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Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "U.S.-India Relations: Balancing Progress and Managing Expectations"

Hearing: U.S.-India Relations: Balancing Progress and Managing Expectations
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman

The nature and scope of the U.S.-India relationship has changed significantly over the past couple of decades.

Indeed, political, economic and strategic cooperation between the United States and India is at an all-time high.

And there is considerable potential to further strengthen many aspects of the relationship.

For example, I am encouraged by efforts to expand U.S.-India defense and security cooperation, specifically in the maritime sphere.

As the world’s two largest democracies, it is essential that Washington and Delhi stand together to uphold democratic values, principles and norms in the Indo-Pacific, particularly as China seeks to gain greater influence in the region.

India’s positive engagement and support for peace and stability in Afghanistan is another reason for optimism.

Unquestionably, India has much to contribute to international efforts to tackle complex global challenges.

And there is little doubt that the overall trajectory of U.S.-India relations is positive. And we talked a little bit about that before the meeting, and again, we thank you for being here to testify.

But there remain a number of challenges as well, including in our economic and trade relationship.

Onerous and unreasonable localization requirements, high tariffs, limits on foreign investment and unparalleled bureaucratic red tape hinder further access to the Indian market by American businesses.

There are also serious concerns about the treatment of intellectual property in India.

Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi has made repeated statements about undertaking economic reforms and making India more hospitable for foreign investors.  And there have been some small movements in certain sectors such as defense.

However, the rhetoric has far outpaced the reforms.  Moreover, it appears that trade and investment remain principally transactional for the Indians rather than serving as indispensable tools to establishing a genuinely free-market economy.

I am concerned that the robust rhetoric has created a widening expectations gap between Washington and Delhi.

Of course, we must aspire as a government to achieve certain goals in any relationship, especially with India.  But in the case of U.S.-India relations, the hopeful rhetoric has far exceeded actual, tangible achievements.

I can think of no more poignant example than the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement. 

Nearly eight years have passed since the nuclear cooperation agreement was signed.  

And only in recent weeks have we been assured that contracts for U.S. companies are imminent.  Of course, we need to see what those contracts actually look like as well.

For these reasons, U.S.-India relations would be better served by a more sober and pragmatic approach that could go a long way toward laying the groundwork for genuine progress in areas that would be mutually beneficial to both the United States and India.

I look forward to hearing from the witness, and I thank you for being here.