Pursuing international stability, U.S. economic and security interests and the global advance of democracy, President Trump must draw India closer to America.
The need is newly relevant in light of a meeting in New Delhi, Monday, between India's foreign minister and her Chinese and Russian counterparts. During that meeting, Russia pressured India to accept China's "One belt, one road" agenda to establish a trade route through Pakistan to Europe.
India fears that the "One belt" project will empower China at its expense, while also allowing Pakistan to access new revenue streams from the West. And while India trades vastly more with the U.S. than it does with Russia, and exports four times more to the U.S. than to China, its government faces obvious pressures in being confronted by two big powers (China and Russia) and one smaller power (Pakistan).
And the pressure isn't just manifested in the words that we saw on Monday. China, for example, regularly waves its guns in India's face.
The intended message is clear: play ball or get ready to face the hardball.
The U.S. must offer India an impossible-to-resist alternative.
This isn't just about India's interests. As I've outlined, in terms of military cooperation, shared economic prosperity and the democratic rule of law, the U.S. has great interest in ensuring India grows closer to America and not Russia or China. If you're only concerned with a foreign policy that preserves American interests first, consider that as India's 1.3 billion people grow richer, they'll want to buy higher quality American goods and services. That offers us the export market potential for millions of new jobs and continued economic growth in an era of unprecedented global competition.
In military terms also, India offers America and our allies in Asia and the Pacific the opportunity to ensure that global trading routes are open to free navigation rather than subject to imperial antics. If China believes it must counter a multinational alliance it will be far less willing to take steps towards a conflict that might crash the global economy.
Unfortunately, we're not currently doing enough to keep India on our side. Trump must change that dynamic right now.
First, Trump should ignore Chinese complaints and immediately state his support for India's accession to the nuclear suppliers group. This has been a longtime Indian priority and it's no longer excusable for the U.S. to accept China's warning that we not welcome Indian participation. Our rejection of China is especially justified in light of President Xi Jinping's failure to confront or otherwise deal with Kim Jong Un's North Korean regime.
Second, Trump should make it easier for highly-skilled Indian workers to gain H1-B visas to access jobs in the United States. The president should also work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to establish free-enterprise zones in India that will allow U.S. companies to make profits and Indian workers to find domestic jobs.
Third, the Trump administration must stop acting like a child in allowing its internal bickering to spill out into India. This may seem like a simple issue, but for a proud nation, American arrogance has very little appeal.
Ultimately, if the U.S. is prudent, we'll be able to win India closer to our side. America can attract India to a relationship built on common purpose, shared trust and overwhelming power. But if we sit idle as others throw threats and lesser-deals at the Indian government, we'll find we waited too long.
At that point, we'll face a world in which all the great powers, save a militarily impotent European Union, are aligned against us.