Upgraded Indo US strategic dialogue to be held in Washington!
Dr. Abdul Ruff
Soon Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to make his next visit to America. Prior to that, India and the USA are going to hold the first ministerial meeting of the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) in Washington on September 21-22, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj leading the Indian delegation.
Under tremendous pressure from New Delhi, the Obama government has agreed to elevate Indo-US strategic partnership to a further higher level. The decision to elevate the India-US Strategic Dialogue into a strategic and commercial dialogue (S&CD) was taken during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India earlier this year. The US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue scheduled in Washington would be co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from Indian side and US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker from the American side.
The decision to add commerce to the annual India-US Strategic Dialogue was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US President Barack Obama, when the latter travelled to New Delhi in January this year.
The most important fact about elevating the dialogue to a strategic and commercial dialogue is to signal that commerce, economics and business are at the centre of the US-India relationship.
The US delegation would include Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. They will be accompanied by a high-level inter-agency delegation. The Indian delegation includes Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce & Industry & Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal. It will also have senior officials from various ministries and departments of Government of India.
During the S&CD, several bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest would be discussed between the two sides. The S&CD is expected to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations between India and the US and also identify possible areas for future cooperation including in strategic, defence and security; energy and environment; science & technology & space.
The upcoming high-level Indo-US dialogue will be a platform to advance mutually-reinforcing commercial and strategic interests, including those under America’s Rebalance to Asia and India’s Act East policy. Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade at the US Department of Commerce Stefan Selig said here that this year’s commercial track between the USA and India will focus on building future Smart Cities in India and participating in strengthening India’s business climate to the benefit of Indian and American businesses.
According to US strategists, the partnership will be built on several pillars, including the ‘Infrastructure Collaboration Platform’, which is a government-to-government platform to encourage US participation by strategically promoting specific Indian infrastructure projects to US companies in alignment with their capabilities. Stefan Selig said that with the US producing the best manufacturing exports in machinery, materials, technology, manufacturing goods and value-added services, “India has no better partner than the United States.” Selig added that the meeting will also be a platform for both short-term and long-term deliverables and among these is the “most ambitious” target of increasing bilateral trade five-fold, from the current levels of $100 billion annually to $500 billion.
The dialogue will also focus on harmonizing product standards to increase trade and further deepen industries’ integration into global supply chains and developing best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship. The other goal of the commercial dialogue is constructing a 21st century infrastructure partnership that will allow the two nations to mutually benefit from India’s projected $1 trillion infrastructure market.
For the USA, expanding bilateral trade with India means expanding the benefits the US receives from Indian exports and investment across a number of sectors, whether that is in automotive, information and communications technologies or or healthcare. “As for India, with PM Modi embarking on his economic development agenda, US exports can play a singular role in helping India achieve those agenda’s objectives. That includes Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to making India an elite manufacturing hub on the global stage. As the commercial track becomes an enduring part of the bilateral relationship, it will examine how achieving commercial goals can advance “the mutually-reinforcing strategic interests including those under President Obama’s Rebalance to Asia, and Prime Minister Modi’s Act East policy.”
Selig said along with the American Chamber of Commerce in India, the US-India Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry, the US is working on facilitating its companies to partner with interested Indian companies to pursue projects under the smart cities initiatives. Renewable energy is “the highest priority” under the smart cities initiative and the USA will partner with India as it “transitions to a lowcarbon, climate resilient energy economy”.
USA wants to ensure that business leaders play a central role in crafting ideal policies in such areas as trade and investment, technology exchanges and workforce development. The other crucial goal of the commercial track is strengthening the business climate in India: in areas such as insolvency law, contract law and adjudication to ensure the predictability that all businesses need, innovation and entrepreneurship to incentivize India’s next wave of innovators and customs and other regulations to reduce and eliminate non-tariff barriers.
Another goal of the dialogue relates to what Modi has called competitive federalism, he said adding that states compete for domestic and global business, they create incentives for best policies that can be implemented by other states and at the national level as well. He cited the array of growth policies in Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The dialogue also aims to leverage the power and goodwill of people-to-people connections, including harnessing the talents of Indian-American business leaders. Adding commerce to the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue signals that economy is at the centre of ties between two of the world’s biggest economies and the first such meeting aimed at quadrupling bilateral trade to USD 500 billion per annum.
Next week both the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and the meeting of the CEOs forum on its sidelines would look at the ways in which the two countries can enhance their commercial relationship, increase the momentum and work out mechanism for regular engagement. Both would like to see the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue being a long lasting mechanism that would focus on building these connectivity, building the conversation and building the environment to increase trade and investment between the two countries.
The inaugural US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue will be the “signature, annual” dialogue between the two governments and will serve as a high-level meeting between senior government and cabinet officials, as well as an ongoing, sustainable forum for policy discussions. Selig said the USA is committed to engaging directly with business leaders through the expanded US-India CEO Forum, which will take place immediately prior to the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and will feed into the government-to-government discussions.