Press Briefing: Previewing the 5th U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
Paige Montfort: Thank you. And hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining the call today, bright and early if you’re in the U.S. this morning. As our operator introduced, I’m Paige Montfort. I’m the assistant director of communications here at CSIS. And it’s a pleasure to be with you today to host this press briefing previewing the upcoming U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. I’m joined today by colleagues from the CSIS Chair in U.S. India Policy Studies, who are experts across foreign policy, defense, commercial issues, education, health care, and other aspects of the U.S.-India relationship who are going to weigh in on the key themes and context, along with expectations ahead of this dialogue.
So to provide you with a brief overview of today’s call, first you’re going to hear from each of our three experts, who I’ll introduce in just a minute in the order in which they’ll provide their remarks. And then, after we hear from our experts, there will be an opportunity for Q&A. And finally, as always, we will be sharing out a transcript after this call directly to those of you who RSVPed, and also published to CSIS.org.
So, without further ado, I’m going to introduce our speakers.
First, we will hear from Rick Rossow. Rick is a CSIS senior advisor and holds our Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies. Rick has been working on U.S.-India relations for over 25 years, and prior to joining CSIS in 2014 he had a long career in a range of private sector roles focused on India.
Rick is going to pass the mic to our colleague, Katherine Hadda. Katherine is a visiting fellow with our Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies, and she was previously a senior diplomat who most recently served as U.S. consul general in Hyderabad, India.
And finally, we will hear from Aman Thakker. Aman is an adjunct fellow with the Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies here at CSIS. And he’s also senior associate at the Asia Group.
So we have a great lineup for you today. I want to jump right in. So I’ll hand it over to Rick to get us started.
Richard Rossow: Well, great. Thanks, Paige.
You know, there was a time not long ago when a U.S.-India 2+2 would have been the biggest event of the year. Now it’s only the third most important event that’s happened in the last five months. You know, that’s because we’ve had such a run of leader-level summits and a lot of significant things that have been happening directly and, of course, with India’s leadership with the G-20. So in some ways, this kind of snuck up on us a bit.
The format for the main dialogue has changed, as I think a lot of you probably know, over the years. You know, going back 20 years ago we initiated a strategic dialogue. Then it became strategic commercial. And then it evolved to the current format, the 2+2. And, you know, there’s obviously utility out of each of the different iterations that have come around. But I think, you know, the 2+2 really hits the nail on the head in the area where the governments have the most authority. And frankly, we saw the most, I think, urgent need for cooperation, which is on security, which I know Aman’s going to be speaking on in quite a bit of depth later on.
You know, when it comes to security – and part of the reason that the 2+2 format has been important, you know, is India wants U.S. assistance in boosting its domestic manufacturing in defense items, as well as developed aligned and shared approaches to security threats in South Asia. And it’s hard to do that if you’re only talking to State or only talking to Department of Defense. So obviously having the two at the table at the same time, you know, is pretty important.
Now, I think it’s also important to reference, because it comes up a lot when India is talking about being the leader of the Global South. And any time you’ve got India joining in a BRICS support or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it’s not really – I don’t like to characterize U.S.-India relations as a global partnership per se. Both areas – both nations have serious areas of divergence when we talk about global issues. And I’m sure, you know, a lot of those, like Russia, you know, most likely will have, you know, some areas of divergence in India’s own neighborhood and such.
So when you think about global partnership, which is some of the language that we used 20 years ago, you know, today you really see targeted cooperation focused more so on the Indo-Pacific and our shared assessment that there are some dangerous elements of the rise of China that really call for us to work together a lot more collaboratively than you ever saw before.
You know, as we run into the 2+2, you know, I think 10, 15 years ago you always wanted to see one or two massively significant ideas put on the table. And it really whetted our appetites early in 2005 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to the United States for his first visit as prime minister, and they announced the launch of discussions over civil nuclear cooperation. And really, ever since then, a lot of these summits have sometimes been held to that standard. If it’s not something at the level of a nuclear summit, something big, massive, and that can move in a relatively short period of time, then it feels like maybe we’re not making progress.
But I would say it really is kind of indicative, when you look at a lot of the agreements that have been signed over the summer, and maybe some areas we expect that we’ll see movement on at the 2+2, trust is growing between the two countries. It still is a relatively young partnership, but both sides have been working at it across different political parties, across administrations.
And now, when you think about some of the outcomes – and I know Kathy will speak a bit of this on people to people – you know, when you look at some of the work that’s being done in the academic universe and things like that or joint research, you’re planting seeds that may not just stay for 10 to 15 years. And you don’t generally do that unless you’re pretty sure there’s going to be a relationship still existing and, in fact, growing 10 to 15 years out. And that wasn’t the case when the relationship was still relatively nascent.
So, you know, you may not get all the big splashy announcements. We’re all hoping for things of the nuclear-deal size every time, but that’s not really what’s going to happen necessarily, and, in fact, because trust is growing, planting seeds for maybe deeper results later on.
But summits are also critical for another reason, apart from even the big announcements you may see, which is making sure that our different approaches to global challenges don’t result in a rupture. And again, you know, Ukraine’s the most obvious, as we see the evolution of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks.
But also a lot of things are happening in India’s own neighborhood that could cause a rupture in U.S.-India relations if we’re not able to manage. Bangladesh has an upcoming election. The United States has already announced sanctions against Bangladeshi officials that impede a free and fair election. India, of course, is very comfortable with the current government and less concerned about how the election itself is conducted.
We have different approaches on how we deal with the junta in Myanmar. We have a more pro-China government sitting right in the middle of the Indian Ocean in Maldives and continued instability in Sri Lanka. And India, of course, used all the countries in its neighborhood as really part of its larger South Asia family, and very uncomfortable seeing different U.S. approaches in engaging those countries in some of the challenges they face.
So global issues, for sure, and Russia and things like that, but in India’s own neighborhood, which often doesn’t get as much attention in Washington, D.C., you know, that’s also some areas where we need, I think, leader summits to try to make sure that we don’t have a blowup in our own relationship because of our different approaches within the neighborhood.
The last thing I’ll mention before I hand it over to Kathy is looking at commercial cooperation. That’s long been categorized, I think, as maybe the trickiest issue in U.S.-India relations. You know, we’ve had protectionism in India going back decades, new protectionism in the United States as we’ve begun to pull back from trade and put up some trade barriers of our own, very different approaches to how we engage at the World Trade Organization that’s caused a lot of antagonism. And you do see some green shoots, I think, even on commercial relations. It really started in areas of strategic cooperation in some of those commercial sectors that we don’t want China to dominate and this is areas like quantum computing, semiconductors, things like that.
But even over the summer the announcement of dropping a range of pending WTO disputes kind of show that we’re shifting away from antagonism and maybe towards something a little bit more prospective in terms of the governments trying to support what a robust economic future is going to look like, you know, a few years out and that’s something too that’s very new and, hopefully, we’ll again see some visible outputs at the 2+2.
But now let me hand it over to the real experts to dive in more deeply on a couple of the subtopics and, as Paige mentioned, I’ll first hand it over to my colleague, Kathy, to talk about some people-to-people and related areas.
Kathy, the floor is yours.
Katherine B. Hadda: Thank you, Rick.
Well, as Rick mentioned, in many ways the U.S. and India are still feeling their way through our relationship in different areas like commercial and defense relations. In a lot of ways, though, we have a long-standing people-to-people relationship which is underpinned in no small part by a large and growing and very well educated and influential Indian-American population in the United States, which is about 4 million people now.
And so while people-to-people ties are not likely to dominate the agenda on this – in this dialogue there will be a subtext of that certainly even if the main subject matter will be, you know, foreign affairs and defense.
One issue that may well come up is visas – the H-1B worker visa program in the United States. There are about 580,000 H-1B holders right now in the U.S. and about three-quarters of those can be presumed to be Indian. So the State Department is trying to set up a system so that H-1B visa holders in the United States can for the first time since 2004 renew their visas in the United States rather than going home to do so.
And so the State Department submitted a Federal Register notice but it hasn’t been published yet, but it seems that that will be a pilot program to allow 20,000 such renewals in the United States to start starting early in 2024 and that will be, you know, very helpful not only to the applicants themselves but also to address some of the visa backlog that still exists in our embassy and consulates in India. And the student visa wait times in India are actually down to about two months but in other categories it can be, you know, well over a year – 400 days. So anything you can do to reduce that burden will be helpful.
Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that the State Department is working very hard to set up this system. As you can imagine, it’s very complex. It involves, you know, moving people and resources and offices and rulemaking and so – but they think they’re on track to start and the goal really is to expand this program so that more H-1Bs can take advantage of it and also would open to L-1 investor category – I mean, executives category.
Another issue that may come up also related to consular affairs is just a mention of India’s new consulate in Seattle, which was actually announced as an intention in 2016 but is now coming to fruition, and a new consul general has been named and that’s going to be an excellent addition to India’s very skilled diplomatic presence in the United States.
As you know, Seattle is a tech hub and host to major companies such as Microsoft, whose CEO happens to be Indian, and Amazon and Boeing and all those companies have significant presence in India. There’s a large NRI – nonresident Indian population – in Seattle and Seattle is also a tech hub with other smaller companies as well.
The other people-to-people subject that may be touched on is our education relationship. Now, there are something like 200,000 Indian students in the United States. I’ve heard that this year alone there were a quarter of a million applicants for student visas to come to the United States. I think we all would like to see more American students going to India. A lot of the emphasis on educational relationships now is setting up relations between different education institutions. For example, Purdue has a program now on semiconductors with the Indian Semiconductor Alliance. And in September, there was an announcement of a partnership between the American Association of Universities and the Council of the Indian Institutes of Technology to establish what’s called a Global Challenge Institute, which will try and foster academic exchanges and co-research between our institutions. So all these things are very positive, even if they’re not likely to be front and center of the 2+2 dialogue.
I’m going to turn it now over to Aman, who will talk about defense relations, which absolutely will be front and center – (laughs) – in the upcoming. Aman.
Aman Thakker: Great. Thank you, Kathy. Thank you, Rick. And thank you, Paige.
I just want to start with sort of three broad takeaways in these opening remarks. And then happy to go into specific areas as questions come in. You know, the first place I want to start is just picking up, I think, where Rick also started his remarks. Which is that this 2+2 dialogue comes really after a banner year for U.S.-India relations. I mean, you’ve seen two leader-level engagements, as Rick said, in the last five months, making this, you know, just next in a series of engagements that has happened. We had a Quad leader summit earlier this year on the sidelines of the G-7. And there’s a lot of, you know, speculation about potentially a POTUS visit to India early next year, with Ambassador Garcetti confirming that, you know, the president was invited as India’s chief guest for a Republic Day celebration. So 2023, you know, really has been a banner year for U.S.-India relations. Lots of key deliverables. And, as Rick mentioned, defense being front and center on it.
The second thing that I want to mention, just, you know, specifically on defense, is that this 2+2 will manage what I think is the serious push on co-production, but with significant still obstacles or challenges for both sides. You know, I think there are four platforms specifically that are in mind. And you know, Rick really helpfully mentioned here that, you know, defense cooperation between the U.S. and India is geared towards, you know, enhancing India’s defense preparedness and doing more together in the Indo-Pacific. And I want to talk about how each of these four platforms, at least that we are hearing are going to be part of the discussion, are central to sort of that goal of boosting the defense preparedness and doing more together.
The big one here is, of course, co-production of GE’s jet engines, that would be powering India’s second-generation Tejas fighter, the Mark 2 of the Tejas fighter. You know, again, India’s airpower squadron strength is significantly lower than what it sanctioned. And as it looks to boost its air power, building domestic or assembling domestic, you know, jet engines is going to be a huge fill up towards that goal and defense preparedness, as it looks at a – you know, a completely dynamic geopolitical environment. You know, with jet engines as a level of complexity being very, very complex, one of the most sensitive defense technologies that the United States has to offer, being offered to India for this goal of making sure that, as it builds up its squadron strength, the United States and India working together on that goal.
The second is, of course, what was announced during President Biden and Prime Minister Modi’s meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in September, of the MQ-9B drones from General Atomics, SeaGuardian and the SkyGuardian, I believe both variants being part of that deal for 31 drones. Why this is important for India’s defense preparedness? Again, you know, as India and the United States do more on maritime cooperation and securing the seas, you know, the SeaGuardian version in particular can really ensure that India and the United States together have a real-time understanding of what’s going on on the high seas and can react to security situations as needed.
And the SkyGuardian, obviously, has the ability – you know, in a situation where India continues to have troops mobilized in the Himalayas, you know, the aftermath of the – of the crisis that began in 2020 between India and China along that border in eastern Ladakh, the SkyGuardian giving India, again, real-time intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance abilities to manage the situation, to understand what’s going on, and to react as it needs to.
The third platform, the M777 howitzer, you know, the fact that the two countries are going to be working on an extended-range version of that platform again signifies why the goal is on making sure that India’s defense preparedness and the United States and India working together remains front and center. You know, these were reportedly moved – you know, I think there was a lot of coverage on this in September of last year – the non-extended, you know, -range version, the one that, you know, India currently deployed, was moved to the, you know, border that India shares with China as part of its response to manage the evolving security situation there. So working together on an extended-range version of this again underscores a recognition of where India’s threats are, and what its defense preparedness needs to look like, and ways in which they could work together.
And then the final platform is the Stryker combat vehicles – armored personnel vehicles – which can help India, you know, respond to a quickly-evolving situation very quickly and, you know, move personnel in an insurgency situation or perhaps even if, you know, a more unfortunate, warlike situation were to emerge. It allows India to be prepared to move its troops on a – on a rapid response.
So, again, you know, each of these four platforms that we’re considering discussing/working on co-production here on are central to, you know, where India is looking to be, you know, extremely prepared as it, you know, builds up its military and platforms and its armed forces, and where the United States can offer something significant and distinguished to India.
Now, here – the big challenge here is that India, you know, continues to want to have the United States move from ideas to execution. We’ve seen attempts in the past. Rich, having worked on 25 years of defense and U.S.-India relations, will be able to talk your ear off about, you know, failed attempts at co-production, attempts at making sure that these projects can get off of the ground. But India really seeking in this meeting to make a serious push on moving from ideas and initiatives to execution, and I think these four being at the forefront. They’re going to look to the United States and to officials that they’re engaging with to move forward.
On the United States side, continuing to figure out export controls and a lot of the regulations and laws that they need to manage on handing over sensitive technologies such as the ones that we’ve outlined here. But you know, here I think it’s also important that – you know, Rick made an important point about why it’s important to have the State Department and the Defense Department together at this meeting. Having both at the table, and then increasingly having also private sector at the table through this INDUS-X that was announced by both sides – having, you know, all players that need to manage what it means to move on defense production and keep sort of the progress going – that’s one of the reasons why this dialogue really stands out as an area where the two sides can make progress. So, you know, State Department controlling some of the export controls. There’s a new commercial dialogue between – a strategic trade dialogue between the Department of Commerce and Ministry of External Affairs. You can see the kinds of institutional architectures that are being built up between the United States and India are geared towards making progress on these issues.
The last thing that I want to just touch on is, you know, the few exceptions to Rick’s point about, you know – which I think is broadly right, but there are a few exceptions about this becoming a global partnership. I think, you know, of course, regional issues, as Rick mentioned, and targeted cooperation remains front and center. But this is a critical moment in geopolitics where these four Cabinet officials are meeting. And you have two wars – you know, one, Russia-Ukraine obviously, which, you know, a year and nine months in – or, two years and nine months in – and then you’ve got Hamas and Israel – both with significant equities for both countries.
And especially on the last one, I want to mention the launch of the India-Middle East Economic Corridor, a long-term play that the United States and India are making with partners and allies in the Middle East and in Europe. You know, obviously, the evolving situation on the ground in the Middle East and how Middle Eastern countries, how European countries will feature, you know, in terms of reacting to the situation is going to have significant implications for that that project means. And I think, you know, the officials will need to discuss and will find ways to manage the long-term progress that they want to make on this corridor while managing some of the short-term challenges. So in this regard, that global partnership, I think, in those two targeted areas really come into the forefront beyond just, you know, what has traditionally been described as the Indo-Pacific, right, being the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
So all of this, I think, you know, leading to what will hopefully be, you know, President Biden’s arrival in New Delhi in early 2024, but underscores, I think, the continued pace at which the United States and India can, you know, engage at high levels, the fact that this is happening, you know, as a sort of – towards the tail end of what has been a banner year, and with significant, I think, deliverables being on the table in terms of co-production, but with the caveat that there are challenges to overcome on both sides to get these, you know, productions and projects to move forward.
So I’ll stop there. I’ll turn it back to you, Paige; and happy to take questions as needed.
Ms. Montfort: Thank you. Thanks so much to each of you for your insights.
At this time we will move on to questions. So I’ll hand it back over briefly to our operator to let everyone know how you can queue.
Operator: (Gives queueing instructions.)
One moment, please, for the first question.
Ms. Montfort: Thank you so much. I think actually the first question we’ll take is from a journalist who is not able to join live today but RSVPed. So I will pose this question for her. This is from Lara Jakes at The New York Times.
She asks – let me pull this up here – Lara asks – she’s most interested in what, if any, kind of pressure or dealmaking regarding India’s stash of artillery or other weapons could be a lifeline to Ukraine. And is this an effort anymore, given other conflicts and threats around the globe? And then, sort of a follow-up, to what extent will Ukraine be discussed at this 2+2? So maybe Aman, Rick, turn it over to you for this question.
Mr. Thakker: Sure. Thanks, Paige; happy to go first.
Lara, I think, to your question, I think there’s a deep recognition now between the United States and India on India’s stance, you know, when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war. So I certainly think that it’ll be on the agenda and discussed. But I don’t, you know, foresee that there would be significant pressure to make a deal on providing, you know, the kinds of arms that you mentioned in your question about the artillery shells.
You know, I think this has been something that the United States has learned to engage not just on India, but also other partners in Asia who have significantly different equities and ways of looking at the conflict; you know, I think South Korea being primarily one of them, which has also, you know, I think, faced calls from the NATO secretary general and the United States and other allies and partners to provide armaments and stuff to Ukraine as, you know, we enter, you know, another winter for the war.
I will flag that I think, you know, in terms of nonlethal aid, India has been present and participating in terms of giving aid to Ukraine. I’ll just flag that I think as of August of this year, 14 consignments of nonlethal aid have gone to Ukraine. So India, I think, continues to see its stance as, you know, as Prime Minister Modi has said, making sure this is not an era for war, and I think that extends also to Israel and Gaza. But I think continuing to provide nonlethal aid will be where India plays its role. And I think the United States discussed that in the past and will continue to discuss that with India in the present and will recognize, I think, you know, India’s position on this, as it has, I think, over the last two years and nine months.
Rick, over to you if you want to add anything on this.
Mr. Rossow: No, I think you’ve covered it. I’d prefer to stay out of getting dragged in for as long as I can, anything substantive on either side of this, and keep it powder dry, I guess, hoping that they might play a role in reconciliation at some point. But clearly that’s not on the cards right now; so nothing more to add.
Ms. Montfort: Thank you, Rick. Thank you, Aman.
And so next we have a question from Gabriel Dominguez with The Japan Times. So Gabriel is wondering if you could elaborate a bit on what sort of concrete agreements you might expect between the two countries in terms of defense and security.
Mr. Rossow: I can lead off on this one. You know, I kind of hinted at it, as did Aman. You know, the United States is clearly the senior partner between the two when we talk about military capabilities. And therefore, you know, it’s never going to be a 50/50 balance. So when we talk about agreements, a lot of it is going to be ways that the United States can support India in areas that also kind of align with our interests.
And the two big ones that remain on the table where I suspect you’ll probably see concrete agreements today, or this week, or in the future remains, as Aman correctly pointed out, can we provide technical assistance to help India become more self-sufficient in defense production? Clearly, the United States would love to sell more to India, but if the difference is, you know, will we get them to at least stop buying so much military equipment from Russia, that’s preferable to the status quo. So helping India become more self-sufficient, it’s in our interest. At least compared to the alternative, which is India continuing to buy a lot of armaments from Russia.
And then second, and this is a big one, is, you know, India looks at the security threats from China. And, you know, if you were to ask most American security analysts, what are the primary pain points? They might talk about the Taiwan Straits, South China Sea, the East China Sea, or even Pacific islands. But from India’s vantage point, they’re more concerned about China’s increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Of course, the border issues that Aman mentioned, but the area where India has seen a real escalation over the last 15 years has been on the naval, the maritime. And they don’t really see a sustained U.S. force presence in the region.
You’ve got, you know, U.S. transit through the region. You’ve got occasional U.S. Navy heavy presence in the Gulf. But there’s really not a position for the U.S. military to, I think, support what India looks at as a growing contest in the Indian Ocean region. So those are the two areas where I suspect that you’re going to continue to see agreements. Can we do more to show our cooperation in the Indian Ocean? And second is assistance to help India become more self-sufficient in in defense production.
But I don’t know if Aman or Kathy have anything they want to add to your question.
Mr. Thakker: Nothing from my end, Rick. I think you covered it.
Ms. Hadda: Or from me. Thank you.
Ms. Montfort: Great. Thank you. Then we’ll go to the next question in our queue.
Operator: (Gives queuing instructions.)
We’ll go to the line of Rohit Sharma with DB [Dainik Bhaskar] News.
Q: Good morning, and thank you so much for doing this. I have two questions. You know, the first one is for Richard and the second one’s for Katherine.
The first one, you know, you mentioned Bangladesh, and you know, you sort of said – you sort of said that how India has a clear preference in the upcoming elections when it comes to Bangladesh. Do you think the Indo-U.S. relationship has matured to a level where the U.S. could actually trust India in maintaining order in the subcontinent and sort of understand why India has that preference?
And the second question, to Katherine, is: You know, we talk a lot about human-to-human contact, right? Obviously, a significant focus on the H-1B visa renewals. A recent topic of conversation between the NRIs who live in the U.S. is: Why is the current administration not extending issuance of employment authorization documents and advanced parole to individual(s) who are on H-1B visas, who’ve been approved for green cards? I mean, this has been done for other categories. So I mean, this potential policy change could actually impact 1.2 million people who are living in the U.S., and it includes a lot of women and children.
So if you could – I mean, can you answer those questions? Thank you.
Ms. Montfort: Thanks. Rick –
Mr. Rossow: Yeah, jumping on the first one – yeah, yeah. (Laughs.) Jumping on the first one, I wouldn’t say that we have that level of trust where we’d want to take our hands off the steering wheel altogether and fully back, you know, whatever India’s position is in some of the – some of the contentious issues that are happening in the – in its own neighborhood. You know, India has had its own challenges in the last number of years, with Nepal, with other countries in the neighborhood. So they don’t have a terrific track record, nor does the United States, in how we engage.
And we do have deep differences that, you know, Bangladesh elections – five years ago, the United States cared a little bit less. Today, we care a little bit more. So we’re never even sure between administrations how we’re going to kind of view some of these challenging issues in the neighborhood. Bangladesh, I think, is one that perhaps is the most visible that you can see on the near term. But how we deal with the new more pro-China government in Maldives, as I mentioned just briefly in my opening remarks, we have very different approaches to the junta in Myanmar.
So I think, you know, if you look at recent history and what we see in the future, there’s going to be divergences. And the United States is not going to cede leadership fully to India, even though the rhetoric kind of moves in that direction. India will certainly never cede leadership of the region to the United States, in any means. But can we avoid a rupture because of these things?
You know, again, we – you know, with Bangladesh and the United States issuing sanctions, you’ve got a real challenge that’s sitting right before us right now. Are we going to let that disrupt the positive areas of our bilateral cooperation, or we can merely kind of agree that we can have a different approach to the Bangladesh election and still find other areas to engage?
And I suspect so. I mean, you know, we’ve got a lot of great proof points, particularly Russia-Ukraine where, you know, something we’ve got deep differences on and yet we haven’t let that break.
So I don’t think either side is going to let the other become the really dominant partner in the neighborhood. But I think also we’re mature enough where we’re not going to let it disrupt the good things that are happening bilaterally and I suppose that’s a pretty healthy place to be in.
Ms. Hadda: Yes. First, just to add to what Rick said, I would agree because I think if our disagreements over, you know, Russia haven’t put, you know, a serious stop to our bilateral relationship I don’t think Bangladesh will either.
Regarding your question, which was quite a technical question about employment authorization, I’m afraid, you know, I would need to refer you back to the Department of Homeland Security about, you know, their processing times.
Certainly, everyone knows the backlog for green card applications is a serious problem for Indian Americans and actually by extension for all Americans. I know that DHS is speaking about revising the H-1B program. You know, it’s, I think, almost 30 years old now and it needs to be adjusted to ensure it’s meeting its purpose, which is really to get – to build a talent pool when we can’t get that talent pool from American citizens alone, and I know that under consideration are things that are proving a little bit controversial, for example, allowing only one application per employer and applicant rather than flooding the system with many applications in the hopes that one would get a slot.
But there’s also things that I think will prove or the Department of Homeland Security argues will be more empowering to H-1B holders such as the ability to have more than one company file an application on one’s behalf.
So I would refer you back, though, to DHS for any more specific questions.
Back to you, Paige.
Ms. Montfort: Great. Thank you so much. And we’ll take our next question in the queue.
Operator: We’ll go to Xuan Zhao (ph) with Voice of America. Please go ahead.
Q: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for doing this.
So my first question is, after the Israel war broke out Biden made this supplemental request calling for additional over 100 billion (dollars) for Ukraine, over 10 billion (dollars) for Israel, and only 2 billion (dollars) for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. So besides the leaders visit – Austin and Blinken – what else resources and commitments should the U.S. make to make sure the Indo-Pacific is a focus and a priority theater to prevent the World War III and – from happening?
And the second question is about – it has been almost half a decade since the U.S. implemented the Indo-Pacific strategy. Just wondering from the military and security perspective what more can be done to further strengthen the security architecture and cooperation to better counter Chinese aggression.
Camille Dawson, the deputy secretary, said last week promoting this minilateral framework – something between bilateral and multilateral – to build this lattice work or a Venn diagram instead of hubs and spoke. Is minilateral the most effective framework to counter Chinese aggression in that region?
Mr. Rossow: Yeah. Maybe I’ll start off with nonmilitary and then hand over to Aman to talk about some military strategy.
I mean, we’ve touched on it a few times during the conversation so far. But you know, nonmilitary is very important. If you look at – and I’ll – and I’ll soak up both your questions in my response. When you look at some of the work that we’re doing, for instance, through the Quad, when you talk about many minilaterals we’re talking about jointly cooperating on an infrastructure push in the region because a lot of what you see for China’s aggressive posture in India’s neighborhood has been investments in strategic infrastructure first with the hope that’ll provide a friendly platform for sustained military operations later on. So the two are very closely linked.
So when we talk about, you know, ports and roads and things like that, there is potential military application. And none of us have individual development banks to the size to balance what China has been able to bankroll in recent years. Japan comes pretty close, and actually exceeds China’s spending in some markets. But, you know, the United States doesn’t have a major bank. India certainly doesn’t. Australia is relatively small. But together we might be able to do a lot bigger things. So, you know, our cooperation on strategic infrastructure is one way to ensure stability, by making sure that China can’t plant flags further afield and sustain military operations in further waters.
You know, the second is when you think about some of the sectors that China’s announced in the Made in China 2025 program, for instance, when they want to become dominant in autonomous systems and robotics and things like this, well, those are exactly the kind of technologies that are going to be able to put a far more powerful military on the field. So those are also areas when bilaterally, and I suspect at the 2+2 you’ll see announcements on the Quad that you see a real focus on as well. So, you know, helping, I think, deter China’s technological advantages in commercial areas that have strong military application is also very, very important.
So sometimes when you look and you see a lot of strategic commercial areas, they may not on the face of it have a huge defense application. But in the back end, they certainly do. And even to limit China’s ability to use commercial coercion. You know, they were so dominant in pharmaceutical ingredients and, at the times of COVID, when they were able to withhold transfer of medical equipment because they dominated the market. Similarly, on 5G up until recently, things like that. So that’s kind of the third area, is breaking China’s stranglehold on using commercial cooperation I think is good for global security. So that’s some of the non-military elements, but, Aman, if you want to talk about maybe some of the military side of things.
Mr. Thakker: Yeah. I think here, you know, I want to just mention two things, right? Again, clubbing, I think, your questions together in terms of, you know, what the United States can do more and, you know, what the agenda could look like moving forward. And I think one is, I, you know, happen to believe that, actually, the way in which the minilaterals have been structured are actually good for fostering greater cooperation among, you know, partners in the Indo-Pacific. I think, that’s tended to be how cooperation has tended to go in Asia in general. And I think, you know, allowing for the natural evolution of these, you know, latticework minilaterals to evolve and expand, actually creates, I think, the space for, you know, comfort between new partners that may not have worked together before to react to evolving situations.
So here, you know, a trilateral that maybe started between Australia, and – sorry – U.S., India, and Japan, can expand to include Australia. You know, having Australia, India, and Indonesia work together could be expanded to then include other partners. South Korea working with all four Quad countries. I think these types of expansions you only see after, you know, there is that steady evolution and expansion of the engagement. So I think, you know, that kind of latticework actually benefits, I think, the U.S.-India relationship in terms of what they’re trying to do together to bring in additional players as needed to react to situations and dynamics on the ground.
You know, I think in terms of what they could do moving forward, I think, you know, in terms of co-production and in terms of defense cooperation, there’s definitely a lot more that could be done. You know, we’re making an initial push right now on recognizing where there are gaps in terms of India’s capabilities in the missions that it would be required to take in a – if you project out a security environment over the next 10, 15, 20 years. What are the capabilities that India needs and is, you know, working to develop or is currently lacking? What is the ways in which the United States could find ways to provide technical support or co-produce with India? And how can they work together, right, through practices, through exercises, through high-intensity drills to be prepared for any eventuality that takes place in the Indo-Pacific?
I think that continues to be, I think, a very robust agenda on the defense side. And you know, as we, I think, find ways to figure out some of the problems or obstacles, right, be it on misunderstandings, as Rick said, you know, on how we view different parts of the region together; or, you know, bureaucratic and legislative obstacles such as export controls. These types of, I think, going up the order, right, from lower-order capabilities and, you know, easier stuff, to sort of the higher end of capabilities that India might need and then that the United States and India could work together on, I think it remains the agenda to drive forward, I think, what they could do together, both bilaterally with each other as well as minilaterally what they bring in, other countries and other partners in the region, be that, you know, in East Asia between South Korea and Japan; be that in Oceania with, you know, Australia and New Zealand; or be that with ASEAN – you know, Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and Malaysia.
So I think this latticework framework allows for these types of evolutions to go, right, from the lower order, lower-intensity, lower – you know, sort of low-hanging fruit up to the more intense – the higher-intensity and the more significant kind of cooperations that, you know, when we look at capabilities that India needs over 20 or 30 years and what the United States, with partners, can help collaborate with India on and be a partner for India on.
Ms. Montfort: Great. Thank you so much.
And that took us right up to time, so we will wrap there for today. Thank you all so much for dialing in, and to my colleagues for your analysis and your insights. We will be sending the transcript out within just a few hours today. So please reach out to me, Paige Montfort, with any follow-ups. But with that, we’ll close the call.
Mr. Rossow: OK. Thanks, Paige.
Ms. Hadda: Thanks.
Mr. Thakker: Thanks, everyone.