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IDSA Scholars Interactions with Congressional Staff

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  • July 01, 2014

    On July 1, 2014, a group of senior Congressional Staff visited IDSA for a briefing and interaction with scholars. The discussion covered a wide range of issues pertaining to India-US relations, regional security issues and other pressing foreign policy issues. Such interactions are generally efforts to educate US Congress on issues relating to India as well as India-US relations.

    The IDSA participants briefed the delegation on important issues of energy, defence, technology transfer, nuclear liability, and trade and investment. The congressional staffers were also briefed on India’s security environment pertaining to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, China and other security issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, maritime security challenges, and the emerging trends in the Indo-Pacific. The issues of energy, nuclear liability, current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear programme attracted much of the attention during the interaction.

    On energy, it was pointed out that though the energy consumption has rapidly increased, a large number continue to still live without having electricity. The growing energy challenges are also affecting India in achieving its developmental goals. India is thus competing and cooperating with a lot of countries to ensure its energy security. To meet its growing energy needs, it has made some substantial progress in renewal energy sector but that is not sufficient. Given the present energy scenario, how India is going to address its growing energy needs is a question of utmost importance. Particularly, because of the connection between India’s security policies and external security environment which affect its energy security. For instance, India has very important relationship with Iran. In fact, it is India’s second largest oil supplier and also strategically very important for India. Though India has taken a stand against Iran’s nuclear programme in line with international community, the ongoing crisis over it and the sanctions has been affecting India’s energy imports from it. Iraq is another largest supplier of oil to India but the unfolding of current crisis has raised serious concerns as well. In this context, it was highlighted that the Shale Gas revolution in the US is extremely important for India. However, the two sides need to speed up their negotiations to further enhance their cooperation in this field. On civil nuclear cooperation, it was broadly pointed out that despite existing Indian nuclear liability law there are ways to enhance cooperation by addressing the concerns over it.

    On the India-US defence cooperation, it was highlighted that in the last three years India-US defence forces have conducted over fifty joint military exercises, including ‘Malabar’ naval exercise. Besides, defence trade between the two countries have increased significantly. India has bought over ten billion dollar defence equipment such as C17, P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft from the US in recent past. It was underlined that while India is regarded as a ‘lynchpin’ in the US rebalancing strategy towards the Indo-Pacific region, it, however is not clear what exactly the strategy means, what are its limits, how far the US is committed to the defence and security of its allies and partners, etc. While some point out this strategy is primarily driven by economic and political dimensions, others see it purely from military dimension which aims at maintaining balance of power in the region. Though the US military strategy has been taking shape, the sudden rise of conflicts in the greater Middle East region has led to the shifting of its focus towards this region again. Nonetheless, it is expected that India-US defence cooperation is most likely to grow in coming years, including in the field of defence technology transfer, joint research & development, and co-production.

    It was highlighted that there is rapidly shifting of balance of power in the world and the rise of China has implications for both India and the US. So far as India’s relations with China are concerned, China is an important neighbour of India and the fundamental foreign policy principle of India is to engage China but with a caution. While economic relations between the two countries has grown rapidly, there are significantly problems exist, including the border problem. Besides, the security issues involving China’s military modernisation, its aggressive military posture in South China Sea, and its growing maritime footprints in Indian Ocean Region are increasing concerns for Asian countries as well as for India. In general, though the overall US foreign policy towards South Asia, South East Asia and Middle East effect India, the direction of Sino-US relationship is a major concern for India.

    The issue of Afghanistan also attracted attention during the interaction. It was noted that a swift transition is taking place in Afghanistan which requires continued attention from international community for at least next one decade in establishing a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Last ten years of international communities engagement with Afghan cause is very encouraging, but it is now dwindling down because of the rise of domestic issues in the US and the Europe. It was stressed that the failure of Afghanistan will have disastrous consequences for the entire regional security, including the areas spanning from Central Asia to Mediterranean. In this regard, the case of Iraq was cited as clear evidence. So far as Pakistan is concerned, they have the taste of their own medicine. It has been raising the militant forces particularly against India and also against Afghanistan. It has been using Afghanistan as its strategic depth. At this junction, these forces are harming Pakistan as well. They are now unleashing their forces everywhere. Pakistani Army has taken a stand and engaging them in the tribal areas. However, this will not be easy for Pakistan Army to handle these forces. As the immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and Pakistan, India has been grappling with these security problems over the years. India-Afghanistan relations, including the trade and commerce relations are major victim of this. It was therefore emphasised the greater necessity of continued international attention to this region, especially in nudging the Pakistan in the right direction.

    In addition, given India’s deep strategic interests in the West Asia, India is worried about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. The rise of terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda and ISIS are matters of serious concern for the region as well as for India. The continuing instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq will give fillip to such groups. There is need of regional and international cooperation to address the threat of terrorism as well as the current crisis in Iraq. It was strongly believed that development of a more inclusive and secular Iraq government would serve the interests of all Iraqi people and also the region.

    Finally, it was expressed that the emergence of India as a world power will have positive impact on Asia’s peace and security which is very critical to American foreign policy interests in the region and beyond. India, however, needs to play a leadership role in Asia. In this regard, suggestions were made that the US must help India in at least three key areas: innovation and technology, establishing indigenous defence industry, and mitigating the challenge of energy security which will significantly help India’s rise. It was noted that this will be critical for India’s rise as well as for the progress of India-US relations.

    Congressional Staff Participants:
    Ms. Reva B. Price, Director, Outreach, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
    Mr. Thomas S. Kahn, Staff Director, House Committee on Budget
    Mr. Robert Saul Lattin, Policy Analyst, Deputy Director, Communications, House Foreign Affairs Committee
    Mr. Yuri Rega Beckelman, Legislative Director, Congressman Mark Takano
    Mr. Mathew Steven Weiner, Legislative Director, Congresswoman Susan Davis
    Ms. Jessica Maren Schwartz, Legislative Director, Congressman Steve Israel
    Mr. Michael Damast Fleischman, Legislative Director, Congresswoman Grace Meng
    Mr. Evan Nathan Polisar, Press Secretary, Legislative Assistant, Congressman Alcee Hastings
    Ms. Lauren Helene Shapiro, Legislative Assistant, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
    Ms. Elizabeth Stuart Leibowitz, Legislative Correspondent, Congressman Robert Brady

    IDSA Participants:
    DG, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta
    DDG, IDSA, Brig Rumel Dahiya (Retd)
    Dr Ashok Behuria, Research Fellow, IDSA
    Ms Shebonti Ray Dadwal, Research Fellow, IDSA
    Dr Jagannath Panda, Research Fellow, IDSA
    Prof S.D. Muni, Distinguished Fellow, IDSA
    And, a number of other IDSA and visiting scholars

    Report Prepared by Dr Saroj Bishoyi, Researcher, IDSA, New Delhi