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Narrowly drawn America first policy will create antagonistic approach: Nisha Desai Biswal

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017,12:33 IST By anju A A A

New York | A “narrowly drawn” vision of America first policy that pits the country’s growth against opportunities of its partners like India will create an “antagonistic approach”, a top former US diplomat has said.

“American foreign policy has always been about advancing the US national interest but it’s always been about drawing that national interest in the broadest possible terms,” former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said.

She was speaking at a global business forum organised here this month in partnership with the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Responding to a question on whether ‘America first’ is anti-global trade and could have an impact on ties with India from economic perspective, Biswal said in any market today, be it infrastructure, energy, technology and consumer goods, India is going to be dramatic opportunity.

“So an America first policy that is written large, broad and inclusive talks about how America advances as we partner with and grow with other nations,” she said.

“A narrowly drawn vision of America first that pits America’s growth against opportunities of our friends and partners around the world is going to create a much more antagonistic approach,” she added.

US President Donald Trump has put ‘America first’ at the centre of his policies to focus on American interests and national security.

“That is not to say that there are not tough issues of trade barriers that need to be addressed, but a more inclusive approach will create more opportunities for the American people as it does for the Indian people,” she said during a panel discussion on India-US relations at the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum on June 14.

On the social agenda in India having a possible impact on investments coming into the country, Biswal said in India as well as around the world, there is a certain level of economic and cultural “nationalism” and nativism at the fore.

“The challenge for India as it is for America is that while these issues don’t necessarily reflect the views of majority of the population or the reality of the majority of the population, they dominate media and social media.

“They then become the perceived reality and that then impacts the longer term confidence that people have in the economic markets and political stability even though that is not the reality on the ground,” she said.

Biswal noted that India cannot just be doing “good things” on the economic side and not manage some of these other perceptions that are being generated.

“The media perception often will end up driving how the business community also senses the political stability side of the equation. That is something that needs to be more effectively managed,” she said.

Biswal underscored that the trajectory of the India-US relationship over the last three years has been “quite remarkable”.

She said there is tremendous momentum and incredible potential in the relationship but cautioned against squandering the opportunities to grow bilateral ties further.

“There is a reason why India has become the favoured investment destination for so may American companies…It is India’s moment but let’s not squander that moment either because there are challenges that need to be addressed,” she said.

Biswal cited the Bilateral Investment Treaty which the Obama administration moved hard for with India, saying for investments to flow in both directions, there needs to be an environment that safeguards and provides rules of the road on tax liability, retroactive taxation, repatriation of profits and dispute resolution.