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Favour India over China, say US lawmakers

Publication Date : 24-05-2014


US lawmakers and diplomats are urging the White House to shift some of its focus from Beijing to Delhi, noting both the opportunity presented by the newly elected government and the recent souring of ties with China.

Close to a dozen senators and congressmen spoke at a conference organised by the US-India Political Action Committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and in one voice called for a boost to what has thus far been an underperforming relationship.

They saw the overwhelming mandate won by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leader Narendra Modi at the recent elections as a chance to start ties off on a new footing.

Said Congressman Ed Royce, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "Now we have a new opportunity in India... We have to take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen the relationship between our two great democracies."

And while not everyone present would express it so directly, there was clearly the sentiment in the room that India now presents the best counterweight to a rising China in Asia.

"For years people said that the US-China relationship would be the key economic relationship of this century. But look at what happened this week," said Congressman George Holding, referring to the indictment of five Chinese nationals for stealing corporate secrets from US companies. "We need to make the 21st Century the Century of the US-India partnership."

Royce put it this way: "One of the things that most frustrates me is that we see seven to eight times the investment in China than in India, but the returns are better in India... Let's get the facts out that India is the place to invest. Why not invest in a place that shares our values?"

The lawmakers acknowledged that difficult reforms were needed in India but were confident that the new Modi government would be up to the task.

Perhaps the sharpest comments of the day came from Ambassador David Mulford, who was the US envoy to India from 2004 to 2009.

He said the US needs to help India build up its maritime capabilities: "India should develop its navy and we should work with them to craft a strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. In my opinion, China should be operating further east."

While the Chinese navy has focused on the East and South China seas, in February, three naval vessels held a rare exercise in the Indian Ocean.

The Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal did not bring up comparisons with China but said the US sees clear benefits of a stronger relationship with India.

"An India that is rising is an India that provides stability to the region," she said. "It's a win-win for both our countries and for the world."

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