In testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Alyssa Ayres overviewed the full U.S.-India relationship in the lead-up to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, DC. Drawing on findings from an Independent Task Force report sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Working With a Rising India: A Joint Venture for a New Century, for which she was project director, she recommended that the United States use a “joint venture,” not alliance, model for U.S.-India relations, allowing for increased cooperation in areas of convergence without letting differences undermine progress. To this end, the United States should elevate its support for India’s economic growth and reform, work with India on developing democracy and human rights infrastructure around the world, further develop the defense partnership, and review federal funding incentives to encourage the study of Indian languages and study abroad in India.
- To structure the enabling environment for working with India as a global power, the U.S. government should review federal funding incentives to encourage study abroad in India and study of Indian languages. This includes review of the ongoing Higher Education Act incentives, as well as the consideration of alternative initiatives and mechanisms. At present India/South Asia is funded below almost every other world region, and American students do not place a high priority on Indian language study or study abroad in India.
- The U.S. government should elevate support for India’s economic growth to the highest bilateral priority, playing a leadership role in helping India gain membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum; promoting high-level discussion of bilateral sectoral agreements, an investment treaty, or free trade agreement, or Indian membership in a megaregional trade agreement; and creating initiatives responsive to Indian domestic reform needs.
- The U.S.-India defense partnership has transformed greatly in the last fifteen years, but has room to grow. The United States should expand security cooperation to encompass the entire spectrum, further emphasizing homeland security and counterterrorism cooperation.
- The United States should recognize that differences exist between its approach to human rights and democracy and that of India. It should develop a common agenda with India in private consultation, and work toward a frontline partnership with India on technical training and capacity building for democracy around the world.