United States Ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster on Thursday described himself as a “friend of India” and said he was working closely with New Delhi to ensure India gets membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).
“One compliment that does resonate with me was offered by the President of India when I presented my credentials: he called me ‘a friend of India’. It is a comment that others have made as well, which I consider a great honour… We are working closely with India to help them secure membership in NSG,” Juster said while delivering his inaugural policy speech on US-India relations in New Delhi on Thursday.
He added, “It is now time to make sure that the strategic partnership is a durable partnership.” Juster said the US would like India to play a key role in the strategic Indo-Pacific region. “We seek to assist India’s efforts to build up its indigenous defense base and capabilities, as well as enhance the inter-operability of our two forces as major defense partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Juster said the US has offered Indian liaison officers to be posted at the US Pacific Command as well as a tech innovation center in Silicon Valley. This is a facility the US offers to a handful of allies, mostly from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
He even said the US was likely to ink major defence deals in the coming year with India, “Perhaps in the next year we can announce some major agreements in fighter jets, advanced helicopters, unmanned ground vehicles and intelligence exchange.”
“US is more than just a defence supplier to India. We need to continue the present trend in defence trade, that’s now at $15 billion,” he added.
Juster said the US followed a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism, including cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. “President Trump and other U.S. leaders have been clear that we will not tolerate cross-border terrorism or terrorist safe havens anywhere.”
Turning his attention to trade between both countries, Juster said US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ policies were “not incompatible” with each other. “In our view, fully free and fair trade will support and accelerate Prime Minister Modi’s effort to improve India’s long-term growth rate in a sustained way,” he said.
While he expressed concern over the trade deficit between India and the United States, Juster also said that India could emerge as an alternative hub for American companies operating in the region.