Having designated India as a “major defence partner”, the US should launch a government-wide “strategic advantage initiative” focused on developing New Delhi’s defence capabilities as a premier security contributor in the Indo-Pacific, and to ensure India has the capabilities to prevail in contested domains, a US think tank has said in a new report.
This assumes significance as New Delhi and Washington are collaborating on “free and open Indo-Pacific” more closely in the wake of Chinese activities in the region. Led by former Foreign Secretary and India’s ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao and former US ambassador to India Richard Verma, the report was prepared under the aegis of Center for American Progress (CAP).
Titled the “United States and India: Forging an Indispensable Democratic Partnership”, the report prepared by the CAP task force on US-India relations said that India should finalise, in consultation with the United States, a “joint defence implementation agreement” that facilitates information sharing, interoperability, and technology transfers within the two countries’ comfort zones. “Indian leaders need to make a strong public case for a more efficient, transparent, and effective defense procurement process,” the report said.
It also called for creating a US-India Indo-Pacific Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) cell to plan, train for, and undertake joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the Indian Ocean region.
Stressing that India and the US must build an economic relationship that creates jobs and opportunities for the people of both nations, the report said that the United States and India must look not just at areas like hi-tech, but also at infrastructure, to expand the benefits of investment and trade to all sectors of societies.
“The two nations cannot divorce the future of the bilateral economic relationship from what each country does at home. Both India and the United States must invest in the building blocks of their own economies and middle classes — including health care and education — and continue to innovate new domestic policy solutions if they are to benefit from the bilateral economic relationship,” the report said.
Among its key recommendations in the economic arena was to make infrastructure a key shared area of focus by holding summits to educate institutional investors about the Indian infrastructure market, and hosting conferences and exchanges to share lessons about developing digital infrastructure.
On clean energy, the report said that as two of the world’s three largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and with intense and growing energy needs, both countries must take concrete action to develop clean energy solutions that can boost economic growth and prevent the worst effects of climate change.
In this context, it said that the US should remain party to the Paris Climate Agreement. It also said that both countries should cooperate in the International Solar Alliance (ISA) — “the United States should become a full member of the ISA”, it recommended.
The report also stressed on the need to strengthen democratic institutions at home and around the world. It suggested starting a US-India track 1.5 dialogue on democracy and technology to discuss internet governance, the impact of social media on democracy, and the intersection of big data and privacy.
The CAP team also recommended strengthening ties between Indians and Americans, as that is the backbone of the US-India relationship. In this context, it said that the US should facilitate market conditions that give incentive to more cultural and educational exchange programmes.
The CAP task force had Yamini Aiyar (president, Centre for Policy Research), Alyssa Ayres (senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations), Shaurya Doval (founder, Zeus Capital; director, India Foundation), Anant Goenka (executive director, The Indian Express Group), Sadanand Dhume (Resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute), Dhruva Jaishankar (Fellow, foreign policy studies, Brookings India and the Brookings Institution), Manjeet Kripalani (executive director, Gateway House), and Richard Rossow (senior adviser and Wadhwani chair in US-India Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies) among its members.