WASHINGTON - The United States, which is developing a defence strategy focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, sees a key role for India, an American newspaper reported Tuesday on the eve of Washington-New Delhi strategic dialogue that also includes discussion on regional issues, including Afghanistan.
“There is a recognition that the Afghan security forces can benefit from training inside India,” US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell said at the Center for American Progress on Friday.
The third US-India strategic dialogue, co-chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna gets under way in Washington on Wednesday.
The Washington Times said Afghanistan will be at the top of the agenda as a Nato deadline to withdraw all its combat troops from that country by the end of 2014 draws near.
“Any discussion of our strategic ties must begin with Afghanistan,” Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said.
India and Afghanistan also signed a strategic partnership agreement last fall. “If there is not some understanding reached between Pakistan and India, there will be no long-term stability in Afghanistan,” Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, was quoted as saying.
“India fully recognises that at some point India and Pakistan must find a way to discuss Afghanistan’s future and each country’s mutual interests and suspicions of the actions of the other.”
The Obama administration has proposed a US-India-China dialogue to allay concerns in Beijing that the new defence strategy represents an attempt to contain China’s rise, the report said. The U.S.-India relationship is marked by opportunities and challenges, particularly on the economic side, the newspaper said.
“It is no secret that there are some challenges now in India in terms of moving forward with the economic reform program,” Blake, the assistant secretary, said. US-India defence trade has surpassed $9 billion in the past five years. Even though bilateral trade in goods and services is on track to reach a new high of $100 billion this year, US trade is falling as a percentage of India’s overall economy.
“This means India is moving ahead in its economic relations with other countries, and even though the aggregate volume for the US is going up, its percentage is going down,” said Inderfurth, who is currently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“A bilateral investment treaty can help get more American investors and traders interested in India and vice versa,” he added.
The US and India are in talks to finalize a bilateral investment treaty that would accelerate investment flows, create jobs and generate growth.
The US firms also stand to gain as India plans to spend more than $1 trillion on infrastructure in the next five years, the report said. However, the pace of economic reforms — key to unleashing the true potential of the US-India relationship — has slowed.