US foreign policy experts want greater engagement with India

Top American experts on South Asian issues urged lawmakers for greater engagement with New Delhi.

Updated: Mar 14, 2013, 00:09 AM IST

Washington: Emphasising the potential of the India-US relationship in the overall security perspective of Asia in particular, top American experts on South Asian issues today urged lawmakers for greater engagement with New Delhi, to take growing bilateral ties to the next level.

Testifying before Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress, these experts recommended a series of measures that they say the Obama Administration needs to take on India including greater co-operation in the defence and space sector, export of shale gas, and more collaborations on handling regional and global issues.

"Engaging India with the same intensity as China is an equally important priority for America`s rebalancing. India`s pre-eminent position in South Asia makes the US-India relationship central to maintaining a counterpoint to China`s emergence as Asia`s predominant economic and military power," said Vikram Nehru, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based eminent American think tank.

Sadanand Dhume, from the American Enterprise Institute, emphasised that the US needs to continue to encourage India`s integration into Asian political and economic institutions, urge India to remain on the path of economic reform to fulfill its own potential, and maintain influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to prevent violence there from destabilising the region.

Walter Lohman, director, Asian Studies Center, at the Heritage Foundation, another Washington-based think-tank, said that the US should facilitate India`s active involvement in the regional diplomatic architecture.

"Formal dialogues - bilateral and multilateral - and day-to-day coordination among officials should also be welcomed. Joint military exercises should be, too. As India refines its strategic interests, it is good for the US to have all its options for cooperation with regional powers fully developed," he said.

Lohman warned lawmakers that failing to recognise India`s limitations as a partner, risks forging a relationship where the US trades tangible benefits for theoretical geopolitical discussion.

"More importantly, it risks obscuring the relationships and other factors that provide the real basis of American power in the Western Pacific: our alliances, a robust forward deployed military, and commitment to free commerce," he said.

Sanjay Puri from the Alliance for US India Business emphasised on greater co-operation in the education sector and pushed for developing more relationships with Indian states.

Urging lawmakers to allow exports of shale gas to an energy-starved India, Puri said the US should find a way to have an economically viable and environmentally clear mechanism to export gas to India.

He said, this would increase economic opportunity in the US through exports, reduce India`s energy dependence on the Middle East and thirdly build a more strategic relationship with India given the country`s tremendous need for energy independence.