The importance of advancing the U.S.-India partnership
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The United States - India relationship is the cornerstone of security in the Indo-Pacific region. As the former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans and the grateful son of a Flying Tiger who served in India during World War II, I know firsthand the positive defense relationship America can build upon with India. This is why I have introduced legislation to advance the our strategic relationship.

After decades of India’s foreign relations marked as being a key leader of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, the U.S. – India bilateral relations began to take shape in 2000, a few years after India’s second round of nuclear weapons tests. Despite international pressures against engaging with India as a result of these nuclear tests, President George W. Bush raised India’s status to “strategic ally” in order to ensure that the United States did not miss opportunities to engage and develop positive relations with India will maintaining our commitment to the various nonproliferation regimes. Together, we increased trade and expanded access to our respective markets and increased joint military exercises. Like America, India has also suffered terrorist attacks both at home and abroad.

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This positive relationship continued to develop after President Bush, with increased national interest in an expanded partnership. This strategic decision helped counter Chinese influence in the region, while promoting the United States as a top defense supplier to India and allowing the United States to better compete with Russia.

President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE carried on this positive legacy of promoting the U.S. – India alliance. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE signaled that the defense relationship with India remains a top priority, even as events in North Korea led to unfortunate delays in our high-level talks.

While the Pentagon has already begun implementation of this designation, the State Department regulation has yet to adopt these changes.

During the Cold War, India procured most, if not all, of its defense articles from the Soviet Union. That relationship has largely continued today with Russia. However, in the modern era, the world’s largest democracy should not be forced into a closed market with Russia for defense articles. The United States has some of best and most effective defense articles in the world, and India deserves a chance to bid and procure these articles to defend its territory and fight terrorism.

There is untapped potential in building our strategic partnership with India, both for national security and economic development. India, as the largest democracy in the world, and soon to be the largest population as well, is a natural partner for the U.S. in the region even though we won’t always agree on everything.

Given the perpetually changing global threats, the U.S. has a critical national security interest in working with countries that have shared objectives. In addition, India, though officially a secular country, is the birthplace of four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Skihism, as well as having the third largest Muslim population in the world. India has understood and dealt with the proper balance of maintaining religious freedom while maintaining national security.

For these reasons, I, joined by Reps. George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingDemocrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps Education Dept. orders UNC to adjust policies after anti-Semitism complaint North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps MORE (R-N.C.), Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment MORE (R-Hawaii), and Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraOvernight Defense: Trump cancels presser, cuts short NATO trip | Viral video catches leaders appearing to gossip about Trump | Dem witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses | Trump reportedly mulling more troops in Middle East Pelosi to Democrats: 'Are you ready?' California Rep. Bera touts Biden's health care plan in 2020 endorsement MORE (D-Calif.), introduced the United States-India Enhanced Cooperation Act of 2018, which corrects the State Department code to help strengthen our alliance and enhance our defense and security cooperation with India. I am grateful for the bipartisan support for this initiative.

Together, we can continue to address emerging common threats, support maritime security in the region, and enhance military cooperation for joint exercises and humanitarian assistance. The citizens of America and India cherish the same values and independent freedoms, and the United States-India Enhanced Cooperation Act will strengthen this important alliance.

Wilson is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.