Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States is a reinforcement of continued cooperation between the two nations despite the tectonic changes that have taken place in US foreign policy under the Trump administration. The energy sector is one of those areas where the US and India continue to have a long and fruitful partnership.
India, being the fastest-growing economy, continues to serve as an attractive investment destination to many countries. And the US, with its goal of having a bilateral trade of $500 billion with India, would do well to intensify its economic engagements with India. The bilateral trade between the US and India at $114 billion in 2016 has seen a five-fold increase since 2001. However, India’s $24.3 billion goods trade surplus with the US is seen as a major cause of worry for the Trump administration. Services trade surplus of $6.5 billion takes the total trade surplus to $30.8 billion. This was addressed well in a joint statement, ‘The United States and India: Prosperity Through Partnership’, wherein teams from both the countries were called on to find creative ways to improve bilateral trade.
The renewed energy partnership between the US and India is one such way to improve bilateral trade concerns. This would not only help in addressing the concerns of increasing trade imbalance of the US, but also help in building Modi’s vision for a New India as aptly stated by the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, “US energy and technologies, including natural gas, are helping to build Prime Minister Modi’s vision for a New India and creating thousands of US jobs in the process.”
In the Modi-Trump summit, both leaders affirmed continued importance to their Strategic Energy Partnership, wherein their respective countries could leverage new opportunities to elevate cooperation to global energy security. The Trump administration, however, called for a continued removal of barriers to energy development and investment in the US and its energy exports to India, so that the latter can benefit from the shale gas boom and clean energy technologies, particularly with respect to clean coal and renewable energy of the US.
Both countries also highlighted the need for early conclusion of the nuclear contract between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India. The joint statement thus suggested continuity in energy partnership between the two countries to improve and balance their bilateral trade in a way that there is an expansion of energy and innovation linkages across the energy sector while going for a rational approach balancing environment, climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs. Interestingly, the scope of such energy cooperation was in sync with ‘America’s First Energy Plan’ of the Trump administration, which pledged for total energy independence of the US while considering ‘rational environmental concerns’ like clean air and water.