The strength of the Indo-Pacific region is the connection of its people, its economies, and its cultures, as noted by Ambassador Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, U.S. State Department, and the opening of the CUTS International Washington, DC Center is a continuation of this vital connection.
More specifically to the U.S.-India relation, Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India, pointed to the numerous positive steps and likely opportunities set before the two largest democratic nations.
Among other dignitaries they were speaking on the occasion of the launch of the sixth overseas center of CUTS International, a policy/think tank based out of India. On Thursday, April 19th 2018, CUTS International launched their newest Center in Washington, DC, the first Indian think tank to do so, at an event bringing together a diverse group of dignitaries, practitioners, and experts from the United States, India, and other Indo-Pacific nations to discuss Buttressing U.S.-India Economic Relations.
Considering recent economic and trade relations shifts and the acknowledged need for deeper U.S.-India relations, the timing of establishing an Indian policy research Center in the U.S. capital was emphatically welcomed by the participants. Indeed, the event was a tribute to CUTS International, its leadership, and the advancement of India itself to have an India-based organization to open a Center in the U.S.
With its unique perspective from the grassroots of developing countries in Asia and Africa with its five international Centers, CUTS International presented a vision of bringing together U.S., India, Australian, Japanese, and other stakeholders to find evidence-based solutions to collective challenges and facilitate forward positive movement toward a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific region.
In order to identify challenges and opportunities for buttressing U.S.-India relations in the context of India’s emerging role in the Indo-Pacific region, CUTS hosted panelists to broadly discuss why and how should the Quad of Australia, India, Japan and the United States enhance their cooperation beyond maritime security engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
Across the discussion, panelist pointed to U.S.-Indian deep political, defense, and strategic relationship in shared values, democracy, defense, maritime cooperation, and cultural exchange. However, notably, as terribly important the relationship is, the potential is still to be realized, particularly in the economic and trade areas.
For a country like India that has benefited from an open trading system, trade and economic cooperation has to be the bedrock of Indo-US relation for their relationship it to be sustainable. As many noted the challenges of this cooperation under the current realm of economic nationalism in both countries, nevertheless in the mid-term it’s up to medium size countries like India to sustain an open trading system. Possibly nowhere in the world is this more critical than in the Indo-Pacific region that is and will likely continue to be the center of gravity of economic activity.
Representatives from the U.S. emphasized its commitment to deepening its relationship with India and its partners in Indo-pacific region. Notably, U.S. presence underpins free movement on maritime routes, respect for rule of law, fair trade, and sovereignty in the region and India is a key partner in this effort.
Likewise, the panelist from the Australian government pointed to India as a top of Australian strategic partner and their bilateral security partnership is growing with maritime exercises. Recently the Australian government commissioned the India Economic Strategic Review that recognizes the need to align Australian strengths with India’s in areas like education, agriculture, water security, energy, and certainly trade.
Regarding the importance of trade, as noted by the Indian government representatives, with India being the largest growing major economy in the world India will need to trade and buy from other countries. This is an excellent opportunity to deepen India’s connection with U.S. manufacturing, such as oil and gas, defense equipment, and technology.
While challenges were identified in dealing with U.S. economic nationalism going forward, taking into account India’s own recent trade protectionism, many opportunities, including at the Indian state level for investment, were presented and hopeful that CUTS’ will pursue through its new Washington, DC Center.
Ambassador Katrina Cooper, DCM, Embassy of Australia, Washington DC; Ambassador Santosh Jha, DCM, Embassy of India, Washington DC; Subir Gokarn, Executive Director, IMF; Mukesh Aghi, President & CEO, US India Strategic Partnership Forum ; Nisha Biswal, President, US India Business Council; Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to the Govt. of India, Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center; Richard Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies, Center for Strategic & International Studies; Rufus Yerxa, President, National Foreign Trade Council; Sanjay Puri, Chairman, United States India Political Action Committee; Ambassador Pradeep Kapur, Senior Advised, CUTS WDC) etc, participated in the launch event along with approximately 120 participants comprise of media, private sector, diplomats, policy makers, etc)