WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following remarks during the nomination hearing for Kenneth Ian Juster to serve as U.S. ambassador to India.
“Mr. Juster, it’s a pleasure to welcome you here today. We’re glad that you’re the nominee to be our next ambassador to India.
“As the two largest democracies in the world, the United States and India share a strategic interest in promoting and maintaining stability in the region.
“Just last week, Secretary Mattis met with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi, underscoring the importance of our two countries’ growing security cooperation.
“As these talks highlighted, the United States and India continue to work closely together to promote stability and economic development in Afghanistan, confront terrorist threats and preserve freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
“In recent years, the United States and India have partnered together with regional players, including Japan and Australia, to address regional and global differences.
“These partnerships are critical to preserving rule-of-law principles that form the basis for economic and political stability throughout the region.
“Nearly a decade ago, the U.S.-India civil-nuclear agreement was heralded as the beginning of a new era in our relationship.
“While there has been steady progress in relations between Washington and Delhi, the aspirational nature of the civil-nuclear deal has left both countries struggling to meet unrealistic expectations. I know we talked at length about that yesterday.
“In particular, I remain frustrated by the slow pace of Indian reforms in the economic sphere.
“American companies continue to face barriers to Indian market access, including high tariffs and strict localization policies.
“The companies that are able to enter the Indian market often encounter compulsory licensing requirements and lax intellectual property protections.
“The foreign investment environment remains unpredictable and even large-scale contracts are subject to alteration or cancellation without cause.
“Clearly, the economic playing field is not even.
“Additionally, the space for civil society in India continues to shrink as Hindu nationalism rises and international NGOs face undue scrutiny.
“I also remain concerned about the scale of India’s human trafficking problem, including bonded labor. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report ranks India as a Tier 2 [country], citing the government’s record of investigations and prosecutions as being ‘disappointingly low’.
“Mr. Juster, you will be in a unique position to shape the U.S.-India relationship for the coming years.
“It will be important to continue progress on security cooperation, including in new areas like North Korea, as you seek a level playing field for American companies.
“I urge you to pursue an open and candid dialogue with our Indian counterparts about the roadblocks in our relationship.
“The time is long overdue for breaking the cycle of expectation and disappointment, and I look forward to hearing your vision for ‘normalizing’ U.S.-India relations.
Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.