By Richard G. Lugar
As Secretary of State Clinton’s recent trip to India demonstrated, these are exciting times for India, and for the India-United States relationship. India has liberalized and opened its economy, unleashing the entrepreneurial talent of its people and using its strong technology base to establish leading positions in such fields as telecommunications, information technology and pharmaceuticals.
America and India, for too long estranged during the Cold War, have developed steadily closer ties built on a uniquely strong foundation: both countries are stable, multi-ethnic democracies with a deep tradition of religious tolerance.
With a well-educated middle class that is larger than the entire U.S. population, India can be an anchor of stability in Asia and a center of economic growth. It is already the world’s second-fastest growing major economy, and bilateral trade with the U.S. has more than tripled over the past 10 years. I have worked to build a strategic partnership between the United States and India that will benefit both sides as India plays an ever-larger role on the world stage.
I am also excited by a new opportunity to match India’s entrepreneurial zeal with America’s current need for investment and jobs through the Startup Visa Act, which I introduced earlier this year. The bill would allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two-year visa if he or she can show that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to invest in the immigrant’s startup venture. Many of India’s smartest and most entrepreneurial individuals are already here studying at our universities, so helping them stay to invest in their ideas would create jobs and help all Americans.
The bill would also apply to those already in the U.S. on unexpired H-1B visas, and entrepreneurs living outside the United States who already have a market presence here. If this legislation is enacted, it will help more Indians take part in the great American tradition of immigrant business success.
Another concern of Indians abroad is Pakistan, a concern I share. I believe the U.S. should use its influence to promote stability in the region, which could lead to a Pakistan that is more likely to cooperate and trade with India. That’s one of the reasons I co-sponsored the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act.
The bill emphasizes economic assistance over military aid, and contains incentives for Pakistan to stabilize its democracy. It requires the Secretary of State to certify every year that Pakistan is meeting specific benchmarks of conduct, namely, that it is cooperating to dismantle supplier networks of nuclear weapons-related material, that it is making “significant efforts” to combat terrorist and extremist groups and that such groups are not receiving support from Pakistan’s military or spy service, and that it is not letting terrorist groups use Pakistan’s territory to stage attacks on other countries.
On that score, the bill specifically mentions Pakistan-based terrorist groups that threaten India as well as the United States and Afghanistan, including al Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which conducted the 2008 Mumbai attack. The legislation aims to encourage Pakistan to re-orient its armed forces to a mission more focused on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency than regional conflict, and calls for a cut-off of assistance if the security forces are deemed to be “subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.” In short, India has much to gain from the success of this legislation.
All this is part of a larger strategic engagement between India and America, which took a major step forward three years ago with the passage of the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement, a step that I strongly supported. The legislation lifted a three-decade American moratorium on nuclear trade with India and opened the door for trade in a wide range of other high-technology items, such as supercomputers and fiber optics.
Some critics called the deal a set-back for U.S. non-proliferation efforts, since India remains outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). I argued, however, that it actually provides incentives for the United States and India to deepen their cooperation in stopping proliferation, and confers numerous other benefits outside the nuclear realm by paving the way for broader economic and strategic collaboration.
The remarkable deepening of US-India ties over the past decade is only a start, as the relationship has still not reached its full potential. If Indians and Indian-Americans continue to contribute their ideas, their energy and their commitment, I am sure that even more exciting days lie ahead.
(Senator Richard Lugar is the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.)