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News Releases on Asia

December 11, 2000

December 11, 2000 | News Releases on Asia

Heritage Analysts Say U.S. Should Work With India—Slowly

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2000--The world's two largest democracies-the United States and India-should work to create closer ties, but not at the expense of American security and free trade interests, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

Seeking a greater role on the world stage, India is demanding a seat on the U.N. Security Council and more trade with the United States. But Washington should work cautiously with the former British colony so it doesn't tilt the already unsteady situation with India and its neighbors, China and Pakistan, write Larry Wortzel and Dana Dillon, two of Heritage's Asia experts.

Wortzel is director of Heritage's Asian Studies Center. Dillon is the center's policy analyst on Southeast Asia.

"Washington should not be swayed, either by rhetoric about India's democracy and its new nuclear power status or by suggestions of increased trade, into placing India's interests before U.S. national security concerns," they write. "At the same time, the United States must recognize that India is a great emerging democracy that is redefining its identity and future goals."

The United States must be wary of sharing its satellite and communications technologies, which could be converted to improve India's fledgling nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, Wortzel and Dillon warn. Clumsy handling of this issue could increase tensions with India's nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan and China. Wortzel and Dillon add that ramping up trade with India might not be good for U.S. businesses right now. India has high tariffs and many state-owned enterprises in steel, cars and aviation, making it one of the world's least-free economies. India also has "Soviet-like," centrally planned production lines that are mostly obsolete or poorly managed, they write.

However, both men suggest ways to improve U.S. relations with India, including: Encourage and help India in adhering to WTO standards. "Trade is easily the most neglected facet of the U.S.-India relationship," Wortzel and Dillon write. Opening up India's economy by reducing its average tariff rate of 27.2 percent will enhance India's status as a free country tremendously.

Refrain from getting involved in territorial disputes between regional powers. The United States should stay out of border wars between India and China or India and Pakistan, which has had hostilities with India going back to 1947. "Correct and sincere neutrality will benefit the situation as well as U.S. interests," Wortzel and Dillon write. However, both conclude that an American-Indian partnership will help both countries in the long run.

"Despite their differences, a strong relationship is in both countries' long-term interests," Wortzel and Dillon say. "The United States and India must begin to view themselves as friendly countries that have complementary, though not identical, goals."

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