Once unthinkable to a level of being a taboo subject during the cold war, US-India military relations have grown exponentially since the signing of a new Defense framework agreement in 2005. Annual bilateral training exercises (known as Yudh Abhyas involving India’s 99th Mountain Brigade and the American 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade) have been warmly received and annual US sales of military equipment to India now top $8 billion. Given ongoing and serious security challenges in the region, fostering even more efficient and effective US-India defense ties is a critical bilateral priority with significant potential yet to be tapped.
American Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made a visit to New Delhi a year ago and stressed the urgency of exploring bilateral missile defense cooperation. Ongoing debate over FDI liberalization of India’s defense sector has dominated dialogue since, but consultations on joint co-development of military systems could be the breakthrough that helps generate considerably more trade and boost U.S. export revenue.
On purely strategic grounds, India must show greater resolve in developing its ballistic missile defense capabilities. Its neighbors China and Pakistan possess formidable ballistic and cruise missile forces. Internal political and ideological concerns within the government over becoming more interlinked with the United States on defense matters over traditional suppliers like Russia, and how it affects India’s strategic authority, will have to be addressed in a more serious and urgent manner.
Given that Pakistan has refused to commit to a no-first-use policy and grave international concerns over the safety and security of sensitive Pakistani military equipment, the United States should make every effort to help India develop missile defense technology and overcome compulsions to do so purely indigenously. The American experience in South Asia over the past ten years have exposed a rather pressing need for The United States to find and develop more stable and reliable strategic partners and stronger, more co-operative guarantors of regional stability. If longstanding biases can be overcome, it will considerably improve the security situation in Asia and further one of the critical bilateral relationships in the geopolitical sphere.
One of the worst consequences of America’s long Presidential election is that the issue of Clean and Renewable Energy Technologies became terribly politicized. An area where America’s two largest political parties should have naturally found common ground to work together, instead became frightfully polarizing owing to a combination of mutual vote-bank politics and bungling. Regardless of who wins next week’s contest, public policy initiatives in cleantech will suffer in the short and medium term from these debacles.
To make matters worse, a wave of high profile failures particularly in the solar and battery technology sector are contributing towards a bearish market sentiment to domestic cleantech investing.
However global trends emphatically indicate an increasing desire particularly in the developing world to move away from hydrocarbon dependence, leaving the door open for American companies with their strong advantage in high-tech R&D to capitalize despite domestic sluggishness.
India is already becoming a hub for cleantech innovation with both extensive economic linkages to both the United States and emerging markets in Asia. Despite its sometimes glacial bureaucracy, India is coming out all barrels firing on massive development of solar grids, deployment of electric vehicles, and sweeping away its archaic power infrastructure.
Last month India’s government approved a $4B plan to spur both electric vehicle production over the next seven years with a target of putting over six million all electric vehicles on the road. This is in concert with over 3 gigawatts of solar power expected to be installed in India over the next four years. Much of this is expected to come from American companies such as First Solar.
Simply put, all American solar and renewable energy companies, NEED an India strategy. Moreover the American legislature needs to be supportive of companies doing business in India. In this current economic environment the jobs and export income from healthy cross border trade is too precious to be sacrificed for political expediency.
“My son got an A-minus in mathematics! He has brought shame on the family!”
Parody it may be, but sentiments such as this strike so close to the Indian bone that countless comedy programs have at some point featured a cartoonish parent scolding their child for delivering even a modicum less than perfection. Indians in India, for all their other virtues and talents, have historically not been highly forgiving of failure. While this attitude can be a fantastic foundation for a disciplined work ethic, it is not necessarily the optimal trait for building a robust technology startup ecosystem in India. That requires a certain fearlessness and assiduousness in equal measure. However, instilling the entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ attitude is one of America’s great virtues and gifts to the world.
Sadly, Administration rhetoric regarding India’s IT services industry has been unfriendly and contrarian to this spirit to say the least. Yet it is not for nothing that most of America’s technology conglomerates— Intel, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Motorola, and others—not only have a presence in India but conduct high-tech R&D there as well. Given the size of India’s aggregate population and its pool of engineering talent, developing a startup biome as a next step would represent a major opportunity for both for Indian business and American venture capital and high-technology firms.
Successful and highly lucrative technologies such as cloud computing were developed by startups who often served as flexible technology incubators by larger more established companies. These firms depended on networks of business accelerators and venture capital firms to support their technological development and business growth. As we have witnessed in Silicon Valley, those initial investments of a few hundred thousand dollars often have come to be worth hundreds of millions and translated into high-paying jobs for college educated professionals.
Historically it has been difficult for Indian startups to get their ideas funded domestically, and even far more difficult to bootstrap companies through family and friends. Capital flows from both financial and strategic American investors could well fill the void and be the impetus to encourage startups in India. To be successful, this requires greater recognition by public policy makers of the mutual benefits of increasing trade and cross-border investment. The Tata Group alone has over $3 billion in FDI in the United States and employs more than 19,000 workers in this country. That is as much a face of India’s IT services industry as BPO centers in Bangalore.
If the point was unclear, I’m sure someone is developing an app for this.
The U.S. federal authorities had been warned of David Coleman Headley’s links to Lashkar-e-Taiba by his wives on various occasions before the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, according to media reports today. The New York Times reports that about a year before the attacks, Headley’s Moroccan wife warned U.S. authorities in Pakistan about her husband’s intentions to attack. In 2005, his American wife had complained to authorities about her husband’s potential links with Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, these warnings did not lead to any arrests and Headley continued to make training and reconnaissance trip to Pakistan and India in preparation of the attacks.
An important point to note in David Headley’s relationship with the U.S. authorities is that he was a longtime informer in Pakistan for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Questions are being raised if this connection made U.S. authorities neglect complaints against him. Authorities however, maintained that the complaints by Headley’s wives were followed upon but did not reveal enough for any arrests to take place. Questions are also been raised in India about why India was not sufficiently informed about the matter, if the U.S. had prior information in the case.
During his interrogation by Indian authorities in Washington D.C, Headley revealed plans to attack various other cities including Delhi and the Prime Minister’s residence. He is also said to have revealed links between the ISI and the 26/11 attacks.
David Coleman Headley was arrested last year in Chicago with another co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana. He had pleaded guilty to planning the Mumbai attacks and entered into a plea bargain with U.S. authorities which prevent his extradition to any country.