October 3, 2017 9:20:12 pm
The Trump Administration views India as a leading power and a true friend, the President’s nominee to be America’s envoy to India told lawmakers today, asserting that a strong India and a robust US-India relationship were in US’ interest. In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Kenneth I Juster, nominee to be the US Ambassador to India, said India’s international influence was important and has been growing.
“India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region and globally will be critical to international security and economic growth over the course of this century,” the former top White House official told members of the Senate Committee during his confirmation hearing. Juster said the Trump Administration will build on the excellent meeting that US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in June this year in seeking to deepen the partnership for the benefit of the people of both countries, and in the interest of shaping a freer, more secure and more prosperous world.
Of the many elements of the effort to expand and enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and advance common objectives, Juster said one key pillar was to deepen defence and security cooperation, building on the US’ recognition of India as a major defence partner.
“Together, our countries seek to ensure freedom of navigation, overflight and commerce, and advance a rules-based, democratic order throughout the Indo-Pacific Region,” he said. Juster said, if confirmed, he would look forward to engaging his counterparts in India to strengthen cooperation on the most pressing challenges to regional security and global peace from North Korea’s destabilising pursuit of nuclear weapons to the growing threat that all forms of terrorism pose to people.
“In addition, I will make it a priority to work closely with New Delhi to promote security and stability in Afghanistan, where India already has provided billions of dollars in economic support and is a longstanding partner for peace,” he said.
Noting that in the economic sphere, Modi has undertaken important reforms, Juster said the Indian government had liberalised foreign direct investment in several sectors and is working to improve the ease of doing business. “If confirmed, I look forward to identifying ways that the United States can be a partner in these reform efforts, to the mutual benefit of our business communities and our citizens,” he said.
India is 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding middle class represent a significant market opportunity for US goods and services, he said. “I appreciate the imperative to expand free, fair, and balanced trade between the United States and India. We will pursue that goal by working with the Government of India to improve and expedite,” Juster said.
In his opening remarks, Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, underscored the importance of India-US relationship. He said the time had come to match the expectations from this relationship.
Expressing his frustration over the “slow pace” of Indian economic reform and compulsory licensing requirement, Corker said the economic playing field was not even in India. The top US lawmaker also expressed concern over the rise of Hindu nationalism.
Corker said he was also concerned about the scale of human trafficking in India, particularly the bonded labour. Senator Mark Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced Juster before the confirmation hearing.
Warner is also Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, the only country specific caucus in the Senate. Pledging his full support to India-US relationship, Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also raised the issue of human trafficking in India.
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