India’s global strategic outlook and US foreign policy

15 January 2011

India’s global economic orientation and strategic outlook are important to U.S. economic and security policy and interests. An increasingly global strategic outlook from India will impact U.S. foreign policy in significant ways. A conference co-hosted by Observer Research Foundation and the Heritage Foundation at Washington D.C. on 8 December 2010 examined the issues involved and the interplay between India’s economic path and its global strategic outlook to gain insight into the future of US-India relations.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Kim R. Holmes, Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation, invoked President Obama’s visit to India saying that it showed the growing importance of India to the US. He said that markets reforms have the ability not only to improve lives of Indians but also to transform the basis of the relations between India and the US.

Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, in her keynote address, said that globalisation and the liberalisation of India’s economy have altered the way India interacts with the world and the transformation of its engagement with the US is part of this process. She said India and the US have agreed to work together to promote an open, balanced and inclusive architecture of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. India sees the US as a valuable partner in meeting its development aspirations, in building peace and security in its neighbourhood and in the wider Asian region and in addressing shared global challenges. She spoke on a wide range of issues in Indo-US relations, including the security situation in Asia, Afghanistan, cooperation in counter-terrorism, the new Indo-US dialogue on homeland security and nuclear disarmament among others. She stressed on the need for the two countries to work together on these issues.

The first session, ’The Health of the Globalisation Model and Rise of Alternatives’, looked at the disagreements between the US and India at the WTO, particularly on issues like outsourcing. The session focussed on how and when the two countries could cooperate in global trade and finance. It also looked at how and when the two countries could cooperate in dealing with the rise in prices of energy and food, in the backdrop of more warnings about global resource scarcity. The speakers at this session were Ambassador Susan Esserman, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Sunjoy Joshi, Director, Observer Research Foundation and Ashish Chauhan, Deputy Managing Director, Bombay Stock Exchange. The session was moderated by Ambassador Terry Miller, Director, Center for International Trade and Economics, The Heritage Foundation.

The second session ’India’s Globalisation Experience/Future’ examined potential Indian paths of economic globalisation, including trade in goods and services, movement of capital, information and people. It focussed on the opportunities for cooperation between India and the U.S. created by those paths. The speakers at this session, moderated by Walter Lohman, Director, Asian Studies Center of The Heritage Foundation, were Kapil Sharma, General Manager, North America, Tata Sons, Ltd., Dr. Derek Scissors, Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation and Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation. The key messages emanating from this session included how India needed to transform significantly in terms of regulation, markets access and social inclusion as these would inhibit or aid development of the bilateral relations. India is also a global player with its global MNCs and more discussions were needed on the interaction of companies like the Tata Group and Reliance with the world.

In his luncheon address, Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs, touched on the need for India and the USA to work together in dealing with the challenge of nuclear proliferation. He highlighted the US’ commitment to support full membership for India in multilateral export control regimes. He said that the two countries have decided to take mutual steps to expand India-US cooperation in defence, civil space and other high-technology sectors. Another area of cooperation that he focussed on was cooperation in the energy field, particularly in clean energy and the bilateral Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). He argued that enhancing India’s food security is vital for continuing India’s globalising trends and sustaining the burgeoning strategic economic partnership between India and the US and said that the two have agreed to collaborate in agriculture for an ’evergreen revolution’ in India. Other issues that he focussed on were bilateral health cooperation, joint development projects in Afghanistan and cooperation in higher education.

In the final session, ’How Globalisation Will Impact India’s Strategic Outlook’, the focus was on how globalisation has impacted India’s global strategic outlook. It looked at convergences and divergences in U.S. and Indian perceptions of India’s expanding global role. Another issue that was examined was how Indian globalisation would impact specifically on its military modernisation efforts and the US-India defence relationship in the future. US and Indian priorities for expanding bilateral cooperation in the unfolding global strategic setting were also examined. The speakers at this session were Vikram Sood, former Director of India’s Research and Analysis Wing and now Vice President of Observer Research Foundation, Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation, Dr. Evan Feigenbaum, Director, Eurasia Group, Dr. Harinder Sekhon, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation. The session was moderated by Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation.

(This report is prepared by Uma Purushothaman, Junior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation)

For video, please click on http://www.heritage.org/Events/2010/12/India

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