CUTS Washington Monthly Brief
#34, January 2021
Internationalising the Spirit of Democracy
By proposing a summit for democracy, the Joe Biden administration has injected a new hope in the world which believes in democracy. Reviving the true spirit of democracy is essential at this point of time when the world is witnessing a rising number of hybrid regimes that combine elements of democracy and autocracy.

The United States and India, being the world’s longest standing and largest democracies respectively, can join hands in reviving the weakening spirit of democracy in the world. They can jointly work to safeguard the democratic resilience of a rules-based international order in the world and particularly in the fraught Indo-Pacific region. An alliance of democracies under the leadership of India and the U.S. will be effective in countering the rising imperialist and expansionist desires of China.

Biden in his 2013 address at Mumbai Stock Exchange, as then Vice President of USA, mentioned that the Indian democracy sends a strong message to the world that no nation wants to choose between freedom and development as they are not inconsistent. The shared democratic nature of both countries was always and will be an enabling factor of a strengthening bilateral relationship.

As prominent democracies of the world, both countries can jointly build up a global platform for democracies. These platforms can be effective in shaping solutions to address matters of global concern, such as climate change, terrorism, refugee and public health crises. Both countries can collaborate in strengthening plurilateral associations of democratic countries such as the Quad in the Indo-Pacific region, for enabling rules-based order in all regions of the world.

India and the U.S. can work with other democratic countries in resisting the attempts of vested interests to weaken and hijack the multilateral organisations including the United Nations, World Health Organisation, World Intellectual Property Organisation and World Trade Organisation. Similarly, joint initiatives of democratic countries should strengthen the ability of weaker and vulnerable countries to resist and counter external coercions and interferences through the snares of ‘debt trap diplomacies’.

India and the U.S. can explore the potentials of using new and innovative technologies in areas of decision making and information dissemination to enable more transparency and equity in democratic processes. Remaining as strong pluralistic democracies which protect and accommodate the interest of all, they can inspire more non democratic countries to join the league of democracy.
Pradeep S. Mehta

PS: Can a joint effort of the international community under the leadership of an Alliance of Democracies, led by U.S. and India, persuade tech giants such as Facebook and Google to protect the privacy of all citizens in the world from being purloined?

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Trade between U.S. and India drives economic growth and connectivity
Trade between India and the United States brings about both global economic growth and healthier economies across South and Central Asia. The United States and India have enjoyed a long history of bilateral trade — spanning 200 years — across a wide range of sectors. “I would submit that there is no bilateral relationship in the world that is as broad, complex, and rich in substance as that of the United States and India,” said former U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster on January 5 during his farewell address.

‘India, U.S. must create better climate for FTA negotiations’- Nisha Biswal
Formal negotiations around an India-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will not be an immediate priority for U.S. President Joe Biden, but both countries need to take measures to create a better climate to start down the path when the time comes, says U.S.- India Business Council President Nisha Biswal.
India says equalisation levy does not discriminate against any U.S. company
India said that two per cent equalisation levy (EL) does not discriminate against any U.S. company as it applies equally to all non-resident e-commerce operators, irrespective of their country of residence. The Commerce Ministry said in a release that office of U.S. Trade Representative had on January 6 released its findings on the Section 301 investigation into India's Digital Services Tax (DST) and concluded that the equalisation levy is discriminatory and restricts U.S. commerce.
India, U.S. negotiating on wide range of trade concerns: Congressional report
India and the U.S. are negotiating on a wide range of trade concerns, including greater access to the Indian market for American agricultural products, potentially in exchange for America restoring New Delhi's status under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), according to a Congressional report. President Donald Trump in 2019 terminated India's designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the key GSP trade programme after determining that it has not assured the U.S. that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets.


Biden Administration appoints Indian-Americans to key posts in Energy Dept
The Biden Administration has appointed four Indian-Americans to senior positions in the crucial Department of Energy. The administration appointed Tarak Shah as the Chief of Staff, making him the first Indian-American to serve in that position. Tanya Das has been named as the Chief of Staff to the Office of Science, Narayan Subramanian will occupy the position of Legal Adviser in the Office of General Counsel, and Shuchi Talati has been appointed as Chief of Staff in the Office of Fossil Energy.
U.S. aims to rebuild clean energy relation with India
The newly elected government of the United States of America (USA) wants to restart the clean energy programmes which were jointly being developed during former President Obama’s regime. “Between Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to the U.S. in September, 2014 and President Obama’s trip to India in January, 2015, it was a great privilege to work with my Indian counterparts in creating and expanding 15 co-operative programmes between Indian and the U.S., and we intend to rebuild that relationship,” Andrew Light, who leads the office of international affairs at the U.S. department of energy, said on Wednesday.
5 Priorities: Reenergizing the U.S.-India Climate Partnership
On day-one, the Biden-Harris Administration notified the United Nations that the United States will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, signaling serious commitment to climate action. Prioritizing the climate emergency by the new administration is an imperative to drive global ambition. No other country presents a greater opportunity for climate cooperation for the Biden-Harris Administration than India.

Indian government and the International Energy Agency signed a Framework for Strategic Partnership
The Indian government and the International Energy Agency (IEA) signed a Framework for Strategic Partnership to deepen their collaboration across a wide range of critical topics including energy security and clean energy transitions. The partnership has been described as a stepping stone towards India becoming a full member of the agency.


A strong India would act as ‘counterbalance’ to China, says declassified U.S. document
The Trump administration has declassified a sensitive document on the U.S. strategic framework for the Indo-Pacific’ from 2018. The 10-page document outlines objectives and strategies with regard to China, North Korea, India and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. With regard to India, one of the ‘desired end states’ of the U.S.’s strategy is for the U.S. to be India’s preferred partner on security issues and for the two countries to “cooperate to preserve maritime security and counter Chinese influence” in South Asia, Southeast Asia and other regions of “mutual concern”. Several sentences in the document - including in sections on India - have been redacted.

Moving into Biden era: Managing India’s strategic security
When Joe Biden was elected as the U.S. President, all doubts about major changes in American foreign policy were dismissed on the assumption that in national policies, things do not work that way. However, President Biden’s 17 acts of rolling back prominent Trump policies on the very first day could send some awkward signals about the way the new administration may view the outcome of the last four years of U.S. policies.
India, U.S. can jointly tackle regional and global challenges: India’s Foreign Ministry
India responded to a declassified U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy that envisages accelerating the country’s rise and ability to address challenges from China by saying that New Delhi and Washington can jointly tackle regional and global challenges. The outgoing Trump administration declassified the “U.S. strategic framework for the Indo-Pacific” of 2018 that committed the U.S. to accelerate India’s rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and “major defence partner”, and to bolster India’s capacities to counter challenges from China such as “border provocations”.

U.S. slams Chinese aggression against India in new defence policy law
The United States expressed “significant concern” with Chinese aggression along the border with India in a defence policy law passed by the Senate, completing a Congressional override of President Donald Trump’s veto of the legislation. “Continued military aggression by the government of China along the border with India is a significant concern,” says the $740 billion National Defence Authorisation Act 2021 (NDAA).


‘The Biden presidency will not materially affect U.S.-India ties’, Kanwal Sibal
Joseph Biden takes oath as the 46th President of the U.S. this week after an unprecedented election. Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal says the Biden presidency will not “materially" affect ties with India. Elements of India’s Atmanirbhar (self-reliance) policy have been a cause for concern but these doubts could be removed with greater clarity from India on how it intends to proceed with this programme, he says.
India has been a bipartisan success story, says U.S. Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken
In a way endorsing the India policy of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, a top  Biden Administration official said India has been a bipartisan success story of successive American administrations. “India has been a bipartisan success story of our successive administrations,” Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken told members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing. Responding to a Senator's question during his marathon confirmation hearing that lasted more than four hours, Blinken said this relationship started towards the end of the Clinton administration.

U.S.-India: Ambition & achievement: We coordinate closely on defence. We need the same ambition in the economic sphere- Kenneth Juster
There is no bilateral relationship in the world that is as broad, complex, and rich in substance as that of the United States and India. We cooperate on defence, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, trade, investment, energy, the environment, health, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and so much more. While our strategic partnership has been on an upward trajectory over the last two decades, the past four years stand out as a time of ambition and achievement.
The Biden Administration
Hopes and Aspirations for Indo-U.S. Relations
The U.S. and India being the oldest and largest democracies respectively, the future of their bilateral relations will depend upon how the Biden administration can carry forward the legacy of its Democratic and Republican predecessors in deepening the relationship. Having a track record of steering the Indo-U.S. Civil Nuclear Deal and worked with the President Obama in taking the relationships to the higher levels, there remains hopes and aspirations for greater partnerships, not just between the two countries, but for ensuring a rules-based Indo-Pacific which is ‘the’ imperative for a balanced global order for underlining peace, security, stability and prosperity. This third edition of the ONW continues to reflect upon the opinions and suggestions from various experts and intellectuals, along with the new developments.