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 TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE carried on this positive legacy of promoting the U.S. – India alliance. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisMattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' Trump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' War of words at the White House 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 HoldingBetsy DeVos's playbook of political correctness Education Dept. cites disproportionate focus on 'positive aspects of Islam' in reviewing UNC-Duke grant funding Delay of new trade deal harms America's digital advantage MORE (R-N.C.), Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart Poll: Almost half of voters say debates are best gauge of candidate's standing MORE (R-Hawaii), and Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Seniors deserve access to Health Savings Accounts Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations 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.