India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, is ending her Washington tour. She stopped by my office yesterday to bid farewell. The Ambassador has been a bright spot among the stodgy diplomatic corps in DC. She'll be missed.
The Ambassador is just back from the second U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, held in New Delhi. Secretary of State Clinton headed the U.S.-side. The Ambassador and I covered several areas of U.S.-India cooperation:
Counterterrorism cooperation: It’s come a long way, but has far to go. The terrorists targeting India are targeting us too. It’s not natural for intelligence agencies to share information, so they’ll have to be pushed by political leaders. Indian law enforcement, geared towards traditional policing, could use U.S. counterterrorism training.
Security assistance: There is still a sting in Washington over India bypassing U.S. fighter jets in a deal that could be worth $10 billion. But other defense trade is moving ahead. India just bought 10 C-17s – made in Long Beach. It’s a $4 billion sale -- nothing to sneeze at. Meanwhile, joint training exercises and exchanges continue.
Trade and investment: Trade between the U.S. and India is increasing at an impressive clip, reported the Ambassador, whose forte is trade. India still has a long way to go reforming its economy, though. Good news is that India will open-up infrastructure to foreign companies. India is looking to spend $1 trillion on bridges, roads and airports in the next 5 years. If you have been to India, you know they need it. There should be big opportunities for U.S. companies.
Nuclear issues remain vexing. Last year, India passed a liability law which is a major hurdle to U.S. nuclear industry sales. So American companies have yet to sell any reactors, equipment or fuel to India. Meanwhile, state-owned Russian and French companies face fewer obstacles and are set to feast. This irritant in U.S.-India relations must be resolved.
Looking ahead, I see U.S. and Indian interests increasingly aligned. So we are smart to put in the hard work of building this relationship today. Ambassador Shankar has surely done her part.