Hyderabad: A career member of the US senior Foreign Service and deputy assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Afairs, Angela Price Aggeler spoke to Sakshipost on wide-ranging issues relating to Indo-US releations.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
The Indo-US relations have seen a new upswing expanding beyond the conventional and into the new frontier. Both the countries have a lot in common. One is the biggest democracy while the other is the oldest democracy. What the future holds for India as well as the US?
Well! I think the future is incredibly bright.The relationship between India and the United States is a relationship that is built and evolved over the years and over the decades. It’s a very important one. It is important to the US and it is to the India as well. We have just recently seen a perfect example of that with the Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States. He was involved in many different aspects of this relationships talking about the broadest range and broadest sectors. The highlight for many of us, particularly to me, was watching his address to the joint session of the Congress. It was a clear demonstration of how the relationship has moved forward and how he laid out a framework and a path that is a very bold and a very dynamic move-forward on the broadest range of our relationships - whether it’s civil nuclear, military, security, energy, economics. It was that magnificent range of engagement that we have with the Government and the people of India that is so important, so strong and growing stronger everyday.
The highlight for many of us, particularly to me, was watching Modi’s address to the joint session of the Congress. It was a clear demonstration of how the relationship has moved forward and how he laid out a framework and a path that is a very bold and a very dynamic move-forward on the broadest range of our relationships - whether it’s civil nuclear, military, security, energy, economics.- Angela Aggeler
Trade and investments are also growing between the US and India. Where do you think we can go from here? And how are the relationships growing in terms of cultural exchange?
In terms of the trade relations, its huge and growing on both sides. I think there is more room for growth. There are always areas in which we can expand. India is a powerhouse. 1.3 billion people and 40 per cent of them are under 20. That’s an extraordinary demographic in India. The potential for growth in our country is fantastic. Here in Hyderabad that the broader investment in Hyderabad, not just with the United States, has grown 27 per cent over the last year. This is an extraordinary statistic. It really shows that across India, right here in Hyderabad, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the potential is enormous. I think, it is in the interest of both of our countries that we maximize and expand that as much as we can.
As partners in war on terror, do you think India and the US can take their relations to the next level, particularly in the contest of South Asia?
It’s matter of frequent and continuous discussion between India and the United States. Terrorism is a scourge - scourge for India, for the US and for the countries around the world. This is something about which both the countries are keenly aware and it’s a priority for both of us. It’s an area where there is great deal of cooperation and both sides recognize that we can do more in terms of security affairs between India and the United States. There are so many different areas in which we cooperate. Frankly, by empowering economies we can create potential for greater security. In all these sectors, including education, the stronger our partnership is the better we will be to combat these challenges.
Visa decisions are global decisions. They are not made on bilateral considerations. India sends many of its talented among its workers, thinkers, academics and students. We welcome that very much. We very much hope that the fee hike does not in any way impinge on the number of Indians who are coming to work and to live in the United States.- Angela Aggeler
Despite growing friendship, rough patches still remain between both the nations. What do you think India and the US must do to iron them out?
In all great relationships, there are ups and downs. Every marriage has its challenges.This is a strong friendship, partnership and relationship the United States has with India. The best of friends disagree. We can have these conversations. We can disagree and frankly, it is very healthy to disagree.We found again and again that by keeping the conversations going between the Government of India, with officials, with the people and with the entrepreneurs, we found ways to work through the disagreements. What is more important is that we continue to have those conversations. Any of our bilateral and multi-lateral relations have their ups and downs. Even when we see them, we work through them and find ways to get over them.
Recently, the H1B visa fee have been hiked. How does this affect India?
Visa decisions are global decisions. They are not made on bilateral considerations. India sends many of its talented among its workers, thinkers, academics and students. We welcome that very much. We very much hope that the fee hike does not in any way impinge on the number of Indians who are coming to work and to live in the United States.
Does that mean, the number of students and workers is not going to come down because of that?
Let’s take the example of students. India is the world’s largest sender of the students to the US and we couldn’t be happier. We are delighted to have them studying in our schools. They bring a level of academic excellence and diversity to any college campus. The Indian students continue to express interest in studying American colleges and universities and we welcome them. We haven’t seen that their numbers have gone down. We hope to encourage them. I think one area where we could do better is making sure the students are aware of the requirements for getting that visa and for entering into the US. It is a different thing to have a visa issued and actually enter into the United States. What we could do better is educating those students that they are perfect when they hand the passport and the visa to the Homeland Security officials. We want Indian students with big dreams. We want to make sure we do all we can to help them.
You are here for the climate change dialogue. There is considerable perceptional divergence between India and the US on the issues of energy security and climate change. How does the US see the role of India in assisting the global efforts on addressing the issue of climate change?
I am really delighted to be here for this conference. As you know, Ambassador Varma opened the conference on Friday (June 24, 2016) with Dr Mathur. One of the important things they discussed In terms of climate change is that there is a great deal to be done. It was through really intense cooperation on both sides and multi-laterally with many of our partners, including the French, who were very important in putting together the agreement in Paris. There is a great deal for both the countries and all the countries around the world to do. What is extremely impressive is that India, as does the United States, faces great challenges. The Prime Ministers and the others have been extremely bold on how they can address these challenges. India is a huge nation and it is in many areas continuing to develop many types of energy. The challenges from water are enormous. But, by recognizing the challenges through making a commitment, we can find a way forward. As Mathur put it this morning, there is the hurly-burly of coming to an agreement and then there is this more mundane, but critically important issue of implementing those issue. I think that’s where we are now and there is room for both to improve and to combat the challenges on climate change. On both sides we see a true willingness and a true commitment as evident from the statements of President Obama and secretary Kerry on the US side and Prime Minister Modi on the Indian side.