Need for bilateral investment treaty to ensure fair treatment of
• Immigration issue a great concern
• Outsourcing issue be addressed in comprehensive way
• Nuke deal not in India’s best interests
Important strides made in many areas by the
Bush Administration notwithstanding, there are areas where
two countries can more fully work together to develop stronger
relationships between the two democracies—the US and India--during
the Presidentship of Mr. Barack Obama, so feels Mr.
Jim McDermott, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India
and Indian Americans. Mr. McDermott who feels his
“friendship for India has not and will never change” said
as a longtime Friend of India he believes
that the civil nuclear cooperation pact with the US is not
in best interests of India and “will introduce additional
dangers to the region, and so I voted my conscience and voted
no”. He expressed this feeling in an interview with Amitabha
Sen, Executive Editor before the new Presidential
inauguration on January 20, 2009.
far as interest of Indian Americans is concerned, McDermott
identifies immigration as one of crucial issues that the Obama
Administration has to address with great care. “I think the
next President has to tackle the immigration issue, which
is a great concern of many Indian-Americans.”
US-India bilateral trade the Congressional Co-chair maintains that
to create incentives for investment in India, a bilateral investment
treaty would be an important treaty. This treaty would basically
provide a way in which US investors know that they would be treated
fairly in India, he added.
sensitive issue of Outsourcing McDermott said: “Issues like this
and others must be addressed in a comprehensive way, but we must
first work to stabilize the economic crisis.”
Sir, as a close friend of India you are most welcome to this interview
with www.indiaonestop.com that also seeks to help build up closer
and stronger India-United States relationships. How would you like
to describe the bilateral relationships that developed between these
two democracies during the Bush era ?
I think the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India is
as strong as it has ever been, and I think the Bush Administration
made important strides in many areas in building upon much of the
bilateral cooperation initiated during the Clinton Administration.
While I believe there are areas where our two countries can more
fully work together, I believe the relationships between the people
and governments of India and the United States are very strong.
In view of your long friendship with India and Indian Americans
what would get the top most priority and importance that you and
the Indian Americans would be expecting from the new US President
Barack Obama ?
Of course, the economy is the overwhelming issue that the new President
and Congress will face, but the top domestic issue is health care
reform and I will continue to advocate for a comprehensive solution
that covers every American. On the international front, I think
the next President has to tackle the immigration issue, which is
a great concern of many Indian-Americans. I am confident that President
Obama will work with Congress to put together a proposal that makes
sense for both immigrant families and the American economy.
In one of the recent meetings of the National Federation of Indian-American
Associations you have urged Barack Obama to visit India first when
he makes his maiden overseas visit because it would send a powerful
message to the entire world. What "message" you are hinting
My "message" by that recommendation is quite straightforward:
South Asia is as important as Europe and our foreign policy must
reflect that by truly being global. There is no doubt in my mind
that India is an important geopolitical and economic power and my
recommendation reflects that. It also shows our support for democracy
and the rule of law.
Sir, for any country to grow and prosper it needs to have good,
peace-loving and friendly neighbors. India's peace process is intermittently
punctuated by the Jammu and Kashmir issue and for last two/three
years also by terrorist activities allegedly being generated from
the land of Pakistan. Allegations are also there terrorists are
taking shelter in Bangladesh. As a big brother in South Asia India
has a special responsibility to maintain peace and harmony. India
is discharging its responsibilities even in extreme cases like Parliament
attack or serial terror attacks in Mumbai. But if India's persuasive
policy is taken as country's' weakness what action do you think
India should take if such acts are allowed to continue? Are you
happy with the role of the Bush Administration in this respect as
a common friend of India and Pakistan? Would you be expecting a
tougher stand to be taken by the Obama Administration on this issue
or soft pedal it ?
No one should doubt the commitment of the United States and our
new President to making the world safe. At the same time, understand
this: Diplomacy is never weakness and always must precede military
action. I strongly supported the selection of Senator Hillary Clinton
as Secretary of State and here is what I said the day of the announcement:
is no American more capable or better able to serve our nation as
Secretary of State than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and I enthusiastically
applaud the news that she has accepted an invitation to serve from
President-elect Barack Obama.
my role as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian
Americans, as well as my international trade and development efforts
in Africa and elsewhere in the world, I know firsthand that the
world has been waiting, and hoping, for a new era in U.S. foreign
policy. For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa can expect Mrs. Clinton
to be a staunch supporter of expanded trade through the African
Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has been one of my top
international priorities and one that President Bill Clinton first
enacted into law.
in one bold stroke, President-elect Obama has said in word and deed
that America intends to reclaim its role as world leader. Senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton gives immediate credibility to the new Administration
and this news will be welcomed and strongly supported around the
Do you foresee any major policy shift in the Obama
Administration towards India from that of the Bush Administration
Respect for the sovereignty of nations and the need to work cooperatively
with nations should be paramount in U.S. foreign policy.
While talking about US-India relationships an obvious reference
is made to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement that both the
countries have signed few months back. How would you like to describe
these courageous steps taken by India, its Prime Manmohan Singh
and External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee in particular ? The Opposition,
the Left in particular, still maintains that India's sovereignty
is jeopardized because of this agreement. Your comment please.
Friends tell friends the truth, and as a long time friend of India
I believe the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and
Nonproliferation Enhancement Act, as introduced in the House of
Representatives, is not in India's best interests, and will introduce
additional dangers to the region, and so I voted my conscience and
voted no. This was one of the hardest votes I have ever had to cast,
because I know that friends also support friends, and my friendship
for India has not and will never change.
presented to the House, the legislation undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, and that can only serve to destabilize the region in coming
years. In my judgment there were insufficient safeguards in the
bill and that worries me greatly. With a nuclear-armed India and
Pakistan separated by a border where violence is all too frequent,
I cannot see how giving India additional nuclear capacity will not
be countered in Pakistan. In other words, despite the goal of providing
additional energy, I worry we might be fueling a nuclear arms race.
NOT has been the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for a generation
and making an exception for India makes it exceptionally hard to
use the argument against the nuclear ambitions of Iran and others.
How can we credibly declare that what is acceptable for one nation
in an unstable region is unacceptable for another nation in that
same troubled region?
House vote sends another signal of disjointed and unjustifiable
U.S. foreign policy, meant more for a victory lap by a lame duck
president, than as a pillar of U.S. foreign relations in the 21st
Century. The world will have to live with the outcome and many of
us fear where that might lead. I pray with all my heart that I am
One of the significant achievements in the India-US bilateral relations
is growing merchandize trade which increased to $ 42 billion in
2007 and according to estimate made before the current financial
melt-down bilateral trade is expected to touch $60-billion-mark
in 2008. Till September, 2008 trade between the two countries stood
at over $ 34 billion. The long term estimate projects it at $100
billion in next three-four years. But lot many things would depend
on the final outcome of WTO negotiations. Indo-US trade is about
one tenth of China-US trade. What according to you are the major
hurdles to expand the Indo-US trade at a much faster speed? Would
be expecting some more liberal trade policy from New Delhi ?
I believe that we should seize opportunities to strengthen our trade
and investment relationship. A bilateral investment treaty, for
example, would be an important way to create incentives for investment
in India, and these investments can boost trade flows. This treaty
would basically provide a way in which investors know that they
would be treated fairly in India (by creating an independent dispute
settlement panel where investors and the government can settle investment
disputes resulting from expropriation. The United States should
ensure that our markets are open to Indian imports and we should
find ways in which India can demonstrate its growing leadership
obligation in the multilateral sphere, particularly the WTO.
In next few months time India will also have a new government with
general elections in early 2009. With a new President in the US
and a new government in Delhi (without predicting who would win
the race), do you think that both the government have to start a
fresh dialogue on WTO issues? What is your assessment ?
I think that the current dynamic in the WTO is perceived as though
the developed countries have one agenda, and the developing countries
have another. My hope and expectation is that the Obama administration
and his trade representative can identify common negotiating objectives
with India and build from there. It's in all of our interests to
foster economic growth in developing countries, and Least Developed
Countries in particular. The new USTR should start on that basis
and then move outward. I truly believe that a Doha accord must result
in further South-South trade and investment. India has an opportunity
to be a constructive leader in these negotiations and the US has
an obligation to facilitate this and demonstrate how it's done.
WTO talks apart, what could be your suggestions to facilitate bilateral
trade between these two countries in near term perspectives? At
the United States India Business Council's annual meet this year
Mrs Indra Nooyi, the current Chairman has spoken about huge potential
of Indo-US trade volume and closely linked with that is the question
of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that she dealt with. Indian market
is gradually unfolding since its economic reforms in early 90s which
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had initiated as the then Finance
Minister. Do you find India's FDI policy still quite restrictive?
What you would be expecting from the Indian government to step up
FDI from the US ?
See above on the bilateral investment treaty.
A major issue that is going to significantly impact US-India trade
relations is outsourcing. What is your personal stand on this sensitive
issue and what you would be expecting from the Obama Administration
Issues like this and others must be addressed in a comprehensive
way, but we must first work to stabilize the economic crisis.
Last but not least, what are the significant changes you would be
expecting in the US-India relationships in next four years from
now—in the first spell of Barack Obama as the US President ?
President-elect has spoken out many times about the need for a new
and renewed U.S. presence and commitment to global relations and
there is no doubt in my mind that the world will see the kind of
U.S. leadership that is has been missing for too many years.