Top Senator proposes first 100 days action plan for India-US

A powerful American Senator has proposed "100 days action plan" for the Modi Government and the Obama Administration to "refresh" the Indo-US relations.

Washington: A powerful American Senator has proposed "100 days action plan" for the Modi Government and the Obama Administration to "refresh" the Indo-US relations.

Senator Mark Warner, who is the Democratic Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, has suggested the Modi Government to modify the defense-offset regime, agreeing to build community colleges in India, lifting the foreign direct investment caps in some of the sectors, and announcing a new electronic payment systems.

In the first 100 days of the Modi Government, Waren has proposed to the Obama Administration to name a senior official for defense trade, review tourist visa policies and access to high skill visas.

Among other action plans for the first 100 days, he has advised the Modi Government and the Obama Administration to announce a joint energy project, convene a meeting of India-US Strategic Dialogue, hold bilateral talks on Afghanistan, restart negotiations to achieve a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), re-launch the defense policy group, and establish a public-private working group on infrastructure investment.

"I believe we have an opportunity, in the early days of the new Indian administration, to refresh the US-India relationship and work cooperatively to make progress that will benefit both of our countries," Warner said in a four-page 100-days action plan.

As a co-chair of the US Senate India Caucus for several years, Warner has been working with US and Indian government officials and business leaders to address important issues for both countries, including education, skills development, infrastructure and energy.

"However, over the last 18-24 months, the relationship lacked a catalyst. With this month`s historic Indian election, we can harness the enthusiasm of the Indian people to boost our partnership.

"We can use the first 100 days to move from dialogue to action and build a path forward for more ambitious cooperation," he said.

"There are many areas where a partnership between our countries would serve goals on both sides, and if the respective administrations choose just two or three deliverables to shoot for in the first 100 days, we could provide the business community on both sides a new optimism that we can work together and get things done," Warner added.

In his action plan, Warner has proposed that the India-US Strategic Dialogue this year be held in New Delhi, instead of Washington DC as originally scheduled.

"Since the new Indian government will just be getting started, holding the Dialogue in Delhi will be less disruptive to organizing meetings and will provide both sides the opportunity to meet and get to work early in the term on joint initiatives," he said.

India and the US have meandered through several rounds of stop and start negotiations about how to proceed with BIT, he said.

"Announcing that both sides will sit down and negotiate a framework would boost confidence that a BIT is possible. A BIT would provide important protections for investors, help unleash needed investment, and provide a level playing field for both countries," he added.

The Obama Administration, he said, should name a senior-level official who reports directly to the Secretary of Defense to lead the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative.

"Under Ash Carter`s leadership this was one of the most successful programs and helped shepherd billions of dollars of defense deals through the pipeline as well as clearing out inefficiencies on both sides of the US-India defense trade to make defense trade simpler, more responsive, and more effective," Warner said.

Warner said the US should conduct a review of visa policies with an eye toward further opening of global entry and trusted traveler programs for frequent travelers, including business leaders and investors.

"A review of policies for high-skill employees would help ensure companies in both countries have access to talent to help US companies and the American economy grow and innovate and encourage more joint research and cooperation between universities," he said.

An agreement to increase travel and tourism between the two countries would increase more people to people interaction, he argued.

For the Modi Government, he said lifting FDI caps in some of the sectors that have been under discussion for years would be a positive signal to foreign firms that India was again "open for business." Specifically, defense, insurance, railways, e-commerce and banking sectors are ripe for reform, he said.

Warner said India and the United States share a unique bilateral relationship.

"As the world`s oldest and largest democracies there are many areas in which our strategic interests combine, and when we find ways to cooperate and work together both of our countries benefit," he said.

"The historic and sweeping election that has made Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India is a testament to a thriving democracy and a signal that the people of India are ready for economic growth and productivity," he added.

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