Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on the strategic partnership between the United States and India, which Senator McCain will visit next week:
“Mr. President: Next week, I will travel to India where I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Modi, his national security team, and other Indian leaders. I am excited to be returning to New Delhi, and I do so hopeful about what the Prime Minister’s election could mean for the revitalization of India’s economy and its rising power, and for the renewal of the U.S.-India strategic partnership.
“National elections in India are always a remarkable affair: Over several weeks, hundreds of millions of people peacefully elect their leaders—the largest exercise of democracy on the planet. But even by Indian standards, the recent election that brought to power Prime Minister Modi and his party, the BJP, was a landmark event: It was the first time in 30 years that one Indian political party won enough seats to govern without forming a coalition with another party. This gives the Prime Minister a historic mandate for change, which Indians clearly crave.
“I want Prime Minister Modi to succeed, because I want India to succeed. It is no secret that the past few years have been challenging ones for India – political gridlock, a flagging economy, financial difficulties, and more. It is not my place, or that of any other American, to tell India how to realize its full potential. That is for Indians to decide. Our concern is simply that India does realize its full potential – for the United States has a stake in India’s success. Indeed, a strong, confident, and future-oriented India is indispensible for a vibrant U.S.-India strategic partnership.
“Here, too, it is also no secret that India and the United States have not been reaching our full potential as strategic partners over the past few years, and there is blame to be shared on both sides for that. Too often recently, we have slipped back into a transactional relationship – one defined more by competitive concession-seeking than by achieving shared strategic goals. We need to lift our sights again.
“To help us do so, I think we need to remind ourselves why the United States and India embarked on this partnership in the first place. It was never simply about the personalities involved, though the personal commitment of leaders in both countries has been indispensable at every turn. No, the real reason India and the United States have resolved to develop a strategic partnership is because each country has determined, independently, that doing so is in its national interest.
“It is because we have been guided by our national interests that the progress of our partnership has consistently enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States and in India. This endeavor began with closer cooperation between a Democratic Administration in Washington and a BJP-led government in New Delhi. It deepened dramatically during the last decade under a Republican Administration and a Congress-led government. It reached historic heights with the conclusion of our civil nuclear agreement – thanks to the bold leadership of President Bush and Prime Minister Singh. This foundation of shared national interests has sustained our partnership under President Obama. And it is the common ground on which we can build for the future as a new Prime Minister takes office in New Delhi.
“When it comes to U.S. national interests, the logic of a strategic partnership with India is powerful: India will soon become the world’s most populous nation. It has a young, increasingly skilled workforce that can lead India to become one of the world’s largest economies. It is a nuclear power and possesses the world’s second-largest military, which is becoming ever more capable and technologically sophisticated. It shares strategic interests with us on issues as diverse and vital as defeating terrorism and extremism, strengthening a rules-based international order in Asia, securing global energy supplies, and sustaining global economic growth.
“India and the United States not only share common interests. We also share common values: the values of human rights, individual liberty, and democratic limits on state power, but also the values of our societies—creativity and critical thinking, risk-taking and entrepreneurialism and social mobility – values that continue to deepen the interdependence of our peoples across every field of human endeavor. It is because of these shared values that we are confident that India’s continued rise as a democratic great power – whether tomorrow or 25 years from now – will be peaceful, and thus can advance critical U.S. national interests. That is why, contrary to the old dictates of realpolitik, we seek not to limit India’s rise, but to bolster and catalyze it – economically, geopolitically, and yes, militarily.
“It is my hope that Prime Minister Modi and his government will recognize how a deeper strategic partnership with the United States serves India’s national interests, especially in light of current economic and geopolitical challenges.
“For example, a top priority for India is the modernization of its armed forces. This is an area where U.S. defense capabilities, technologies, and cooperation – especially between our defense industries—can benefit India enormously. Similarly, greater bilateral trade and investment can be a key driver of economic growth in India, which seems to be what Indian citizens want most from their new government. Likewise, as India seeks to further its ‘Look East’ policy and deepen its relationships with major like-minded powers in Asia – especially Japan, but also Australia, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam – those countries are often U.S. allies and partners as well, and our collective ability to work in concert can only magnify India’s influence and advance its interests.
“Put simply, I see three strategic interests that India and the United States clearly share, and these should be the priorities of a reinvigorated partnership:
- “first, to shape the development of South Asia as a region of sovereign, democratic states that contribute to one another’s security and prosperity;
- “second, to create a preponderance of power in the Asia-Pacific region that favors free societies, free markets, free trade, and free commons;
- “and finally, to strengthen a Liberal international order and an open global economy that safeguard human dignity and foster peaceful development.
“As we seek to take our strategic partnership with India to the next level, it is important for U.S. leaders to reach out personally to Prime Minister Modi, especially in light of recent history. That is largely why I am traveling to India next week. And that is why I am pleased that President Obama invited the Prime Minister to visit Washington. I wish he had extended that invitation sooner, but it is positive nonetheless. When the Prime Minister comes to Washington, I urge our congressional leaders to invite him to address a joint session of Congress. I can imagine no more compelling scene than the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy addressing the elected representatives of the world’s oldest democracy.
“And yet, we must be clear-eyed about those issues that could weaken our strategic partnership. One is Afghanistan. Before it was a safe-haven for the terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001, Afghanistan was a base for terrorists that targeted India. Our Indian friends remember this well, even if we do not. For this reason, I am deeply concerned about the consequences of the President’s plan to pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan by 2016, not only for U.S. national security, but also for the national security of our friends in India.
“If Afghanistan goes the way of Iraq in the absence of U.S. forces, it would leave India with a clear and present danger on its periphery. It would constrain India’s rise and its ability to devote resources and attention to shared foreign policy challenges elsewhere in Asia and beyond. It could push India toward deeper cooperation with Russia and Iran in order to manage the threats posed by a deteriorating Afghanistan. And it would erode India’s perception of the credibility and capability of U.S. power and America’s reliability as a strategic partner.
“The bottom line here is clear: India and the United States have a shared interest in working together to end the scourge of extremism and terrorism that threatens stability, freedom, and prosperity across South Asia, and beyond. The President’s current plan to disengage from Afghanistan is a step backward from this goal, and thus does not serve the U.S.-India strategic partnership.
“For all of these reasons, and more, I hope the President will be open to re-evaluating, and revising, his withdrawal plan in light of conditions on the ground.
“Another hurdle on which our partnership could stumble is our resolve to see it through amid domestic political concerns and short-term priorities that threaten to push our nations apart. For most of the last century, the logic of a U.S.-India partnership was compelling, but its achievement eluded us. We have finally begun to explore the real potential of this partnership over the past two decades, but we have barely scratched the surface, and the gains we have made remain fragile and reversible, as our largely stalled progress over the past few years can attest.
“If India and the United States are to build a truly strategic partnership, we must each commit to it and defend it in equal measure. We must each build the public support needed to sustain our strategic priorities. And we must resist the domestic forces in each of our countries that would turn our strategic relationship into a transactional one – one defined not by the shared strategic goals we achieve together, but by what parochial concessions we extract from one another. If we fail in these challenges, we will fall far short of our potential, as we have before.
“It is this simple: If the 21st century is defined more by peace than war, more by prosperity than misery, and more by freedom than tyranny, I believe future historians will look back and point to the fact that a strategic partnership was consummated between the world’s two preeminent democratic powers, India and the United States. If we keep this vision of our relationship always uppermost in our minds, there is no dispute we cannot resolve, no investment in each other’s success we cannot make, and nothing we cannot accomplish together.”