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Posted at: Oct 22, 2015, 12:35 AM; last updated: Oct 21, 2015, 11:10 PM (IST)

‘We support India’s rise as a global player’

‘We support India’s rise as a global player’
The US Ambassador to India, Richard Rahul Verma, is the first person of Indian origin, with roots in Punjab, to be nominated to this post.

In his first interview after last month's Modi-Obama meet, the US Ambassador to India, Richard Rahul Verma dropped by at The Tribune office in Chandigarh the other day and spoke on various bilateral issues. The first Indian-American envoy to India with roots in Punjab, Verma dwelt on the US intentions behind talking up India as a “net provider of security” in the region and the economic cobwebs that India has to still sort out. Following are excerpts from Verma’s interview with Vijay Mohan and Sandeep Dikshit:

Each time Indian and US leaders meet, there is a lot of talk about India becoming a “net provider of security in the region”. In other words, India should be the local policeman of the region. How much has India progressed down that path?

We have had a strategic and security partnership for 10 years. It is now getting better and bigger. We have started referring to it as “Strategic Plus” because we are working in more areas and in more ways. In January, both the countries signed the document,“Joint Strategic Vision for Asia Pacific.” This  was intended to uphold the rule of law, keep sea lanes open, resolve disputes peacefully, combat piracy and check the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is a big step forward. We are now working on building up what that the vision statement means in terms of strategic initiatives. We very much support India’s rise as a global strategic, economic and political player. It is very much in India's interest.

For some years, India has been insisting on transfer of technology and joint manufacturing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken frequently on the subject. Is there any progress on this?

Defence cooperation and co-development is very significant as it has evolved from simple sales and procurement to a stage where we are talking of developing and building things together and undertaking joint research. Only two very close partners would do that. Look at the areas we are cooperating in, like the development of an aircraft carrier. An Indian naval delegation went to the US to discuss carrier cooperation. Later, naval aviators were hosted onboard an American aircraft carrier. The other areas of cooperation are jet engine development, protective gear for troops and electric hybrid-power technologies for the armed forces. This notion of integrating our military complexes is very important.

The Indian and US armed forces have held countless joint exercises. Is all this activity leading somewhere?

The complexities and intensity is increasing. These are not just power-point instructions by one side, saying how it does things and the other side saying how it operates. These, in a way, have not been seen before. That's critically important.

We have seen this played out in humanitarian operations in Yemen and Nepal. Even in the contested spaces, which we are concerned about, like space, maritime domain, cyberspace, etc., we can ensure that goods and services flow freely and people are able to live peacefully.

I am very optimistic and excited about where our strategic relationship is headed and it goes well with India being a “net provider of security in the region”.

There is this notion that the four areas identified for technology transfer in defence are at the low end. 

These are very sophisticated discussions and I have not seen any reluctance to collaborate. We do have certain export-control regulations but they are being reformed. We have liberalised a number of those, in addition to working towards reducing barriers on both sides.

Quite a few years have passed but India’s membership to the four export control organisations remains elusive.

We have been working very hard in this arena, particularly in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and will continue to do so. It is only a matter of time before India is admitted to these groups. These are consensus groups and we need to get the consensus.

There seems to be a Russia-China-Pak trilateral developing. How does this impact the India-US ties? 

The US-India relationship stands on its own. If you look at all the areas we are cooperating in — 30 different working groups, 80 different initiatives and how broad-based they are. If you think about us coming together to build modern defence products of the future, if you look at the students going back and forth — we are building what I have called an alliance for global prosperity. We will work together and when we are close, that has a great impact on other parts of the world. Fankly, our relationship is a model for others to look towards.

What has happened so far on the Indo-US front with regard to space, which is an emerging area for collaboration? 

We just had the space dialogue, which mapped out future collaborations and programmes. Our cooperation, particularly on the Mars Mission was important. India will be launching a NASA satellite, which is a big deal. We will be doing a lot more in low-orbit activity like weather forecasting and monsoon prediction as well as in deep-space exploration. We will see a lot more in this field in the coming years.

There seems to be little progress as far as the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) goes. 

BIPA is a tool to increase investor confidence on both sides. We have been talking about it for a long time but haven't been working on it for as long as people think. In other words, the US took a while in coming up with a revised model BIPA; the Indian side spent some time working on a revised BIPA. 

In fact, we are still working on it. If we can sit down and narrow the gaps to start meaningful negotiations, it would have a lot of impact.

What are the economic cobwebs that still have to be removed?

We are working on the ease of indicators—legal certainty, tax certainty and reducing the regulatory burden. There is some progress. We will keep working on that. Expanding this kind of economic opportunity and growth provides real opportunities to people at all level.

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