WASHINGTON: The Trump administration wants the Indian government to swiftly condemn the acts of violence based on religion and hold the perpetrators accountable, a top official told lawmakers here, underlining that this will help boost India’s security and economic interests and strengthen India-US ties.
In its engagements with India, the Trump administration will continue to highlight the importance of preserving a diverse and inclusive society, Alice G Wells, Senior Bureau Official for South and Central Asian Affairs told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation in a prepared statement on Wednesday.
The sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing “US Interests in South Asia and the FY 2020 Budget” on Thursday.
In her prepared statement submitted to the Congressional sub-committee, Wells told the lawmakers that India’s Constitution provides strong protections for fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom.
“We look to India’s democratically elected leaders and institutions to swiftly condemn acts of violence on the basis of religion and hold perpetrators accountable. This will help further India’s security and economic interests and strengthen our bilateral relationship,” Wells said.
“We took note of PM (Narendra) Modi’s comments following his re-election, highlighting his government’s commitment to inclusiveness,” she said in her prepared remarks.
Noting that India’s role in the Indo-Pacific is underpinned by its large and growing economy, she said the two-way trade with India is rapidly increasing, expanding 12.6 percent last year to USD 142 billion.
The US goods and services trade deficit with India was USD 24.3 billion in 2018, down 11.2 percent from 2017.
“We want to continue to grow our trade relationship with India, but in a fair and reciprocal manner. Tariff and non-tariff barriers have been the subject of longstanding concern, and we are working with India to address market access challenges,” she told the lawmakers.
The two countries are currently planning for the next 2+2 later this year, which will provide an important opportunity to deepen further the security and regional cooperation, including on pending defense deals, maritime security, and additional defense enabling agreements, she said.
Wells said India has a pre-eminent role in the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific vision.
“In May, India held the largest election in the history of the world. We congratulate India on its free and fair election, and Prime Minister Modi on his decisive victory. In his congratulatory call to the Prime Minister, President Trump reiterated his commitment to strengthening US-India ties. In doing so, we will be building on several shared successes in the past year,” she said.
“We launched the 2+2 ministerial dialogue last September, for example, and signed a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) to improve defence cooperation and interoperability,” she added.
“The Department of Commerce granted strategic trade authorisation tier 1 status enabling American companies to export more high-technology items under a streamlined licensing process. The US is also planning our first ever tri-service exercise with India later this year, which will involve all of our respective military services,” Wells said.