Former minister Arun Shourie says no single issue and certainly not the India-US civilian nuclear deal should be made a test for the new relationship between the two countries.
For that may again sour their relations as the agreement with Enron for the Dabhol power project once did, he said in a talk on "Developing the US-India Economic Relationship" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Wednesday.
Asked how the US-India relationship would be affected if Democrats gained control of the US Congress in the Nov 7 mid-term poll, Shourie said he did not foresee a major change in the economic relationship, but it may affect the nuclear deal.
As in that scenario a weakened Bush administration may find it difficult to deliver on the promises made to India in terms of their July 18, 2005 agreement. As it is the House and Senate versions of the enabling bills were so far apart that reconciling them may be a problem.
India and US should thus look for an enduring basis of relationship which was far below its potential considering that US traded goods worth only $40 billion with India as against $235 billion with China, he said.
Shourie listed five major areas of collaboration: technologies for clean environment; training quality manpower; defence production in private sector; maintenance and repair services for civil aviation; and health care.
It was for both governments to remove impediments in their relationship. For if US business complained of bureaucratic hurdles, Indian companies had their own share of woes, he said, citing poor access for professional persons and certain statutory payments for visiting employees.
As India and US forged a new relationship, they should realise that each country will work for its own interests as perceived by a handful of people at a particular time. Thus each side should take into account the effect of its decisions on the other.
"Each side must remember that the other can't disregard domestic public opinion in a free society," Shourie said citing Washington's impatience with the impasse in world trade talks.
Asked if caste based reservations in India would not pose obstacles in the path of investment, the former minister, who dealt with telecommunications and privatization in the Vajpayee government, dubbed it a "ruinous and suicidal" course and asked the industry to fight it as a block if India has to retain its competitive edge.