudible.) My question—I have two interconnected questions, ma’am. U.S. government—(inaudible)—India to—about the secular values and secular credentials. But here—from where the U.S. government is getting that moral right to give the lectures about the secular credentials, because Indian government is now currently being headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is being called by the U.S. government as a Hindu nationalist party. If that is (the case here ?), in 1982 the President Ronald Reagan of the U.S. declared 1982 as the—

FASKIANOS: Do you have a question, sir? Do you have a question?

Q: Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. My question, ma’am?

FASKIANOS: What is your question?

Q: My question is, U.S. government usually lectures to India on secular values, secular credentials, everything, so many things (to them ?). But in the U.S. now, your—the presidential candidate Donald Trump is taking the Christian religion, Bible name very openly. And even the—(inaudible)—in the year ’82, President Reagan declared that year as Year of Bible. That doesn’t, then, to speak very poorly about the secular credentials of the—of this country? Because when Donald Trump is openly taking the Christian religion and Bible for the campaigning, if tomorrow he becomes the president of the U.S., does the U.S. become a Christian government? India—

FASKIANOS: Right, why don’t—yeah, OK. I think why don’t we—sir, sir, excuse me. Excuse me. Let’s—I think we can—we get it, and let’s—we’ll have Alyssa respond to what you’ve said to date, and then we will move on to another student.

AYRES: I’m going to take the top part of the question—


AYRES: —because I think it doesn’t help us to speculate on what may or may not happen with a presidential election that is still some months away. So I think we’ll all have to just take a look at how the U.S. politics unfolds.

But the top part of your question actually shows up a very interesting and significant difference in the way the United States and India approach the issue of democracy. The U.S., as a democracy, focuses on trying to promote democracy, promote human rights, promote religious freedom, promote the fundamental rights of democracy around the world. This is something that’s kind of a fundamental part of U.S. foreign policy.

So, sir, you spoke of this as U.S. lecturing. Well, we do lecture. These are values that are really important to the United States. We also evaluate ourselves. We have lots of problems of our own in our own democracy that we continue to need to work on. And you see our president, President Obama, speaking on a regular basis about where we face problems and failings and what more we need to do.

But in terms of the way the U.S. approaches secularism or religious freedom or human rights on a regular basis, the State Department produces annual reports that are requested by law, requested by U.S. Congress on democracy around the world, on international religious freedom, on child labor issues. That’s something else that’s a required report to Congress. And this is something that the U.S. takes very seriously.

Now, I recognize and know very well from having heard this many times from colleagues in India that these reports are not always welcome. And I know that in India, often people feel that this is a topic that is best left to a country to deal with itself on its own. But that doesn’t change the way the United States places importance on these issues.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Let’s go to the next question, Alyssa.

OPERATOR: (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our next question comes from the University of Notre Dame.

Q: Hi. My question is that now it’s been a year after President Obama visited on Republic Day. And could you talk about what the impact over the past year and what that specific visit did for U.S.-India relations?

AYRES: Sure. Thanks for that question. I would encourage all the students on the phone to take a look at the joint statements and the different documents that were released. They’re all on whitehouse.gov. It’s pretty easy to find these. That’s a really great learning tool, kind of a primary document to give you a list of the different agreements and things that were covered during that visit.

For me, one of the most important was something that I mentioned earlier. That was this release of the joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean that does lay out a pretty significant statement for India and the United States to deepen the security and defense cooperation in this huge region, to deepen the economic cooperation in this region. There’s a strong focus in that strategic vision document on the importance of economic connectivity in delivering economic growth for countries.

So that statement has put into play a lot of different kinds of areas of cooperation. One of the things that happened diplomatically was—and this is probably getting into a lot of inside baseball—but one of the things that happened was the transformation last year, in 2015, of what had been called the strategic dialogue between India and the United States. It was expanded and turned into something called the strategic and commercial dialogue. So in that larger framework, it met for the first time in 2015. That’s a change because that shift also elevates the importance of that commercial engagement as part of the diplomatic dialog.

So I would point to those two things. There are a lot of things that India and the United States continue to work on together. I haven’t discussed much in this call but would encourage everybody to take a look at these—the primary documents, these fact sheets. There is a huge amount of technology and science cooperation under way. It’s space cooperation, things that kind of fly below the radar screen but very, very deep and important cooperation, including on clean energy, which is something that I’ve written a little bit about, really sort of transformational potential in that cooperation and looking for new forms of clean energy, new ways to harness clean energy and deploy them throughout both of our countries.

FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The question comes from Pitzer College.

Q: Hi. So I had a question regarding the U.S. foreign policy on terrorism. And this question mainly goes back to 2008 when there was a terrorist attack, which we all know as 26/11 in India. And the mastermind of the terrorist attack, Hafiz Saeed, who is still roaming free in Pakistan—this situation posed—could have been capitalized by the United States to actually put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, which exposed—which was exposed due to this—the lack of action being taken there.

And so what—my question is, when it actually comes to the point where the United States is supposed to take a strong stance, why does it not do that? And secondly, another question is, the—when the Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed and which has still been harming millions of people in India, and when the United States talks about or lectures other countries on human rights and everything else, why hasn’t it capitalized on these two situations and brought the criminals to justice or at least in the Bhopal gas tragedy, where the person is still in America, why hasn’t it done anything when you all talk—when you all give us lectures about human rights and terrorism?

That’s my question. Thank you.

AYRES: So your first question I believe I answered, but I will talk about this again. Our task force spent a lot of time actually talking about this issue of terrorism with bases in Pakistan. And our task force identified this as a real barrier to deepening our ties with India, because it’s very difficult for India to fully trust the United States, because many people in India view the United States as not doing enough to try to bring more significant pressure on Pakistan to deal with these terrorist issues.

So that was something that we addressed. We thought that it was absolutely vital for the United States to demand that Pakistan meet its—it has international obligations as a state to counter terrorism. There are internationally designated terrorists in Pakistan, who are, you know, not facing any kind of constraints on their movement.

So what we recommended is that this has got to be a much stronger press from the United States government on the government of Pakistan and that if Pakistan is not willing to rein in these terror groups, the United States should be prepared to end U.S. taxpayer financing for these defense equipment procurements, which are very important to the Pakistani military. It’s just not something that we felt the U.S. taxpayer should subsidize and that we should really take a close look at the coalition support fund’s reimbursement process, which is a very substantial flow of support and that, you know, that should be—you know, we should take a look at our policy on the CSF if Pakistan, again, is not willing to focus its sights on all terror groups, whether that’s, you know, Haqqani—I mean, Pakistan has its own problems of terror. It has targeted some of the terrorist groups that are in its northwest. But, as you mentioned, there are a number of others that have not faced the same kind of crackdown.

And so our task force really thought this was important. They need to pay attention to this, and the U.S. should have a stronger voice.

Your question about Bhopal—you know, here the issue actually continues to be a live issue in dealing with the continued progress on the civil nuclear agreement, because India’s own political debates about liability and what that means ended up creating a kind of unique civil nuclear liability law that is unique in the world. It is not like other liability laws around the world. And so that has created a little bit of a challenge to the commercial cooperation on the civil nuclear deal that had been so important in the mid-2000s, to thinking about that new kind of transformation in strategic ties with India.

I mean, the civil nuclear deal was something that was what everybody talked about as kind of the game-changer and the transformer between India and the United States, but because of, you know, Indian political concerns about liability, that has ended up being more difficult to implement.

Now, what has recently happened—in fact, this happened when President Obama went to India for Republic Day—the Indian government issued a kind of—a legal memorandum, I believe, that clarified what the terms of its own liability law would be that I gather should make it possible for commercial cooperation to continue.

And just recently India filed an instrument of ratification with the International Atomic Energy Agency, focused on this issue of civil nuclear cooperation. It has to do with liability laws. So provided that negotiations between companies and India’s nuclear power authority can complete to—successfully, that should be an area of cooperation going forward.

FASKIANOS: Let’s see if we can get one or two more questions in.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Babson College.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much. I have a student on the line. I just—we’ve had some technical challenges here. I just want to see if he’s still there.

Satcher (ph), are you there? Okay, if not, I will ask the question.

So we were really interested in knowing, in terms of—I don’t know if you focus on this or work on this—related to human trafficking, do you have any facts in terms of the relationship with the United States? Annually, you know, we issue the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report. Do you have any thinking around, you know, working with the—you know, the Indian government related to issues surrounding human trafficking and any type of collaboration there in terms of effort?

And we completely understand if this is an issue you’re not working on but just wanted to ask the question.

AYRES: No, this is an issue that, like many of the other rights issues, the Indian government sees as a matter of domestic sovereignty. So this has not been an issue where there’s a lot of bilateral cooperation, nor is there a lot of cooperation with India and other countries that also have concerns about trafficking. It’s something that India very, very squarely feels should be handled only internally and there isn’t a role for an outside country or an outside power to have anything to say about it.

So actually this is one of the reports that the Indian government is, you know, not pleased to receive, let’s say, when it’s published. So there’s not a lot of cooperation on that.

On the other hand, India has got a very, very vibrant NGO community and a lot of organizations that are very active in dealing with the human trafficking issues. In fact, I think there was an organization that won the TIME woman of the year or person of the year, an organization that’s actually based in Nepal that focuses on trying to stop trafficking of young women and girls between the Nepal-India border.

So there are—India has a lot of different organizations that rescue people. But Indian authorities at the government level feel that this is something that is an issue for India, Indian citizens, and Indian governments to work on.

FASKIANOS: Great. Alyssa Ayres, thank you very much for taking the time with—to be with us today and for all of your questions and comments. We really appreciated it. And I really hope that you will follow Alyssa and read the blog that she contributes to, Asia Unbound, which can be found at CFR.org; and follow her on Twitter at @AyresAlyssa.

So thank you again, Alyssa.

AYRES: Thanks for the opportunity, and thanks to all the universities and students today. Thanks for all the great questions.

FASKIANOS: Our next call will be on Thursday, March 10th, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. eastern time. Robert Knake, CFR’s Whitney Shepardson senior fellow, will talk about the future of cybersecurity. And I encourage you to follow us, our academic outreach initiative, on Twitter at @CFR_Academic for information on new CFR resources and upcoming events.

So thank you all again, and we look forward to your continued participation in our discussions this spring.


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