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Rediff.com  » Business » US needs to bring India closer to Asia-Pacific

US needs to bring India closer to Asia-Pacific

Last updated on: April 04, 2013 13:55 IST

US Congressman Ed Royce, California Republican, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and for years was the GOP co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, has predicted that India would no longer be artificially separated from the rest of Asia, if the US undertakes a fundamental restructuring of its involved in the Asian-Pacific region.

Delivering the annual B C Lee Lecture on Asia policy at the Heritage Foundation - the leading conservative think tank in Washington, DC - Royce sad that in this regard, “It  behooves the US to encourage better integration of India into the Asia-Pacific region’s broader economic trading system.”

He argued that “we must include India, not as a counterbalance to China, but because it makes economic sense. Indeed, many have advocated a larger role for India, but few have articulated why this greater role is in India’s own self interest.”

“This is simple: economic prosperity. India is the world’s largest democracy and will soon be one of the world’s largest economies; surely its involvement in Asia will be a welcomed addition,” he said.

Royce bemoaned that “our current approach to India lacks substance. India’s participation in the East Asia Summit is more process than an accomplishment.

At the very least the US must work with India to reduce her domestic constraints to growth and increase foreign direct investment.”

“Reducing red tape, increasing the supply of electricity, improving the tax system, and strengthening the ability to enforce contracts will lift India’s ranking and spur business growth in a way that has been missing thus far.”

Royce said: “If I can risk a generalization and say that since Asia’s economy is largely based in global supply chains, then it is absolutely critical for India to develop its manufacturing sector and tap into this regional market. This is how India anchors itself in the Asia-Pacific region, and we should do what we can to help.”

He reiterated: “We must appeal to India’s own long-term interests in order to achieve success. That is why I believe the Administration must redouble its efforts to secure a US-India Bilateral Investment Treaty,” and noted, “Current negotiations are proceeding too slowly. There are important issues to resolve, and it will take a concerted effort to make progress.”

But once the BIT is firmly in place, Royce said: “The US should work with India on a free trade agreement that will foster trade between two of the largest democracies in the world.”

Royce said: “We should also work with India on high-tech visas where both of our countries jointly benefit.”

Earlier, in his remarks, the influential lawmaker highlighted his concern that in Asia, the attention was shifting away from economic prosperity to security concerns.

The lecture, named after the founder of the Samsung Group, the Byung-Chull Lee Lecture Series, according to Heritage, “celebrates Mr Lee’s visionary leadership and his commitment to Korean-US relations.”

It said: “B C Lee was well-known for his relentless pioneering spirit, and his willingness to commit to new markets even when their potential was not so apparent. It was his willingness to take risks that propelled Samsung and South Korea to the highest level of innovation and success.”

Royce said: “I believe that B C Lee would agree with me that the enduring legacy of America’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region is without a doubt, the long-term economic prosperity that is at the heart of Asia’s dynamism.”

“America’s contribution to Asia’s growth has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly in the free market and open trading system that the US helped build in the region after World War Two. As a result, many Asian countries have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, and so has the United States. Our nation is after all a Pacific Power, and as a Californian, I am particularly aware of that. For us, Asia is not the Far East, it is indeed the Near West.”

Royce acknowledged: “Of course, none of this prosperity would’ve been possible without the stability that America’s security umbrella brought to the region. But what has been the norm for generations is now starting to change. Perhaps the catalyst of this change is the perception, either rightly or wrongly, that the balance of power in Asia is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. What we are seeing is that Asia’s collective attention is gradually shifting away from economic prosperity to security concerns. Where nations used to focus on trade and commerce, now they discuss nationalism, military budgets, and even provocative behavior. Look no further than the territorial disputes in the East China and SouthChinaSeas as prime examples.”

“For these reasons,” he argued, “we must shift away from the old approach to diplomacy in Asia, which unnecessarily divided the region and separated economic engagement from our political engagement. The old way of doing business is not only cumbersome but it is becoming less relevant. We must somehow find a way to reinvigorate our engagement in Asia not for fear that we may be left out, but rather, we must engage so that we can once again move the focus squarely back to economic prosperity.”

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC