At a time when Americans are seeking positive international relationships instead of conflict, there is no better choice than India. With a congressionally mandated U.S. International Trade Commission hearing scheduled this week, this is the right time to take stock of U.S.-India relations. The ITC hearing is part of an investigation into India’s trade, investment and industrial policies requested by the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Pew Research Center’s recently released quadrennial survey on “America’s Place in the World” found that support for closer trade and business ties with other nations is at its highest point in more than a decade. Fully 77 percent of Americans say that growing trade and business ties between the United States and other countries are either very good or somewhat good for the U.S. In India, there is a Pew poll suggesting a 74 percent favorable rating by India’s citizens toward deeper U.S. ties. It’s high time to capitalize on this sentiment.
There are many reasons India should be a top priority for U.S. attention. India is the world’s third-largest economy, gaining traction in its economic recovery from the global recession, and hungry for American goods and services. India’s young population yearns for better governance and greater freedom. The Internet has connected our countries as never before and the new U.S.-India knowledge economy is reshaping the commercial as well as cultural landscape.
Already U.S. exports to India have grown 491 percent in value since 2000. Bilateral trade now exceeds $100 billion, up from $25 billion when President George W. Bush visited India in 2006. Bilateral investment and commercial ties are growing at double-digit rates. Ten of the top 15 IT companies operating in India are American. In fact, U.S and Indian companies have partnered on many of the most important advancements in business efficiency, innovation and expansion — building a knowledge-based economy and helping U.S. businesses lead the way out of the global recession. More and more American jobs can be traced to this growing trade and commercial relationship.
We also have strong political and strategic interests in India. While the U.S. is the world’s longest-standing democracy, India is the world’s largest. India’s national elections this year will attract a stunning 800 million citizens to the polls, a cohort larger than the combined populations of the United States and all the European Union! Truly this will be the largest democratic undertaking in human history.
Strategically, India is a stabilizing force in a region known to be a “tough neighborhood,” surrounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar and China. Since 2005, U.S. defense sales to India have grown dramatically from nil to more than $12 billion; India now conducts more annual military training exercises with the U.S. than any other country, and high-level dialogues are under way on both national defense and homeland security issues. The growing strategic partnership between our two countries encompasses cooperation in cybersecurity, higher education, clean energy, health care, environment, scientific research, space, and many other areas of mutual interest and concern.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.