Posted April 11, 2017
The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy, and the Center for International Business, Education, and Research hosted former Indian Ambassador to the United States, Arun Kumar Singh for a talk on the future of US-India relations. Ambassador Singh has previously served as Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York, where he had handled multilateral social and economic negotiations. Before serving as the Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Singh served as the Ambassador of India to Israel and to France.
Ambassador Singh began his talk with a brief history of US-India relations over the past several decades in order to trace the development of the relationship. He explained that in the post-World War II world, the Pakistan-US alliance led to a distant relationship between India and the US. However, following the Indian nuclear tests of the 1980s, President Clinton called for re-engagement with India. President Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met 14 times and came away with no concrete solutions, but Ambassador Singh argued that the relationship was completely transformed. This relationship was continued throughout the Bush administration illustrated by the 2005 announcement of the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, signaling a new US approach to India.
With this history in mind, Ambassador Singh went on to describe four key areas in which the relationship has expanded. Trade is a predominant sector of cooperation for the two parties—for India, the US is its biggest trading partner, while Indian companies have been investing heavily in the US. Additionally, there is a deep integration between Indian and American technology sector and start-ups. Politically, there are key points of convergence between the two countries and bipartisan US support for a strong US-India relationship. For example, keeping sea lanes open and Afghanistan stable are two key strategic interests for both countries. The defense cooperation relationship has expanded between the two and is illustrated by the fact that India does more bilateral military exercises with the US than with any other country in the world. The Ambassador emphasized that what gives the relationship a solid foundation is the people-to-people relationship, with 1 million Indian tourists in the US every year and 200,000 Indian students in the US, as some examples. However, with opportunities and progress come challenges for the relationship. Most fundamentally, Ambassador Singh acknowledged that because each country makes decisions in accordance with their own national interests, there will inevitably be instances where interests do not align.
To conclude, Ambassador Singh posed a set of questions to evaluate the way forward for US-India relations. He called for clear US policy of the new administration in Afghanistan, as instability could lead to terrorism. Additionally, he hopes to see a clear US policy in regards to the relationship with Pakistan and Iran. Finally, he hopes to see how the US will respond to a growing presence of China. Overall, Ambassador Singh concluded with optimism for the relationship and is confident that the relationship will continue in a positive trajectory under the new administration.