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Nisha Desai Biswal as the Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, US Department of State, is at the heart of foreign policy affairs in Washington DC. Despite a hectic schedule in the lead up to the elections, she took time out for 'India Global Business' to track the legacy President Obama is likely to leave behind and what lies in store for India-US ties under a new leader. How much of the recent US-India bonhomie is because of the personal chemistry between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi The strategic partnership between the United States and India is anchored on the premise that our two democratic, pluralistic, and secular societies share many of the same attributes and aspirations. Yes, the two leaders share a rapport, but it is that premise that led President Obama to characterise the relationship as a defining partnership of the 21st century. And it isn't just the relationship between our two leaders that defines the partnership - it is also the millions of human ties that link us together. There are over 3.4 million Indian-Americans living in the United States. Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States and one of the most economically successful. Thousands of Indians come to the US every year to work and study. Some stay on to become US citizens and others return to India to start businesses and raise their families. Each represents a link between our countries. The two leaders' personal chemistry has certainly boosted bilateral ties and a sense of common purpose, but our partnership with India preceded that relationship and will continue to grow based on broad, bipartisan support. India is the world's largest democracy, world's fastest-growing major economy, and soon-to-be the most populous nation on Earth. How India expands its economy, evolves its strategic doctrine, asserts its interests and values, and projects its growing economic, military, and political power will have important consequences not just for 1.25 billion Indian citizens, but increasingly for the rest of the planet. That is why the US-India partnership is of such extraordinary importance for the United States and will, I believe, shape the future of geo-politics and global economics in the 21st century. What would you say would be President Obama's legacy vis-a-vis India President Obama was prescient when he declared at the very beginning of his term that the US-India relationship is a defining partnership for the 21st century. The events of the last eight years are a clear indication of that vision.
One of the most important outcomes, in my mind, of the years of effort, is the clear and compelling vision that was laid out by Prime Minister Modi during his visit in June of this year, before a Joint Session of the US Congress. The Modi Doctrine laid out a foreign policy vision that “overcomes the hesitations of history” and embraces the convergence between our two countries and our shared interests. The Prime Minister harkened back to the framing of his mentor, Prime Minister Vajpayee, to invoke the natural alliance between our two countries, calling the United States India's indispensable partner. He reiterated his bold joint strategic vision with President Obama for a US-India partnership that can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, and can help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of maritime navigation. In addition to the strong bilateral relationship, I imagine the President is pleased with India's commitment to combating global climate change through the ratification of the Paris climate change agreement. India is one of the most important countries in the world in terms of global energy and, by joining the Paris agreement, Prime Minister Modi has shown global leadership in climate change mitigation. What are the foundations laid and what new beginnings have been made There was no hyperbole in Secretary Kerry's statement last year that “we may do more with India, on a government-to-government basis, than with any other nation”. The bilateral architecture of the US-India partnership reflects the investment both countries have made in building ties between our people, our industries, our governments, and our security establishments. It has created a platform for an unprecedented level of cooperation meant to expand our respective economies and make our citizens more secure. As we reflect on the ambitious trajectory of this relationship, we have to give credit to the previous administrations in the United States and India for setting us on this path. The US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008, signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh is historic. It not only made possible civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and India that will provide power for 60 million Indians and create thousands of new jobs in both countries, but also laid a foundation on which we have built a strategic partnership that has made both countries safer and more prosperous. The US-India Strategic Dialogue, launched by Secretary Clinton in 2009, has expanded dramatically in the past seven years and now includes high-level bilateral dialogues and working groups spanning policy planning, global leadership, finance and economics, commerce, transportation, aviation, space, climate change, maritime security, energy security, infrastructure, cyber policy, defense policy, political-military relations, homeland security, the oceans, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the United Nations. India also represents a key part of this Administration's Asia policy. India's Act East strategy and the US Rebalance to Asia are complementary and mutually reinforcing, promising to bring greater security and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific region. At a time of new challenges from both state- and non-state actors to the international rules-based order, India has increasingly taken a strong stand in defending a system that has sustained global security and prosperity for over seven decades. Nowhere is this expressed more clearly than in our Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, issued by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi last year. This Vision enshrined our mutual commitment to safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, including in the South China Sea, and across the globe. We're now implementing a roadmap that sets out a path of cooperation to realise this commitment and enable India to become a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean region and beyond. We have also expanded our cooperation with India to combat terrorism and violent extremism, through a joint working group and a bilateral agreement to exchange intelligence and terrorist watch-list information. This cooperation, which includes regular trainings through the State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance programme, as well as joint sponsorship of terrorist designations at the United Nations, has made both our nations more secure. How feasible is the recently set target of $500 billion for bilateral trade given the overall global slowdown The United States is committed to working with India to fully unlock the true potential of our economic ties. Today, the United States is one of India's largest trade and investment partners. Our bilateral trade in goods and services has grown to over $100 billion, five times what it was 10 years ago. Import tariffs on average are more than 30 times lower than they were in 1991, when then-Finance Minister Manmohan Singh began sweeping reforms. And since 2005 we have seen an increase in goods trade by 250 per cent, in services trade by 350 per cent. Bilateral trade of $100 billion is a good start but we have room for significant growth, especially if we can move forward on a high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), the completion of which would help India attract more US capital and technology. As part of Prime Minister Modi's Invest India campaign, India is working to bring international investment into the country and create opportunities for the one million Indians entering the workforce every month. A BIT will go a long way toward bringing our economies closer and reducing the friction that's only natural with two complex free-market systems such as ours. It will help us move past the choppiness that comes from not having an over-arching investment framework. And it will open up even more opportunities for American and Indian firms.
Today, The United States is one of India′s largest trade and investment partners. Our belateral trade in goods and services has grown to over $100 billion, Five times what it was 10 years ago.-Nisha Biswal, US Department of State
The United States is now one of India's leading defence suppliers and has proven itself a reliable defence partner, with a record for transparency, timely deliveryand superior technology.-Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister