U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue Held in Washington, D.C.

The inaugural U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue took place in Washington, D.C. between June 1 and June 4. The dialogue led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Minister for External Affairs S.M. Krishna enabled the leaders to hold in-depth discussions on global and regional issues including talks about high technology trade, science & technology, civil nuclear cooperation, agriculture, human resource development, security and other strategic issues.

During her opening statement Sec. Clinton urged India to open up their economy and ease caps on foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. Specifically, Sec. Clinton asked India to ease caps on investment markets. Businesses in the U.S. are eager to invest in the retail sector, but government FDI restrictions are proving to be a hindrance. While the U.S. wish list includes easing FDI caps, Krishna, in turn, asked that the U.S. loosen export controls and increase cooperation in the high technology sector.

Expanding high technology trade between the two countries remains an important issue for India—last year alone the two countries logged $66 billion in trade—more than 10 times the trade level in 1990. The U.S. and India are expected to put FDI caps, export controls, and high technology access toward the top of the list as the two countries continue to work together.

During the strategic dialogue session, Minister Krishna and Sec. Clinton, though encouraged by signs of global economic recovery, recognized that the recovery is fragile and requires sustained international support, including through concerted efforts by G-20 countries and continuing openness in trade policies and promoting innovation and growth.

They also highlighted the accelerated work under the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) led by the U.S. Trade Representative and India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry. One key result was the signing of a ‘Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment’ in March 2010, which is expected to contribute to realizing the further potential in bilateral trade and investment, supporting job creation in both countries.

Upon conclusion of the session, Minister Krishna emphasized that the two countries had a very good exchange of views on reforms not necessary only in the international economic architecture, but also in the global political and security architecture, including the UN Security Council, so as to reflect contemporary global realities. He went onto say “in each of these areas, there is immense opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation that will make a significant contribution toward creating jobs and prosperity in both countries.”

Indian and U.S. cabinet secretaries and ministers will meet in Washington on June 22 with members of the U.S.-India CEO Forum to hear recommendations on specific steps the two governments can take to expand trade and investment. This in turn will lay the ground for President Barack Obama’s first ever visit to India, possibly in November this year.