JON HUNTSMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Atlantic Council and the entire Atlantic Council family, I’m really delighted to welcome you to today’s gathering.
We’re honored to have Senator Mark Warner, who is co-chair of the Senate’s India Caucus, to talk to us today about the critical partnership between the United States and India, particularly in light of President Obama’s trip to New Delhi later this month. Senator Warner, thank you for being here. Thank you for being a friend and a colleague and all of that. We’re just really, truly honored to have you.
Today’s host, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center has, over the past six years, quickly become a central forum and point of contact for policy makers, business leaders and members of Congress, as well as European and South Asian leaders, to find ways of building sustainable partnerships that will increase regional and global security and prosperity.
The center focuses on wider South Asia, which includes the geographical subcontinent as well as Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran, recognizing that the subcontinent is not isolated and very much linked with its neighbors. India is at the core of this region – both geographically and strategically – and is of particular importance to the South Asia Center and, indeed, to the Atlantic Council.
India requires special attention given the United States’ current strategy of rebalancing to Asia. Secretary of State Kerry was in Gujarat a few days ago to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, and to also pave the way for President Obama’s upcoming visit to take place January 26th.
Now, economically, India needs more U.S. investment capital. Prime Minister Modi has embarked upon an unprecedented crusade to reform a top-heavy economy, to free the entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people. Strategically, the U.S. and India are drawn to together by strong common interests in counterterrorism, cyber threats, a stable Afghanistan and a newly assertive China.
But, our differences are also very much on public display – global trade talks, climate change, a frozen civil nuclear deal and different views on Putin’s invasion of Crimea. In the past years we have witnessed the challenges of this intricate relationship and the need to work together towards a strong and stable partnership – a bilateral revival is exactly what is needed.
In that light, the Atlantic Council is delighted that it will host its first India-U.S. conference to be held in New Delhi in March. The conference will be convened in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, the Vivekananda International Foundation, and the Confederation of Indian Industry. As we prepare for this upcoming conference, we couldn’t be more enthusiastic about having Senator Warner here today to kick-start this important conversation on U.S.-India relations.
Senator Warner was elected governor of Virginia in 2001 and worked with a Republican legislature to turn a 6 billion (dollar) budget shortfall into a $1 billion budget surplus. He brought business efficiency to state government, launched innovative education reforms and led an economic development effort that created new jobs across Virginia. When Mark left the governor’s office, Virginia was ranked as the best state for business, the best managed state in America and the best state in which to receive a public education.
Now, all of these accolades fell to the state of Utah the following year. (Laughter.) So as governor, I was delighted to see Mark go from the governorship. (Chuckles.) Senator Warner was elected to the United States Senate in 2008 and serves on the Banking, Budget, Finance and Intelligence Committees. At a time when Washington seems gridlocked by partisan politics, he’s emerged as a true bipartisan leader who’s willing to cross the political aisle to bring people together and to get things done.
Senator Warner is also a valued member of our board and a great friend of the Atlantic Council. It’s truly a great honor that I’m able to at this moment call Senator Warner to this podium. The time is yours. (Applause.)
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VA): Thank you. Well, thank you, Jon. Thank you for that introduction. Thank you and Mary Kaye for years of friendship. And if Jon Huntsman and I could get in a room and pretty much take any of the variety of problems that our country faces, I think nine out of 10 we could come out with some level of a framework of a solution – 10 out of 10.
I am excited to be here. I thank the Atlantic Council for the opportunity to make this presentation. Jon’s daughter Grace is here, and I’ve got to really raise my game for my presentation. So I’m speaking to you, but also to 10th graders who got out of school on a Friday afternoon to come and hear somebody talk.
So you know, I think it’s – as Governor Huntsman said – it’s a really exciting time, you know, for the U.S.-India relationship. I think as the governor said, you know, all reports from the seventh annual Vibrant Gujarat Summit were positive. I was glad to see that Senator Kerry was there. And while the Governor has announced or mentioned the fact that this President is going on this trip to India for Republic Day, I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be joining him on that trip.
And I think it’s really important to recognize the significance that Prime Minister Modi is placing in this relationship. That he has chosen to invite not only an elected official but an American President to come for his – the first year of his tenure for Republic Day is very significant. And I think it really signals following up on his extraordinarily successful visit, where he was feted as a near-rock star in Madison Square Garden. And then had the opportunity to meet with him both at the State Department and then later at the USIBC.
I think those of us who are interested in this relationship – and as chair of the U.S.-India Caucus, the largest bilateral caucus in the Congress, this relationship that I’m, like many of us in this room, very focused on, very much believe is one of the critical relationships for both India and the United States in this century. But I think we would pretty much all honestly agree that this relationship that had gone from virtually nonexistent 25 years ago to this enormous period of collaboration, friendship – then, as relationships mature, there were bumps.
And it had, candidly, I think gotten a little bit lethargic. And – with the prior Indian government and then even, you know, there were some concerns as the Prime Minister was elected about whether the United States was going to step up in terms of appropriate representation and sending appropriate folks. I think that we turned that corner in both the very successful visit of the Prime Minister and now the President’s visit is terribly, terribly important, again, to regenerate and restart and revitalize this critical relationship.
As I mentioned, as somebody who’s lived in both the business and political world, the same way the Governor has, you know, to hear Prime Minister’s Modi’s presentation in front of the USIBC, this was a good business presentation, this was a great political presentation, and this is clearly an individual of enormous charisma, charm and intellect.
Now, stepping back for a moment, when the Prime Minister was elected with that remarkable mandate, and I was perhaps a little bit presumptuous, but as somebody who had followed the relationship for some time and felt that in the first hundred days of the Modi administration we needed to have some at least small wins. So meeting with folks, particularly across the American-Indian community, we came up with a list of priority recommendations.
Now, as any good kind of politician, Jon, I’m quick to claim credit, even if it was not my doing entirely. But I am proud to say that of the 12 recommendations that we made, as a caucus to Prime Minister Modi, 10 of those recommendations were actually implemented in the first hundred days – or roughly the first hundred days – in political timeline. You know, we called for lifting the FDI cap and we saw progress in defense, insurance and railways.
Now, we’ve still got to make progress in insurance and e-commerce and a variety of other sectors, but this has been a constant issue of concern particularly for American business. And progress was made. We thought it was very important to launch a joint energy project in India. And this summer we saw an agreement on a renewable – a regional renewable energy partnership ¬– to develop wind and solar energy in India. With India’s energy deficit and U.S. technology, this is definitely an area that I think more can be done. And I think there’ll be potentially more announcements coming out of the President’s visit.
Third, we thought that we needed to reboot the defense policy group. And again, the Pentagon announced a few months ago that it will reconvene the group, which can provide a forum to negotiate in 2015 renewal of the 10-year defense framework agreement. And I believe this could help drive further gains, both for American companies and for India in defense and technology partnerships. Now, we’re going to have to – and I’ll come back to this in a few moments, still deal with the offsets question, but, again, progress has been made.
And implement – one of the things we called for as well, was implement a new electronic banking system. And back on a visit back in 2012, I met with then-Finance Minister Mukherjee and called on him to look at the idea if we could use an electronic banking system to help both gets funds appropriately to folks across India and in a way that could cut down some of the graft and corruption on stipends that are paid out. And again, there was success – this has been a priority for Prime Minister Modi that I think offers great, great opportunity.
So progress on some fronts in terms of not only this reinvigoration of the relationship, but substantive moves on at least small wins in the beginning of the Prime Minister’s administration. Let me go through a couple areas where I think we need additional progress and hope for progress this year.
One, as I mentioned a couple times, is e-commerce. We still need to look at – see if we can raise the FDI cap on that. But this is clearly a priority for the Prime Minister. In a country as vast as India, the notion of, in effect, leapfrogging a whole generation of technology as you move from a paper currency to an electronic currency, you know, literally hundreds of millions of Indians could benefit from this transition if it’s done in an appropriate manner, and obviously bring a level of transparency to a whole piece – particularly on the governmental side, that would be well-warranted.
Second, I think we clearly need additional efforts on reducing red tape. Now, the Prime Minister has made his made in India campaign a central theme during his first year, but in order for this initiative to be successful, India must reduce the bureaucratic barriers that trip up money – many companies trying to do business in India.
And, as we’ve seen with certain issues that have taken place in the last – in the last year in particular, we need to not only look at the bureaucratic red tape, but we’ve got to make sure that we provide American and other foreign companies certainty and predictability in the handling of legal issues. This is going to be – an area that’s going to require, again mutual focus.
The Prime Minister – I heard him talk on this subject when he was here in Washington. I think it’s a great idea, but the notion of a single window – actually, Jon, that could be a great notion that we could implement here at the federal government in the United States as well. We all know in the modern world the challenges private industry has in terms of going through the permitting process, whether it’s on the environmental side, safety side, basic building permits side.
And India, with its myriad of different bureaucracies and some of the same kind of federalist confusion between state and national, the notion of creating a single window that – I know they’ve talked about trying to give almost a 72-hour turnaround, at least in terms of initial response – would be something that is – I’ll be anxious to see if it’d be implemented because, candidly, there’s lessons we could learn there as well.
Skills development – this is an area, I think, where there is tremendous, tremendous opportunity. And every visit I’ve been to India, there is an acknowledgement of the, you know, literally world-class, in many ways comparable if not greater than even American universities, on the high-end of the technology scale in terms of higher education. But there is obviously an enormous gap in terms of skills development of the vast set of Indians who enable to move past an old economy are going to need some level of skills that this is a place where there’s enormous opportunities for collaboration between our American community college system and the Indian government.
Now, in 2012, when I was in India, we did broker an agreement between the Virginia Community College System, the Indian Education Ministry and Wadhwani Foundation. So there’s a template. Now, I’d love to report, two and a half years later, that has led to thousands and thousands of students being cross educated in this fashion. I do believe that this area of skills development is one that’s going to require constant attention and focus, and provides enormous opportunities in the short run.
Cybersecurity, again, something that the governor mentioned. India obviously has enormous competency in IT. In India, businesses rely on reliable computer networks to make – meet their business needs. In the U.S., we’ve seen the damage that hackers, both criminal and pseudo-state hackers can do to our systems and the level of attacks. This is an area where I think, again, increased collaboration could be a field – an opportunity for both countries. So those are some of the areas where I think we can really put some points on the board going forward.
We also have to deal with some of the continuant irritants that I hope can be moved aside. One is clearly the question around visas. I still believe and still hope that the United States Congress, where I work, would take up comprehensive immigration reform. A component part of that, as we all know, is to both increase the number of H-1B visas to make sure that we also deal with the STEM-related visas. But in the meantime, the constant concern we hear from both American and Indian companies is that there seems to be sometimes a slow walking on the visa issue.
Part of this means, you know, that we have to look at the caps. Candidly, some of the caps are still lower than they were now – lower than they were at the end of the Clinton administration, which is not exactly the direction we ought to be headed. But we need to get this right. And it can’t be contingent upon comprehensive immigration reform. Some of this really needs to be just kind of – the bureaucracy on our side of the table needs to work through to solve this issue.
Another area that is of increasing concern, and obviously has enormous amounts of complexity, is disputes over intellectual property rights. This has been a perennial thorn in the side for U.S. companies that are doing business in India and elsewhere. I was pleased to see that the India-U.S. joint statement during the Prime Minister’s visit committed to establish an annual high-level intellectual property working group. I think that’s a good start, but I think this needs to be something that needs to be moved up higher on the agenda item if we’re going to be able to truly fulfill the kind of opportunities for both of our countries.
I want to come back and make my last closing comments on a couple of last items. Defense offsets – this is an area I think there is enormous strategic, enormous business – this is a true win-win for both countries. But as we all know, India mandates a 30 percent carve out for homegrown industries in the purchase of U.S. defense, civil aviation or homeland security equipment. And for many companies, there’s just not the capacity at this point in India to fully efficiently provide a full defense-focused offset.
What we have been suggesting for some time – and I hope to continue to push on my upcoming trip – is the notion of, all right, let’s still have – I’m not asking India to change that percent goal, but, you know, if you can get to some other notion, 20 on a growing level and still do an offset in another area that would be of national interest to India, for example skills development, this ought to be, again, an area that could be of benefit to both sides because, if not, I think that we’re going to – it’s going to be increasingly – as I hear from American companies – increasingly difficult, while we’ve seen a few good announcements, for this kind of field to grow dramatically.
And finally, the governor mentioned this as well, civilian nuclear cooperation. You know, this has been – I always remember the kind of – think about friends in the audience, you know, the – in many ways the – getting the civilian nuclear deal through Congress was the coming of age of the Indian-American diaspora on a kind of a political frontier in this country. You know, the energy that was around that effort was remarkable. I think – you know, and there are clear concerns about liability issues.
My hope and one of the things I hope to discover is: Can the Prime Minister get this done through the normal process, or will he have to go back for another vote in parliament? My hope is we get this behind us, because clearly as we think about issues around climate change and trying to decrease India’s dependence upon fossil fuels, it’s great that we do the renewable piece, but his is an area that could go right to the heart of the matter in terms of climate change.
Finally, in closing, lots of good things in terms of this relationship. I try in my speeches about India not to default to the hackneyed lines of the world’s oldest democracy and largest democracy, but – (chuckles) – you know – but there are – there are these – this kind of collaborative spirit between our two nations. You know, the 4 million-plus Indian-Americans here. I also think one of the great assets is the north of 250,000 Indian-Americans who still carry United States passports that have gone back home to India for their retirement. That’s a wonderful asset that we ought to leverage as well.
We still need to think, as we think about this economic relationship, you know, can we find even a broader scope of definition? But as somebody who’s always been an advocate, has – and I’ve focused more on the economic side than the security side – there are so many places where our common interests align. This is one of the key relationships of the 21st century for both nations. And for a while, as an advocate, I said things are good but, you know, candidly, we all knew there were some bumps. I think with the Prime Minister’s visit and now this, I think, a very generous offer to invite the President on Republic Day, you know, we ought to take this moment of renewal and really turn it into concrete action.
So, again, my thanks to the Atlantic Council and Jon for this opportunity. I hope, Grace, it was worth missing a Friday afternoon of school. And you know, Bharath, I guess you and I will now sit down and take the – take the questions. All right? Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
BHARATH GOPALASWAMY: That was a – thank you, Senator. That was a very comprehensive agenda. I think the first question that just springs to my mind is managing expectations. You know, we all saw what the expectations were after the civil nuclear deal and where we are today. And now, after Modi’s been elected, we see the expectations have gone up again. How do we – we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure. How do we want to manage those expectations?
SEN. WARNER: Great question. And that’s why, at least from a suggested standpoint, when we laid out these 12 suggestions for the first hundred days, and arguable 10 out of 12 – we can go through the rest of the list if you’d like – were accomplished. I think we need to celebrate small successes. You know, there was such expectations that we went from this, you know, maturing relationship that was suddenly going to say: Everything was going to work smoothly. There’s going to be bumps. We both have our national interests.
But we went through such a period where everything was somewhat frozen, at least showing and celebrating these small wins I think is important. And I think we’ve now got some of those wins in the bank for both countries. And my hope is that there’ll be some more announced coming forward. But I think it’s a very, very valid point.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: And I’ll take off from there, you know. It’s a win for both – in my mind – you know, people have argued that, is this an oversold relationship? And my argument has been I think India and the United States are still in their discovery phases. They’ve not had that kind of an engagement that we are having in the last 15 years. After Jimmy Carter visited India it took almost 20 years for President Clinton to visit. And in the last few years you’ve seen the prominence of India in the United States matters so much more.
But, that said, you know, I also have this pet peeve that Indians don’t forget anything, Americans don’t remember anything, you know? (Laughter.) When we start this relationship, particularly when it comes to issues like defense, you know, the Indians – the Indian scientific and military bureaucracy will go to the 1974 sanctions. And when you’re negotiating these offsets regimes, you know, this is – I talk to a lot of my military friends and civilian scientist bureaucracy, and they just keep telling me that the Americans are not serious about negotiating. They don’t give us what we want, you know? This is a constant criticism I face. And I – not that I agree with them, but these are some of the challenges that we have to overcome. Would you agree with that? How do you assure trust and confidence within the scientific bureaucracy out there?
SEN. WARNER: At the macro level, I’d agree. And while we have seen, obviously, deals made, there has to be a bit more trust on both sides. And again, I think – you know, my fear is that the Indians feel if they relax or open up the box of offsets, they’ll never have their own domestic industry grow to the potential.
And so, again maybe I’m thinking as a business guy more than as a politician, but you know, you can have benchmarks along the way. I think – you know, people, if they want to get to a common goal here, if they want to get to yes, there ought to be a way to set metrics that would continue to ratch up as the Indian capacity grows. But I think it’s a valid question.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Thank you.
I’d start with audience. If you could identify yourself, and – yeah.
Q: Thank you. I’m Kumar from Amnesty International. Thank you, Senator, for the leadership.
You addressed numerous issues, but there is one irritant that you didn’t address. The irritant is directly related to U.S. business behavior in India. This is about Bhopal. It happened 30 years ago. U.S. business corporation, Union Carbide. Thousands died, thousands were injured. Thousands – the generations are suffering. Still, no one has addressed that.
So we want to know whether you can raise voice to ensure that this visit of President Obama being used as an opportunity to ensure a joint statement saying that what happened 30 years ago should be addressed. And also, on the legal issue, Dow Chemical is ignoring all the summons they’ve been issued by an Indian court. That also comes to the issue whether U.S. businesses need to respect Indian judiciary. So I would appreciate if you can address these issues. Thank you.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Talk about forgetting – talk about not forgetting anything.
SEN. WARNER: Pardon me? No, I –
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Yeah.
SEN. WARNER: I’m getting prompted by the side here. No, I think it is important that we don’t forget. And it was obviously a tragedy, what happened in Bhopal. And I know some of the current status of some of the legal suits going on. I’ll try to raise this issue. I don’t know whether – you know, I don’t know the exact current state of play, so I’m happy to be educated.
But I do think, you know, as a framework – and this goes exactly to Bharath’s point that Indians never forget and Americans never remember – there has to be some level of closure at some point so that on a going-forward basis there is the notion of some level of legal predictability. And that is a challenge not just vis-à-vis India. It’s obviously a challenge we see with countries in South America.
But I – you know, never forgetting and recognizing the tragedy took place is something that is very important. I appreciate your raising it.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The person at the front.
Q: Thank you. Victoria Guida with Politico.
My question is about intellectual property. You know, you mentioned that this needs to be higher up on the agenda in terms of being addressed. And I was just wondering if you could speak to maybe smaller steps that you think India could take, short of – short of changing any sort of laws, that would sort of build confidence that they’re serious about intellectual property protection. And then also if you wouldn’t mind talking about the prospects for launching a bilateral investment treaty.
SEN. WARNER: Let me take them in reverse order. We were – have been for years advocating doing a BIT. It seems to me that the priority around that effort seems to have receded a little bit. Is that a politically correct way to describe that? (Chuckles.) My hope is it would still be a – for me, in terms of that kind of safety of investment on both sides, particularly in India, I think it’s important, number one.
In terms of the smaller steps short of changing Indian law on intellectual property, I think it’s a valid question. I’d love to say I’ve got my three points here to kind of respond on it. Since we’ve got those kind of challenges we have – right now we see this – even our own country, between tech and pharma, you know, there are different concerns on the India side. It’s something that before I go on this trip I ought to have a better answer. So let me start thinking through that.
You know, challenge – one of the challenges kind of at the macro level is, as somebody who believes in the notion of trade, believes that in America you – with 85 percent plus of our markets open, trade agreements if negotiated appropriately help American workers, help American firms, you know, putting at least some standards in place around environmental safety, human rights, intellectual property at least sets a floor where there’s nothing right now.
So, should we get to TPA – get a TPA that leads then to a TPP that has a framework around intellectual property where there’s still right now vibrant debate going on, there may be some pieces, again short of full legal changes, that could be models for U.S.-India in the area of intellectual property.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The gentleman right next.
Q: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily.
It seems to be you’re dominated by the press here already. (Chuckles.) But my question is on the still, I guess, undefined U.S.-India strategic relationship, which the President will carry forward. My question deals with India’s sort of high-profile economic relationships within – with China and the European – I’m sorry – and Russia under the Eurasian Union. Does that have a potential for muddying this new relationship? I think – are they competitive, or?
SEN. WARNER: Well, I think they are – every global economy, there’s always a level of competition here. I think there was – in my understanding, at least, potentially expectations of a larger number to be announced between the India-China agreement than was announced.
You know, I continue to be – one of the areas that I continue to be concerned was India’s unwillingness to join, I believe, the rest of the world community in being critical of President Putin’s actions in the Crimea and Ukraine and their clear – you know, again, going back to Bharath’s point of always remembering – for a long time, let’s acknowledge, Russia was the source of – particularly on the defense side – of a lot of this trade opportunity.
I think, though, from a rule of law standpoint, from a common language standpoint, from the kind of – the opportunistic possibilities for both nations are so great we’ve got a – I think we’ve got a lot more – let me be a little less articulate. We’ve got a lot more stuff that India needs with world-class technology connected. And we’ve got this wonderful asset of an enormously vibrant Indian-American community to help, you know, make this transition that I think if we can get some of these policy issues, including intellectual property, worked through, that the natural flow will move to strengthen this economic relationship.
And – you know, and again, I give Prime Minister Modi a lot of credit. The question of India’s role in the old kind of Non-Aligned Movement, you know, I think that’s an interesting evolution to watch as well.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Like in Prime Minister Modi’s words, India will not forget its old friends and allies. But also in the Russian ambassador to India’s words, India is like a rich bride waiting to be courted by many suitors. You know, and India is playing that card extremely well.
Have you then – if I could (club ?) the questions.
Senator, your remarks were right on. I’ve been doing business – my name is Pritz Trace (sp) with Bante Partners (sp), doing business in India for about nine years. And the challenge has always been – when you deal with the Indians and work with them – that the – you know, America is too slow. So we have to reduce our red tape, like in ITAR approval and so forth. That’s – you know, our competitors – foreign competitors often use that as a discriminator.
And a key point here is the definition of an ally, to your comments, while they’re a great ally, the Indians, hopefully the bilateral agreement will mean, in the definition of an ally, of helping us in future wars or what, because sometimes they have not engaged in a direct manner. But that’s all.
SEN. WARNER: No, I – and just a quick comment – two quick comments. One is, you know, this ITAR issue is something I’ve been hearing about since I first got engaged. And you know, clearly it needs to continue to work. One point I also have made, I’ve spoken a lot about, you know, American investment in India.
You know, one of the things I would like to highlight as well is Indian investment in the United States. You know, when I was Governor we helped bring a company called Essel Propack to a south-side Virginia community that had been tremendously – Danville, Virginia – which been tremendously hard-hit by factory relocation, generally a community that still blamed every – all the job losses entirely – or, not entirely, mostly on NAFTA.
You know, Essel Propack, which is now many, many hundreds of employees and has expanded two or three times with that American flag, Indian, flag, Virginia flag all hanging there, you know, is a sign of the benefits of a fair and level trading field as well. So I just want to make that point.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Raj (sp), Harlan and then Barry.
Q: Thank you, Bharath.
Senator, I’m from Mclean, Virginia. And as you well know, one in eight jobs in Virginia are related to the defense industries. So are two thoughts in mind: One is to look at the offsets bid. If India were to lease big ticket items – like a nuclear aircraft carrier – then no offsets involved if it’s a lease. And the second was, we are a big shipbuilding state. Why shouldn’t we be in the warship building collaboration with India? Thank you.
SEN. WARNER: I think – I’ve never – I’ve not heard the lease idea. Whether that would get us through the process, you know, I’d look forward to exploring that. And obviously, again, on the Huntington Ingalls issue, you know, I’ll take that idea to them.
Q: Senator I’m Harlan Ullman.
You lay out a formidable agenda, but I’d like to ask you to talk about the invisible party so far, and that’s relationship with Pakistan. There is violence on the line of control in Kashmir, as you well know. Pakistan seems to be descending into further insurgency. As you also know, it’s developing short-range nuclear weapons as an offset. The possibility of another Mumbai, it seems to me, is not insignificant.
And I wonder – I’m sure you’ve been thinking about this – about putting together some kind of a means of reconciliation between India and Pakistan, perhaps to discuss the nuclear issue, perhaps to have better trust – confidence-building measures other than track two, because it seems to me that events in Pakistan could easily spillover into India at this stage, and that could wreck everything. So what are your thoughts about reconciling those two as a means to improving the business atmosphere between India and the United States?
SEN. WARNER: So, you know, my friend Jon Huntsman described me as a bipartisan bridge builder, but you’re now asking me to take on India-Pakistan? That’s your – (laughter). You know, I – you know, especially since I’ve got America’s debt and deficit completely under control, got that all fixed so I can move now to the – yeah. (Laughter.)
Let me give you the slightly optimistic view, which history has usually proven wrong. Let me put that caveat on the front end. But the – after the tragedy of the school bombing in Pakistan, the notion that, you know, the real long-term threat to Pakistan’s future and existence I believe is more internal than the threat with India. There – I hope and pray that it’ll be that – what appears to be actual actions taken now by Pakistan.
It’s in the interest of the Pakistani people to deal with that and recognize that, you know, to a certain degree, it seems to me, India has moved past this thorny relationship and moved on, and Pakistan is still focused on it. Now, clearly, there are security concerns, but potentially there may be a chance for a new opening. Who should be that broker or what could bring the parties to the table in a meaningful way, more than just, you know, these regular visits is – I would be wide open for suggestions there.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Here, yeah, the gentleman.
Q: Morning, Senator. I’m Admiral Bharathan (sp), former Vice Chief of the Navy.
And I must compliment you on assessing more on the macro-positives of India-U.S. relationship and less about the micro-negatives. As we speak today, Bharath said something about Indians remembering and Americans forgetting. I like to at least say, as a guy with 40 years in the Navy, America is all about alignments and agreements. India is all about adjustments and arrangements. And that’s the fundamental difference. When I was here I always used to find this.
For example, this audience may or may not know that the United States today is the largest exporter of military stuff to India. And yet, there are irritants. And the two councils, the defense planning group as well as the defense technology trade initiative, an issue with – (inaudible) – politically – (inaudible) – pushed for the civil nuclear deal to make things happen because, as the gentleman said about issues of ITAR, a whole lot of small things which are standing in the way of really increasing the percentage of even commercial sales by 15 (percent) to 20 percent within the next three years if these address – these issues are addressed. Thank you.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: I’ll just take two more questions.
SEN. WARNER: I think it’s a valid point. I think it’s one to think through.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Yeah, over there. Thank you.
Q: Andrea Shalal with Reuters. Thank you, Senator.
I wanted to ask you about the defense relationship and the Defense, Trade and Technology Initiative. Frank Kendall is heading over there next week. Do you expect this visit, when you’re going with the president, to result in some sort of significant movement forward on that initiative? Are you expecting some big announcements? And also, we’ve seen in recent days that the India arrangement with Dassault on the Rafale fighter jet has hit the rocks again, or still. Is there any chance of reviving the U.S. offer for fighter jets to India as part of this larger attempt to get closer?
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Last question, yeah.
SEN. WARNER: I am pleased to be traveling with the President to India. I have to tell you, they’ve not clued me on all the potential announcements – (chuckles) – so my hope – I’d love to see progress on these – and it’s obviously – the jets issue is one that is – you know, I just don’t know the current status. But I do – I do believe that there will be announcements. Maybe not exactly in the space you mentioned, but I think there will be some positive announcements coming out of the trip.
Q: Can I just follow up on that? I’m Nan Viejo (ph).
I’ve seen there is quite a lot of interest by India in unmanned drones and unmanned vehicles, aerial vehicles. Is that an area – (inaudible, background noise) – the U.S. is taking seriously? Or do you think that their concerns about technology transfers are too great?
SEN. WARNER: As someone who has been – you know, the short answer could be: I’m not sure. But let me just say that the – as somebody who did fairly well in the cellphone industry and saw wireless transform, I think unmanned aerial systems, as we think about them in a broad way beyond the kind of defense intel areas, there’s huge, huge opportunities. And you know, Virginia’s one of the six states that got the ability to have a test site. I’ve been disappointed that the FAA has not moved quicker on that.
The circumstance is, though, that this is going to be a space, obviously, where other countries are moving very quickly too. And if the Indians can’t find a partner with the United States, they’ll find one somewhere else. So my hope is this would be an area that could be, you know, looked at. I don’t – but I don’t have any idea about the current state of play.
Q: Afternoon. My name is Puneet Ahluwalia. I’m with the U.S.-India Importers’ Council. Our main focus is to increase a footprint of U.S. industry and companies in India.
I would like to address an important issue, which is: How can we make a road map of free trade agreement where we can identify hundreds of products which, as the gentleman said, is basically constrained by the red tape both here and in India? If you can target that, at least that would be one way to move forward to emphasize that we can help made in the USA, also in partnership with made in India. That’s one aspect.
And the second thing is that if we can also create a free trade zone in Virginia itself to partner with U.S. – Indian companies to export to other nations in South America, because as you yourself said, that we have the innovation, we have the technology, we have the ideas – and most importantly we have the funding, which is not available in India. Most people look at a return on investment. If we can lay out a true trade partnership, then this relationship is not going to be courted by China or by Russia, because they don’t have what we have. Thank you.
SEN. WARNER: Again, interesting idea. Clearly, the FDI issue, if the Prime Minister would continue to move forward on that, that helps. But the notion of looking at – I’ve not really thought through the idea of a trade agreement on a certain number of products. So I’d – if you’ve got more information on that, I’d be happy to get –
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The gentleman back there.
Q: Thank you. It’s Dana Marshall with Transnational Strategy Group.
The sensitivity of a third party, such as the United States, getting involved in helping to promote India and Pakistan relations is pretty well-known. So I have sort of a two-part question, though, for you, Senator. One is, what latitude do you think that President Obama may have to get involved in that when he’s at the Republic Day, given what Harlan was saying regarding greater tensions now?
But the second piece of it was sort of moving into the economic and commercial side. There was a lot of feeling – positive feeling with the election of both in the Pakistan and the Indian governments that economic trade investment relations would be a driving force bringing the countries together. That seems to have stalled. And there’s a lot of detail we don’t need to get into now. There were a lot of ideas as well on enhancing trade investment. Is it – would it be appropriate for the president, for the delegation, to encourage some further movement on the trade investment relationship as a way to try to bring the countries a bit closer together?
SEN. WARNER: So much for – I never thought I’d look for the day to come back to ask U.S. budget questions, but that one is a – you know, a challenging point. I think it is – my hope is that the President’s visit on Republic Day to India will be as successful as the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States was. So trying to make sure that we – especially at this moment of renewal of this relationship, I think we need to have – we need to focus on the areas where there is possibility for great success. What takes place individually between the two leaders, you know, I won’t be in the room.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The gentleman there and then, yeah.
Q: Thanks so much. Nelson Garcia from the Washington Intergovernmental Professional Group and a constituent of yours in Alexandria.
Somebody mentioned earlier about the issue of an alliance. The United States would obviously like to consider India as an ally, if not a potential ally. But I don’t necessarily get the sense that the Indians necessarily feel that way about the United States. A lot of that goes back to the history of the Cold War and how we sided with Pakistan during that period, and other issues along the way.
Do you have a – do you get the sense from both the BJP as well as the Congress Party, that that is a terminology or at least a relationship they would like to pursue with the United States? Or is that something that’s just too far down the road for either political party in India to consider the United States as this time?
SEN. WARNER: Nelson, I think that’s, again, a very, very fair question. I do think there has been reluctance sometimes on the Indians’ part to highlight where our strategic interests align. Part of that goes to history. Part of that goes to the role in the Non-Aligned Movement. You know, I do think I’ll take – I will take Bharath’s comments about, you know, you have – keep your old friends and make new. I do think there have been actions that the Indian delegation has even taken at the United Nations that have shown some movement there.
So I – if we can end up with the – this strategic alignment being effectuated in policy, and that doesn’t necessarily have to mean a redefinition of a term. I think at the end of the day, the goal ought to be the actions, not the language. You know, we called, you know, after the – Prime Minister Singh came, first visit with – state dinner with President Obama, there was still a lot of kind of great feelings. We’ve seen that words alone about strategic partnership and friendship, if they don’t translate into actions aren’t as important. So I’m more interested in the actions than the terminology used.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The gentleman up there.
Q: Senator, you have a very nice track record, given that 10 out 12 of your suggestions were accepted both by the president and the prime minister. It looks like both of them take your views very seriously. So when you –
SEN. WARNER: Or it might just be that we managed to align the obvious things he was going to do and claim credit for them, but –
Q: OK. (Laughter.) So when you travel with the President on Air Force One, during those 15, 16 hours of travel, what are the five things you are going to advise him? (Laughter.)
SEN. WARNER: You know, I’d love to tell you, but if I told you the next 10 things I suggest when they’re done you – we’d get rid of all the mystery, so I’m going to keep that to myself. (Laughter.)
MR. GOPALASWAMY: I’ll take the last two questions. The one is – yeah.
Q: Peter Eltsov with the National Defense University.
Senator, do you have any concerns with the political affiliation of the Prime Minister, the fact that he is a member of BJP with a nationalist agenda and with a history of violence in Gujarat, and with the fact that he was an active member of RSS, which is a much more radical Hindu nationalist organization?
SEN. WARNER: I have been pleased with both the tenor of the Prime Minister’s comments and the makeup of his Cabinet, that it brings folks, that while they may have an alignment with BJP, have, you know, much more kind of technocratic and 21st century skills. I – you know, it’s – I find people who comment on American politics – and even Americans comment on American politics sometimes get it wrong. I think in many ways the overwhelming victory that the Prime Minister had was – my sense, and from many folks I’ve talked to – an embracement of his – of his kind of energetic economic record and perspective more than any other item.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: We’ll just follow up that with a very small comment. It’s –
SEN. WARNER: Please.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: You know, after the Indian elections, when the poll was conducted about how the Indians voted, 83 percent of Indians voted for a reformist and economic agenda, and only 60 percent of them voted for an inclusivity agenda. So even Indians ranked Prime Minister Modi – they saw him as somebody who was more development focused and wanted that. That trumped anything else in India.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Bharath.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Yeah.
SEN. WARNER: I’m going to have to head off in –
MR. GOPALASWAMY: The last question? Yeah, that’s the last question.
Q: Thank you very much. Cong from Hong Kong Phoenix TV.
So, Senator, you laid out all the agendas for this year, but in answer to some of the previous questions with regards to some key issues – defense, intellectual property – you say you’re not sure, you’re willing to explore. So does the U.S. have a clear strategy plan to address these issues going to India? And –
SEN. WARNER: I don’t think I have answered that I’m not willing to explore. What I said was I wasn’t sure what the specific items that could be taken, short of a comprehensive full-bore legal agreement could be made. And that’s not an unwillingness to explore it, it’s just a lack of knowledge on my part of knowing what those specific items – those who are experts in intellectual property, I’m sure there is an existing agenda there. I just don’t – I just don’t know what those items are right now.
MR. GOPALASWAMY: So I promised the Senator for a hard stop at 2:00. And we do want him to come again, so we’ll end here at 2:00.
SEN. WARNER: (Laughs.) Well, thank you very much. And thank you, again, to the Atlantic Council. Thanks for the opportunity. (Applause.)
MR. GOPALASWAMY: Wish you all the best on your trip to India.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you.