As both the United States and India look forward to strengthening their defense partnership, the recent passage of the American defense budget is a clear step in the right direction. Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), one of the five Indian-American members of Congress, attached an amendment to the budget that addresses the strategic alliance between the two nations. While the amendment does not specifically allocate any of the defense budget, which totals over $621 billion, it does set a 180 day deadline for the development of a strategy that will advance the U.S.-India defense partnership. The amendment requires that the Department of Defense and the Department of State work together to form this strategy. The passage of this amendment is a concrete action by Congress that shows that representatives value strong bilateral relations with India and recognize the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship.
Furthermore, the addition of this amendment displays the importance of Indian-American representation in Congress. Indian-American representatives that advocate for the community, like Congressman Bera, help ensure that the needs of Indian-Americans are properly represented and that the community remains visible to the American population as a whole. As the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) moves to the Senate, it is exciting that Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American senator, will be able to represent the Indian-American community, as well.
Ultimately, the United States-India defense partnership is key to maintaining geopolitical stability in Asia and across the entire world. Especially after the successful visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House in late June, it is integral that bilateral relations progress at a swift pace. Fortunately, there are many indicators U.S. government seems to be enthusiastically working with India to accomplish this task. On July 14th, the U.S Department of Defense published an article titled “U.S.-India Defense Relationship on Positive Trajectory, DoD Official Says,” which discusses the recent selling of both manned and unmanned American aircraft to India. Additionally, the article highlights the productive meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Prime Minister Modi. All in all, the increased focus on the relationship between the United States and India over the last month demonstrates that the American public views India as a critical ally, and that both nations are excited to advance their partnership.
PM Modi is arriving in Washington, D.C. on June 25 for his first face-to-face meeting with President Trump. There is some concern over how this meeting will go given the fact that Trump singled out India and China’s environmental practices as one of the reasons for exiting the Paris Climate Change Accord. He also has had his ups and downs with foreign leaders. My sense is that Modi and Trump will get along fine. Modi built a strong relationship with President Obama despite the administration banning him from visiting the U.S. when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. Modi is a pragmatist and decided to move forward versus holding a grudge. Expectations are that he will apply the same pragmatism during his upcoming visit.
Following are my top five suggestions for PM Modi as he embarks on fostering a good relationship with President Trump:
Talk about defense contracts: India is a top buyer of U.S. defense equipment so engage the President on past and future deals. Recall how the arms deal with Saudi Arabia was considered a big win.
- Offer assistance to reduce prescription drug costs in the U.S.: India is a low cost provider of generic medicine to the U.S. This puts India in a good spot to encourage more deals that reduce cost given Trump’s focus on healthcare policy.
- Point out that Indian companies have contributed to jobs in U.S.: Discuss how Infosys and other companies have recently created 10,000 jobs here. Remember it’s all about jobs, jobs and more jobs!
- Do not bring up H1b: President Trump was elected on the premise of offering Americans available jobs before those on a visa. Domestic politics usually takes precedent over geopolitical considerations.
- Do not bring up the Climate Change Agreement: Trump is not going to change his mind about exiting the Paris Climate Accord anyway. It’s a done deal and a promise he made during the campaign.
Modi’s visit is supposed to be low key but can be leveraged nicely as he’ll see President Trump again soon at the G20 Summit. Best wishes for a good dialogue!
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US House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision of inviting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress was welcomed by the lawmakers. After a decade, Modi will be the fifth prime minister of India to visit Congress and is the first announced foreign leader to address a joint meeting under Ryan’s speakership. Modi is all set to arrive in the US on June 8th, 2016. The opportunity to address the House and the Senate are considered a great honor. The decision demonstrates the strength and strategic partnership ties between US and India. It presents an opportunity to energize efforts and bilateral ties to achieve joint economic, security and strategic goals that increase peace and prosperity.
Back in 2014, the then Speaker Boehner had invited Modi in September to address a joint meeting of the US Congress, however, that did not take place as the Congress was in recess ahead of the 2014 general elections for the Congress. Manmohan Singh was the last Indian Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of the US congress way back in July, 2005. Other honorable prime ministers who addressed the Congress include Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000), P V Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994) and Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985). We can witness the dynamic growth and change in bilateral relationship between US-India since India’s independence in 1947 and it has grown tremendously.
As part of his itinerary, Modi may visit National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and new initiatives are likely to be announced. During his recent visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, a commercial agreement between Westinghouse Electric and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd to build six nuclear reactors in Gujarat was to be finalized and signed; this is expected to happen in his next visit in June.