Over the past ten years, India, the world’s largest democracy, has lifted more than 130 million people out of poverty. The country has rebounded from a recent economic growth slump, surpassing China this year to become the world’s fastest-growing major economy. India is growing steady and its growth has affected the 1.2 billion people and economies around the world. Realizing this new phase in India’s growth, a new Independent Task Force report sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Working With a Rising India: A Joint Venture for the New Century.
“A rising India offers one of the most substantial opportunities to advance American national interests over the next two decades,” states the report. “If India can maintain its current growth rate, let alone attain sustained double digits, it has the potential over the next two to three decades to follow China on the path to becoming another $10 trillion economy,” notes the Task Force.
With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s prioritization of economic growth and foreign policy revitalization, the country now has a window of opportunity to either make the necessary reforms or risk being left behind. “[India] will have to decide whether it wants to become a major part of global trade flows and deeply integrated into global supply chains. Doing so would boost India’s efforts to grow its manufacturing sector and its economy; choosing not to will make that ambition harder to achieve.”
Because India does not seek an alliance with the United States and closely guards its policy independence, U.S.-India relations will not resemble those Washington has with its conventional allies. For that reason, the Task Force recommends that “U.S. policymakers [should] explicitly emphasize a ‘joint-venture’ model for U.S.-India relations, focused on a slate of shared pursuits on which interests converge—and with clear mechanisms for coordinating and managing the known and expected disagreements.”
The bipartisan Task Force was chaired by Charles R. Kaye, co-chief executive officer of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus and former chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council, and Joseph S. Nye Jr., distinguished service professor and former dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. Directed by CFR Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia Alyssa Ayres, the Task Force is composed of sixteen prominent experts from government, academic, nonprofit, and other sectors.
The Task Force also finds that U.S. and Indian policymakers should consider the following:
“To reduce the chances of conflict that could delay or hinder India’s global rise, the United States should encourage India to improve its relationship with Pakistan—as an investment in its own rise—particularly, at least to start, through greater trade connectivity.”
The drawdown of U.S. and other external forces in Afghanistan is fueling India’s concerns about regional instability. “The Task Force recommends that the United States extend its commitment to Afghanistan—even beyond President Obama’s decision to slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and retain a force of some 5,000 U.S. troops in the country into 2017.”
“The Task Force finds that for India to realize its ambitions, for its society as well as its economy, it will need to tackle barriers that hold back women and girls.” A recent McKinsey Global Institute study found that increased economic parity for women could add 0.7 trillion to 2.9 trillion dollars in gains.
The Task Force recommends “raising the priority of economic ties with India to the very top of the U.S.-India bilateral agenda, working to develop U.S. support for Indian economic growth, and collaborating actively with India to envision a more ambitious economic goal for Washington and New Delhi with a pathway to get there.” It calls for transforming economic relations in the way defense and strategic cooperation was recast over the past decade.
While the United States and India have substantial shared interests in several global issues, the Task Force identifies four specific areas for joint ventures: the cyber domain, global health, climate change and clean energy, and democracy. “In cybersecurity and in global health, India has advanced technical capabilities and large, highly capable talent pools with experience working seamlessly with American partners, as has been demonstrated in the private sectors of IT and medical industries.”
In addition, the Task Force recommends that the U.S. government, building on the consultation and increasing levels of interaction of recent years, “invest further attention to the security relationship with India across the entire spectrum. Homeland security and counterterrorism cooperation should receive added emphasis.”