India: US wish list may affect next government

Business Standard | May 06, 2009

US wish list may affect next government

KS Manjunath / New Delhi

The US’s vision for bilateral ties with India flags issues that represent red rags to parties like the CPI(M) and the BJP, which have opposed India’s closeness to the US, albeit for different reasons. If the Congress and CPI(M) find themselves on the same side again after the general elections, this may have repercussions in the formation of the next coalition, and functioning of a government.

The US has set the ball rolling by raising many issues. Addressing an industry chamber gathering two weeks ago, US Embassy deputy chief of mission Steven J White listed the US wish-list: negotiating a bilateral investment treaty; end-use monitoring agreement to protect so-called sensitive technology; enlarging the “farmer-market link” of the Agricultural Knowledge Initiative; and operationalising the nuclear deal.

On a bilateral investment treaty and end-use monitoring agreement, White said: “Even now, discussions are underway between US and Indian counterparts in preparations for after the elections, to identify dates for the launch of negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty as well as for the next session of the Financial and Economic Forum.” US Embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Fitzsimmons did not comment about the bilateral investment treaty as the matter is under discussion between the two governments.

The bilateral investment treaty aims to support and protect US economic interests overseas and promote market-oriented policies in other countries to promote of US exports. The end-use monitoring agreement also has similar objectives - this time over sensitive US defence technology that India gets access to.

This is likely to set alarm bells ringing in the Opposition, especially the CPI(M), which has consistently adopted an anti-US line when it supported the UPA government, and eventually withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Congress-led UPA is committed to operationalise the deal by enforcing the IAEA Safeguards Agreement to declare nuclear facilities deemed as civilian.