February 5, 2007
By William S. Cohen
NEW DELHI -- The U.S.-India relationship emanates from shared values, interests and objectives. Our two nations are multiethnic and secular democracies. Our commonalities and the potential for mutual benefit provide solid reasons for strengthening the relationship into a true bond of friendship and partnership.
India's military is the second largest in the world by number of members. As in the U.S., India's military is controlled by a civilian, democratically elected leadership. India has a transparent judicial system and insists upon a vibrant and free press, just as we do. India enrolls more than 100,000 students each year in U.S. colleges and universities -- and an effort is underway to grant more visas to provide even greater access in the future. Each day we see our economies working more closely together than ever before. Consistent with this convergence, the 2.2 million Americans of Indian origin are becoming increasingly influential in shaping the dynamics of the U.S. political stage.
These shared characteristics demonstrate that India and the U.S. are ideal partners in exerting a positive influence in the 21st century. The healthy relationship between the two serves as a working example of cooperation between countries of divergent history and composition. Not only does this allow both to display flexibility and candor in dealing with other nations, but it also furthers the common objective of promoting stability in the world. As a co-founder of the Global Democracy Initiative, India has already demonstrated global leadership as a committed democracy. India and the U.S. are working as partners to secure democracy and to defeat extremism in South Asia and around the world.
The recent U.S.-India civilian nuclear initiative has the potential to engender goodwill and partnership. This initiative finally removes the cinder from the eye, ending decades of misunderstanding and distrust about India's nuclear intent and capabilities. The increasing strategic connections between the U.S. and India should progress to closer military coordination -- and cooperation. Exchanges of technology, strategy and troops advance the capabilities and strategic capacities of both democracies. Such exchanges enable the U.S. and India to engage in coordinated action and to function independently at higher levels of proficiency.
U.S.-India military cooperation has already begun. Cooperative efforts in providing relief following the Indonesian tsunami in December 2004 are emblematic of the new relationship. The armed forces of the two nations have intensified collaboration on bioterrorism, homeland security and cyber security, resulting in further understanding and system interoperability. In June 2005, India and the U.S. signed a "New Defense Framework," including co-production of military hardware. This will have a profound influence, enabling co-production of U.S. technology on Indian soil, creating countless jobs and providing India with access to critical spares for its new, high-tech armed forces.
The effects of economic cooperation will shape the destiny of the 21st century. The U.S. and India both share an appreciation for free enterprise and market-driven economic progress to benefit citizens at all levels of society. India has been progressively dismantling its commercial barriers while strengthening intellectual property rights. Opening its infrastructure, insurance, banking, pension and retail markets to foreign competition will go a step further in creating the potential of more than $1 trillion in new investment in India's infrastructure sector where it is needed most.
India can be proud of its economic rise, which places it as the fourth-largest economy, with GDP galloping at a rate exceeding 8% annually. Some economic forecasts predict that India's economy measured in absolute dollar terms will overtake Italy, France and Britain in the next decade.
That said, there is still far to go in terms of India developing first-world infrastructure and delivering world-class education and health care to all its citizens. These challenges can best be met by true partnership and U.S.-India cooperation. U.S. industry stands ready to commit massive investment in the form of public-private partnerships, converting these challenges into opportunity. Already, U.S. defense industry leaders such as Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics have committed to significant co-production with Indian partners, recognizing India's engineering prowess. Likewise, U.S. companies have demonstrated a commitment to work with Indian partners to help India achieve a second Green Revolution. The public-private approach that has worked so well in the U.S., which has brought high technology to all aspects of the economy, can serve as a model for India as its farmers work towards achieving greater agricultural productivity.
Thus, the logic of U.S.-India partnership is clear. Strategically, militarily and economically the U.S.-India partnership makes perfect sense. With closer cooperation, India and the U.S. -- and all citizens of both countries -- will reap the rewards of mutual respect and trust working as equal partners in the 21st century.
Mr. Cohen, a former U.S. secretary of defense, is Chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group
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