Q: On India-US ties… 

India certainly is a very important priority for the United States, there are no two ways about that. It is not a particularly urgent priority. So there is a separation there.

Milan Vaishnav
Vaishnav’s primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior.
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If you look at what the President has on his table -- it is Syria, it is ISIS, Ukraine and Russia. So I don’t think India, for many good reasons, doesn’t factor on to that list. So the question is this administration has the foresight to be able to - as it is handling this crisis - think about how it plans to see to re-cultivate this relationship with India where we see things in terms of concessions on trade, on intellectual property, on defence. These are the sort of things which they may look in the aggregate in small things but there are important in long-term. 

Q: You talked about defence, you talked about trade, you talked about IPR, where do you believe that we could see some headway, not perhaps at the end of this visit but where do you believe that both countries could see some convergence because mat India refuses to concede ground as far as the IPR matter is concerned, the US has maintained its position on that, as far as the nuclear issue is concerned, there is no movement on India as far as the liability clause is concerned and US doesn’t want to do business without that. So on which issues do you believe we are likely to see some convergence or some forward movement? 

I put three on the list. Number one is defence. So keep aside for a second the nuclear issues because I think those are contentious, the nuclear liability isn’t going to go anywhere at least in the short-term. 

India clearly wants to invest in the opportunity of having co-production co-development of defence technology. Now that is something that two governments have worked towards. It is something can happen, one of the decisions that was in the budget was to hike defence foreign direct investment (FDI) from 26 percent to 49 percent. So that is number one. I expect the two leaders are going to recommit themselves to trying to move in that direction. There are some proposals on the table that are more concrete. 

The second is on energy. One of the things that the Prime Minister has talked about is the need for India to get its energy house in order to fix not only its domestic issue with relation to subsidies, so on and so forth but also in terms of how they interact with the broader world. So there India clearly wants natural gas exports from the United States. The question is US up until now has wanted to link this issue with a climate issue. So can there be some kind of meeting of the minds whereby the US provides energy, energy technology in exchange for some movement on climate change? 

The final issue where a win-win is possible is on higher education. There is no question that India has a shortage of higher educational institutes of the sufficient quality of IITs and IIMs. The US has a lot to offer in this regard. It is very difficult for US higher educational institutions to get into India but if that is something that Modi can prioritize, there is huge amount of willingness on this side to go into India. They are just waiting for the right signals to be given.

This interview was originally broadcast by CNBC.