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Corker Urges More Pragmatic Approach to Strengthen U.S.-India Relationship

Calls for Progress on Barriers to Trade and Investment, Civil Nuclear Cooperation, and Efforts to End Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON – In advance of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 8 address to a joint meeting of Congress, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for a more pragmatic approach to U.S.-India relations that will facilitate progress on outstanding differences while acknowledging overall cooperation between the two countries remains at “an all-time high”.

“We’re not as brutally honest about our relationship with India as we should be, and it benefits neither them nor us,” said Corker during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “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.”

Corker credited India for efforts to expand maritime defense cooperation with the U.S. and supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. However, he referred to a “widening expectations gap” between Washington and Delhi on promised reforms to reduce barriers to trade and investment for American firms trying to enter the Indian market.

“Prime Minister 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,” Corker said. “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.”

Specifically, Corker cited a number of road blocks discouraging U.S. investment in India, including “onerous and unreasonable” localization requirements, high tariffs, limits on foreign investment, “unparalleled bureaucratic red tape”, and “serious concerns” about the treatment of intellectual property. He also pointed to India’s lack of progress in issuing contracts for U.S. firms to initiate a civil nuclear cooperation agreement now nearly eight-years old.

As the author of the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, Corker expressed frustration over India’s failure to address its status as the country with the world’s largest enslaved population.

“How does a country like this have 12 to 14 million slaves?” Corker asked. “Do they have just zero prosecution abilities, zero law enforcement; I mean how could this happen? On that scale, it’s pretty incredible.”

For archived footage and full witness testimony of today’s hearing, click here.