Caveats before dialogues begin
The fourth edition of the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue that will commence on Monday, 24 June in New Delhi, is indicative of the importance that the two countries attach to each other, in terms of maintaining institutionalised bilateral mechanisms to ensure smoothing and strengthening of ties. While the US secretary of state John Kerry, who is coming to India for the first time ever since he assumed office in January this year, has been stressing on the significance of India as far as the geostrategic pointers in Asia, particularly in the South Asian region, are concerned, his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid must not forget that Kerry would put the business interests of his countrymen over and above other concerns. In fact, reports have been surfacing that the US president Barack Obama and John Kerry have been inundated with letters and requests from American corporate interest groups and business houses to ‘arm-twist’ India to reform its economic policies to better serve the US interests. Obviously, the priority topping the Kerry’s discussion board happens to be the removal of FDI caps and other regulatory mechanisms within Indian industry sectors. In addition, US has conveyed its dissatisfaction at the so-called stumbling blocks that it has been encountering in its economic egress into Indian markets, such as intellectual property protection, local content restrictions, as well as the FDI regulation in retail. It is obvious that US, in the garb of the well-mannered John Kerry, would like to reorient Indian trade policies to better suit their own interests, although the reciprocity in this regard cannot be discounted.
US and India, certainly, have several reasons to shore up mutual ties, particularly in areas such as scientific and academic cooperation, food security, climate change, defence trade as well as in extremely pertinent matters of global and regional security and combating terrorism. In this context, they have shared interests and enough room to further improve the bilateral relationship. Issues like the volatile situations in Afghanistan, Iran, Burma and Middle East, along with the economic resurgence of China, and finally, the political cauldron that is Pakistan, are bound to direct the dialogues that India will hold with the US in the days to come. However, what the world’s biggest democracy and its biggest economic superpower have to teach each other is that a reciprocal action is required in order to further bolster eco-political connections. For the US, India presents an enormous market for its manufacturing sector, especially urban India’s ever-growing hunger for high-end luxury products. On the other hand, the imminent immigration reforms in the US and an India-friendly service sector would ease the flux and exchange of highly qualified technical and professional workers between the two countries, thus creating a common pool of ideas and expertise to help both the economies to further grow. Yet, despite US advocacy groups and business lobbies flexing their financial muscles, India must bear in mind that the ultimate yardstick of the dialogue are the needs and wants of its own people.