US faults India on intellectual property theft, but seeks trade growth

Despite strained relations, Washington is seeking a rapid expansion in two-way trade

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 10:55pm


The US has criticised India's failure to curb intellectual property theft but says it wants to tackle the issue with the nation's next government and push for a rapid expansion in trade.

Top US diplomat for South Asia Nisha Biswal told a congressional hearing that America wanted two-way trade in goods and services to grow to US$500 billion from US$100 billion in the next decade.

Washington and New Delhi are looking to improve relations strained by a row last year over the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat, who was eventually expelled from the US after she was indicted on accusations of exploiting her housekeeper.

Biswal said there was "tremendous potential" for further deepening the US-India relationship. "We look forward to engagement with the new government that will take this to new heights," she told a panel that oversees US policy toward the South Asia.

India is in the midst of national elections in which the opposition party of Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi is tipped to come out on top. Although Modi was previously refused a visa to the US because of an allegation that he failed to stop deadly anti-Muslim riots while serving as a state chief minister, Washington is unlikely to let that affect the relationship should he become prime minister.

However, a US government report on Wednesday on intellectual property protection added another wrinkle to efforts to iron out bilateral tensions. China and India are among 10 nations on a so-called "priority watch list" for what it described as serious problems with online piracy and trade in counterfeit goods.

Innovators also faced "serious challenges" in securing and enforcing patents for pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and green technology, the report said.

Indian officials take umbrage at what they see as such unilateral labelling, although it entails no punishment. US officials also stressed they wanted to hash out the issues with India after its new administration takes office.

As well as looking to expand trade and defence co-operation, Biswal spoke of how a capable Indian security presence was a stabilising force in South Asia.

Biswal also noted growing pressure on Tibetan refugees in Nepal, and said it was a US priority to ensure that their rights were respected and that they were able to transit to India. Thousands of Tibetans refugees live in Nepal, and others travel there on their way to India where Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama lives in exile. China has repeatedly pressured Nepal's government over the refugees staging anti-Chinese protests.