Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 5
The outgoing US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster on Tuesday suggested that over the next five years, India and the US should jointly draw red lines in the maritime domain.
“Our mission over the next five years and beyond should be to give this (Quad) endeavor further form and substance–to develop guidelines and, if necessary, even redlines,” he observed while speaking at a webinar.
The US envoy was not convinced that Indian economic reforms based on Aatmanirbhar Bharat policy were enough to attract US firms from China. “It remains to be seen whether all of these policies are compatible and mutually reinforcing, or whether they will lead to higher tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade,” he said.
Juster admitted to “frictions and frustrations” on the trade and investment front and the inability of both countries to conclude “even a small trade package”. Moreover, there were growing restrictions in India on market access for certain US goods and services, increasing tariffs, new limitations on the free flow of data, and a less-than-predictable regulatory environment for investors, complained the US Ambassador.
Suggesting that India should not be fixated on the price of the imported military equipment, he suggested that defence procurement should be about quality and strategic interoperability across services – and “perhaps even with other friendly forces”.
Juster is expected to leave India over the next week. His shifting had become imminent after Donald Trump lost the US Presidential elections and the Biden administration will bring in a replacement more in sync with its thinking.
Juster pointed out that India and the US have increased interoperability between the military services with common equipment such as Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, M777 ultra-lightweight artillery and high end military transport and P-8i maritime reconnaissance. Both have also adapted their internal institutions to this regional orientation.
“And we have come to a consensus on the geographical contours of this region –stretching from the shores of the East Coast of Africa to the West Coast of the US,” he added.
Making a case for a deeper Indian involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, Juster said over 50 per cent of international trade passes through its waters, rich in natural resources and fast becoming the center of gravity of the evolving international system.
“The region needs stability, leadership, and a democratic model for development that does not threaten the sovereignty of other countries. This is why a strong and democratic India is an important partner to promote peace and prosperity,” he suggested.
“The US and India both recognise that much of the Indo-Pacific region –if not the world –is depending on our efforts,” he said.