Cooperation is the path forward

There is tremendous benefit to a thriving strategic partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies. As our interests increasingly align, a strong relationship between the United States and India is vital to reaching our joint economic potential and strategic goals in an increasingly global economy.

The historic election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi this past May is a testament to India’s flourishing democracy. Modi’s visit this week also presents an opportunity to energize efforts to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship.

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On the heels of that election, I proposed a “First 100 Days” plan of recommended actions to strengthen U.S. and Indian collaboration. I am pleased that both governments have made progress on many of those suggestions, including announcement of a joint energy project, an increase in caps on foreign direct investment — especially in defense and insurance — and several other concrete steps that will promote defense, infrastructure and manufacturing collaboration.

The Modi administration’s inaugural budget places emphasis on improving energy and infrastructure. Indian stakeholders in these emerging markets will continue to invest heavily, providing a tremendous opportunity for U.S. companies with decades of experience in these fields. A durable U.S. partnership on these initiatives could provide significant capabilities and capacity for India, and investment opportunities and new jobs here in the U.S.  

To encourage U.S. investment and trade, India will need to instill confidence in U.S. companies that their investments will be protected and profitable. Some of the challenges U.S. companies have faced to date include payment surety, regulatory confusion (caused by requirements that vary from state to state and often overlap federal requirements), and domestic-content requirements.

We already have a model for collaboration between the U.S. and India that could be used to create an expanded partnership in these areas. The Defense Trade and Technology Initiative created a framework for the two countries to clarify the rules of the road, reduce red tape, and align both the United States’ and India’s bureaucratic processes to make defense trade simpler, more responsive and more effective.

If our respective governments could collaborate to develop similar efforts for infrastructure and energy, we could create a “how-to guide” for U.S. companies interested in India investment that would include regulatory requirements, a catalogue of the state and federal offices that must be consulted, and investment and financing requirements.

Modi’s administration also has committed to increasing defense spending by 12 percent to help modernize India’s military. I’m pleased that the U.S. has committed to co-development and co-production partnerships with India, and has identified more than a dozen projects that would offer U.S. companies increased access to India’s defense markets. However, much of the Indian offset market is saturated, and American defense firms find it increasingly difficult to locate areas to invest.

By creating a two-tier system, offset funds that cannot be spent on traditional Indian defense industries could flow to a second tier of other Indian priorities, such as education, skills development or manufacturing. This will not only benefit the U.S. and Indian economies but will also strengthen the defense infrastructure of our strategic partner in a region of increasing importance to the United States.

These are just a few steps we can take to create jobs here at home, while strengthening our relationship with India. I’m also pleased the Senate recently unanimously adopted our bipartisan resolution designating Sept. 30 as U.S.-India
Partnership Day, which affirms our continued commitment to working together.

By working cooperatively to overcome obstacles on both sides of the relationship, we can harness the full potential of U.S. and Indian cooperation — and turbocharge economic growth for both countries.


Warner is Virginia’s senior senator, serving since 2009. He sits on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Budget; Finance; Rules and Administration; and Intelligence committees. He is co-chairman of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus, the largest country-specific body in the Senate.