Celebrating 75 Years of U.S.-India Partnership

Over the past 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.

This year, we celebrate 75 years of Indian Independence, and of diplomatic relations between the two largest democracies and market economies in the world. In those 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.

While today our relationship is characterized by convergence, in the mid-20th century, the bilateral relationship was strained by the logic of a Cold-War geopolitical landscape and India’s experiments with an import-substitution development pathway. Bilateral trade was minimal, and the contours of the relationship were need-based.

However, even in those days, there was a vision that the U.S. and India were destined for greater cooperation. With the Indo-Pakistan War presenting a historical low-point to U.S.-India relations in the 1970’s, there was a recognition by both governments that the commercial relationship would need to pull the diplomatic, that the business community—as it often does—needed to lead.

That’s why in 1975, the U.S. and Indian Governments urged the formation of the U.S.-India Business Council to forge stronger trade and investment ties that could serve as the foundation of a productive partnership. The Council’s formation is the embodiment of the optimism that underpins this relationship. In the 47 years of our operation—and especially in the last three decades—we’ve seen tremendous development of our commercial and strategic partnership, and the increasing interdependence of the latter and former.

In 1991, India dismantled the License Raj (a baroque system of commercial licenses and permits), navigated its balance of payments crisis, and began lowering import tariffs

In 2007, Australia, India, Japan and the United States initiated the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

In 2008, the U.S. and India launched the Civil Nuclear Agreement and the U.S.-India CEO forum

In 2016, the U.S. and India signed the foundational defense agreements, committing to cooperation on logistics, secure communication, and geospatial intelligence

During my tenure at USIBC, I’ve been one of the first to taste sweet India-sourced alphonso mangos on U.S. soil; proudly watched as U.S. pharmaceutical and insurance companies deepened their investments in India as FDI rules were liberalized; and walked with Indian executives and American governors as they visited potential manufacturing sites for lasting Indian investments into the United States. In the past 20 years, India’s FDI flows have expanded 20 times and the U.S. contributes to 18% percent of them.

As our commercial ties have strengthened, so has our relationship as strategic partners. U.S.-India defense trade has increased from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in the last decade; today India is characterized as a major defense partner and net security provider in the Indo-Pacific.

During the pandemic, I participated in the unprecedented cooperation between the U.S. and India on global vaccination and pandemic relief. I still remember those early days when a group of global CEOs watched as the second wave of COVID unfolded in India, and I witnessed their determination to help.  Again, business was leading the way. I saw our members mobilize over $46 million to assist India in its COVID-19 response. The USIBC team was proud to facilitate the logistics around the delivery and installation of 1,000 ventilators, procured by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. India donated 1.8 million units of lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment to the United States in our time of need – a true signal that we depend on each other.

The U.S.-India economic corridor has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed focus to expand that spirit of cooperation across sectors, and the past two years have seen both sides double down on our partnership for the global good.

In 1949, just two years after Indian Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told U.S. President Truman:

“I trust that these two republics of the Western World & the Eastern World will find many ways of working together in friendly and fruitful cooperation to our mutual advantage, and for the good of humanity.”

Seventy-five years after Indian Independence, I think you will agree that Prime Minister Nehru’s vision has been realized—the U.S.-India partnership is one of global good. I am the wife of Indian American—fondly called a “Bahu” at home; just like any good family relationship, there have been times of ease and times of strain between our partner nations, but throughout our difficulties we have remained committed to one another, and to a convergent economic agenda that has benefitted our 1.7 billion people.

This is an opportune time to reflect upon and celebrate what the U.S. and India have achieved in our 75-year relationship, and how we can maximize the next 75 years of our partnership for global good. That’s why we’ve chosen the theme of our 47th India Ideas Summit and Annual General Meeting to be Maximizing the Next 75 Years of U.S.-India Prosperity.

I hope you will join me and the rest of USIBC in congratulating India on 75 years of Independence, in reflecting on the importance of our maturing trade and commercial ties, and in celebrating the ideas, the innovations, and the intrepid spirit of our peoples at the USIBC Annual Meeting and Ideas Summit September 6-7. We have made tremendous progress together, but if the last 75 years is any indication, we are just getting started.

(This blog is the first in a series of pieces that highlight the benefits of U.S.-India economic relations, published by U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

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