All posts by Kabita Sonowal

Ties Estranged or Ties Strengthened: U.S & India

In the shifting dynamics of international relations, situations are meant to be handled with the utmost care and this is evident in numerous occasions. After all, ties are porcelain-delicate and brittle. During the Former American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger recently stated that the US-India ties ‘should not be conceived as a military relationship but a political and economic relationship [where] each side looks at its security interests, but they do not have to be merged in a common structure’. He added, “I think India should pursue its own perception of its national interest. And I hope that on key issues we (India and the US) can find a parallel policy.” Regarded as one of the most prominent statesmen who has witnessed and reported on some of the most turning political events in the 20th century, he was anti-India in the 1970s. However, he changed his stance; he ardently supported and lobbied towards the Indo-US nuclear deal. He has also supported the cause of India being a permanent member of the UN.

While the winds of change blow, there are tidings that the U.S.-India ties are falling apart and both these countries are drifting away from each other. ‘China’s Nightmare, America’s Dream: India as the next global power’ by William H. Avery, former American diplomat, reveals that the relationship is not at a stage where India and the U.S. could cement stronger ties; the friendship has dulled. It is only a matter of time when the leadership from both the nations would be put to test.

While India prepares for the new American Ambassador, Nancy J Powell’s posting in India, she has declared her agenda ahead; she has mentioned that economic ties between the U.S. and India remain her priority. She would also participate in the ‘India-US Strategic Dialogue’ this year. She has shown her alacrity in business ventures between the U.S and India. In the meantime, one could only feel that this is the way ahead to better times in the not-so-distant future.

U.S.-India Relationship in Testing Times

Amidst the U.S. Commerce Secretary, John Bryson’s visit to India, there looms a growing pandemonium in the Indian Government’s thought and action. It could also result in severe and dire consequences with an impact on the U.S.-India economic partnership. The U.S has been vociferous to condemn that the Indian import duties were rather high. John Bryson addressed the need to relieve the steep duties on products such as medical equipment, capital goods, and fruits. At an FICCI (Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry) event, he suggested, “It would be a miss, if I would not mention about the barriers which still exist in building our economic relationship. For example, there are many tariffs on American products which are still too high.” He also talked about the steep import duties on IT, electronics, and solar energy. He gave the audience a thought to ponder over.

However Anand Sharma, Union Commerce and Industry Minister raised his concern about the growing number of visa rejections on Indians by the U.S. and added that the U.S. was very aware of the Indian import duties and restrictions.

In this muddle, when the American economy is on its way to recovery, the Indian Government needs to ascertain a middle path. Business is two-sided and so is strategic economic partnership. It is not an act of coercion from anywhere either. It is about implementing a fresh set of rules and easing restrictions on duties so that mutual economic interests are addressed. That is one side of the coin.

Recently ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) urged the Indian Government to raise the import duties of steel products so that local manufactures of such products could battle the imports from China and other countries. It reveals the motive behind the high-rise import duties; however, the Indian government needs to prepare the ground for solutions. Economic relations could be at stake.

Obama’s opposition to Outsourcing: How are Indian-Americans & U.S. businesses viewing this?

There is a taste of threat in the air for some and may not be for the rest. President Obama’s opposition to outsourcing has raked enough controversy and a certain note of uncertainty seems to lurk about. He has voiced it time and again that his policy aimed at making the lives of middle-class Americans more secure; thereby ensuring that jobs were not sent overseas. His views have given rise to several perceptions among Indian-Americans.

First and foremost, a lot of individuals believe that due to President Obama’s opposition to outsourcing, several IT professionals lost their jobs in 2009. He had promised at almost eradicating the unemployment problem in the U.S., thereby providing a tax rebate to all those American firms who sought for labor and employment within the country. That was a time when people were grappling with the loss of jobs and the future seemed bleak and Obama felt the need to reinstate the U.S. as the financial superpower. However the intent of the government to recover $ 700 billion went kaput and now the end game with the elections draws close. The entire notion of this opposition to outsourcing appears ‘discriminatory’ to some.

However there are several others who think otherwise. Wipro has reiterated its presence in the U.S. having partnered and collaborated with other businesses. It holds a different view of the outsourcing controversy. Infosys believes in the same. Some have of course dismissed the outsourcing chaos as something that is mere ‘political rhetoric’ and political hogwash. Well, one has reasons to believe so and this is it. While the unemployment rate in the U.S. is at a high, the political leaders also need to ponder about the repercussions in terms of profit that American conglomerates would face if they had no outlet to outsourcing. It is about time for them to think and create and draft ideas that work towards the better of all.

U.S.-Iran Imbroglio: India’s Neutral Stance

India’s stance seems to be that of being sandwiched between a rock and a hard place. While ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry) states that Iran continues to be a vital business ally as India’s demand for commercial energy including hydrocarbon is increasing. Further the Iran-India trade is expected to hit $30 billion by 2015. Tracing the events heating up over the last couple of months: Iran, Israel, and the U.S., India’s diplomatic position seems be precarious like that of a cat treading on a hot tin roof. Previously, India’s decision to go ahead and continue importing oil from Iran caused a whir in Washington. Nicholas Burns – former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs wrote in ‘The Diplomat’ stating, “This is bitterly disappointing news for those of us who have championed a close relationship with India. And, it represents a real setback in the attempt by the last three American Presidents to establish a close and strategic partnership with successive Indian governments.” He added, “The Indian government’s ill-advised statement last week that it will continue to purchase oil from Iran is a major setback for the U.S. attempt to isolate the Iranian government over the nuclear issue.” He spoke about India’s reliance on Iran for 12% of the oil imports.

India could be viewed as being on its way to alienation and quagmire with this latest decision with Iran; it’s literally being coerced into choosing between Iran and the U.S. Its diplomatic stance on the current scenario seems to be confusing to most minds. Iran seems recalcitrant and resilient about its intent to go nuclear and the world vehemently feels otherwise. Keeping in mind, what India shares with the U.S. at this juncture, a ‘strategic’ partnership, India cannot let go off its dependence on the import while the U.S. has been anti-Iran due to its theocratic administration.

India’s diplomacy has always been on the mild and sensitized diplomatic route based on progress and peace. It is worth noting that despite its ties with Israel on tourism, agriculture, and technology, it has still been vocal about the Palestinian cause and need for sovereignty. After the thawing of the Cold War phase, India diplomatic relations with the U.S. turned towards progress and headed to the 123 Agreement signing of the US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal in 2005. As a result, India progresses as a paradigm nation of non-ritzy diplomacy keeping its focus on maintaining a common ground for one and all.