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Senator Warner First 100 Day U.S.-India plan
The world watched as Indians turned out in historic numbers to vote for change. More than 537
million Indians cast their ballots in the recent elections – 66% of eligible voters. Conducting a
free and fair election in the world’s largest democracy with such a diverse population is a historic
accomplishment and one which should be celebrated.
The United States and India share a unique bilateral relationship. As the world’s oldest and
largest democracies there are many areas in which our strategic interests combine, and when we
find ways to cooperate and work together both of our countries benefit. The historic and
sweeping election that has made Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India is a testament to a
thriving democracy and a signal that the people of India are ready for economic growth and
The beginning of any new democratically elected administration provides reason for optimism
and presents a window of time in which to usher in change to move a nation forward. In 1933,
President Roosevelt pioneered the idea of an action plan for the first 100 days of his presidency.
His actions during those days pushed 15 pieces of legislation through Congress and set the stage
for America’s New Deal, leading to one of the fastest periods of GDP growth in history.
I believe we have an opportunity, in the early days of the new Indian administration, to refresh
the U.S.-India relationship and work cooperatively to make progress that will benefit both of our
countries. As a co-chair of the U.S. Senate India Caucus for several years, I have been working
with U.S. and Indian government officials and business leaders to address important issues for
both countries, including education, skills development, infrastructure and energy.
However, over the last 18-24 months, the relationship lacked a catalyst. With this month’s
historic Indian election, we can harness the enthusiasm of the Indian people to boost our
partnership. We can use the first 100 days to move from dialogue to action and build a path
forward for more ambitious cooperation.
There are many areas where a partnership between our countries would serve goals on both
sides, and if the respective administrations choose just two or three deliverables to shoot for in
the first 100 days, we could provide the business community on both sides a new optimism that
we can work together and get things done. This list is not all encompassing, but is a menu of
initiatives that are ripe for action:
Modify the defense offset regime:
The Government of India’s Defence Procurement Procedures mandate that purchase
of U.S. equipment require 30% of contract value be invested in Indian defense, civil
aviation or homeland security industries. Much of the Indian offset market is
saturated, and American defense firms increasingly find it difficult to locate areas to
invest. It would be helpful to have a two-tiered system where offset funds that cannot
be spent on traditional Indian defense industries could flow to a second tier of other
Indian priorities such as education, skills development, or manufacturing.
Agree to build community colleges in India:
In 2010, India signed multiple agreements to partner with U.S. community colleges
and announced a plan to establish 100 schools to meet its goal of training 500 million
Indians in basic skills over the next decade. However, the project became mired in
the bureaucracy and was weighed down by its level of ambition. An agreement to
construct just a few community colleges and then build upon that success could be
Lift the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) caps in one of the sectors under review:
Lifting caps in some of the sectors that have been under discussion for years would be
a positive signal to foreign firms that India was again “open for business.”
Specifically, defense, insurance, railways, e-commerce and banking sectors are ripe
Announce new electronic payment systems:
Originally proposed by Senator Warner to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in
2012, an electronic payment system to deliver benefits and subsidy payments to the
rural poor would provide a much greater degree of accuracy and efficiency, and this
technology could reduce the loss rate due to corruption and inefficiencies.
Name a senior official for defense trade:
The U.S. should name a senior-level official who reports directly to the Secretary of
Defense to lead the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative. Under Ash Carter’s
leadership this was one of the most successful programs and helped shepherd billions
of dollars of defense deals through the pipeline as well as clearing out inefficiencies
on both sides of the U.S.-India defense trade to make defense trade simpler, more
responsive, and more effective.
Review tourist visa policies and access to high skill visas:
The U.S. should conduct a review of visa policies with an eye toward further opening
of global entry and trusted traveler programs for frequent travelers, including business
leaders and investors. A review of policies for high-skill employees would help
ensure companies in both countries have access to talent to help U.S. companies and
the American economy grow and innovate and encourage more joint research and
cooperation between universities. An agreement to increase travel and tourism
between the two countries would increase more people to people interaction.
India and U.S.
Announce a joint energy project:
India’s power requirements currently outstrip available supply, and as the economy
continues to grow, more power will be required. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat,
Mr. Modi oversaw the creation of over 900 MW of solar power capacity in the state,
which is more than a third of the total solar capacity in the entire country. In recent
years, wind power has also been on the rise in Gujarat. U.S. companies have off-the-
shelf technologies that can provide assistance in India and create private sector jobs in
the U.S. We already have a 2010 U.S.-India agreement in place to collaborate on
energy technology, which provides a framework to launch new projects, and given
Mr. Modi’s previous success, this would appear to be a great opportunity to work
Convene a meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue (USISD) soon, and do it in
Typically held in June, the USISD would provide an early opportunity for the U.S.
Government to engage with the new Government in India. Since the new Indian
government will just be getting started, holding the Dialogue in Delhi will be less
disruptive to organizing meetings and will provide both sides the opportunity to meet
and get to work early in the term on joint initiatives.
Hold bilateral talks on Afghanistan:
The U.S. could benefit from fully involving the new Indian Government in a post-
Afghanistan security conference. The security landscape in Afghanistan is of concern
to both countries. For India, the concern is that a U.S. withdrawal could leave a
challenging security situation nearby that could spill into India. The U.S. could seek
India’s consultation on high-level strategies, and the governments could explore areas
Propose the establishment of a public-private working group on infrastructure
Infrastructure in India presents a real opportunity. In Gujarat, Mr. Modi made
infrastructure improvements a priority, building thousands of kilometers of highways
and attracting investment to build up the country's largest modern port. For U.S.
firms, a large part of the investment opportunities for the next five years are likely to
be in infrastructure. Some American firms that have previously invested in India
have experienced difficulties with payment certainty and are shy to take the risks of
being primary developers. A public-private group could be charged with finding a
way to ensure payment security for American investment, pointing toward specific
projects where American firms can/should bid, and focusing U.S. Government
assistance to help identify American firms to play a role in this infrastructure build-
out. The Delhi-Mumbai corridor is taking shape, and it is worth asking the
Government of India to consider dedicating several commercial centers for U.S.
Re-start negotiations to achieve a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT):
India and the U.S. have meandered through several rounds of stop and start
negotiations about how to proceed with BIT. Announcing that both sides will sit
down and negotiate a framework would boost confidence that a BIT is possible. A
BIT would provide important protections for investors, help unleash needed
investment, and provide a level playing field for both countries.
Re-launch the Defense Policy Group:
This high-level dialogue has fallen dormant for two years. It previously provided a
regularly scheduled series of meetings to advance defense initiatives that were in each
country’s mutual interest and provided a platform to discuss more difficult issues.
The U.S., for its part must appoint a senior-level Pentagon official to lead the U.S.
side of the Joint Defense Trade and Technology initiative.
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