Working to secure India's NSG membership: US Ambassador Kenneth Juster

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India can seize the opportunity to provide an "alternative investment hub" for American companies that are downgrading their operations in China, US Ambassador Kenneth Juster said on Thursday.

On the economic and commercial relations, Juster said that India can provide an alternative to the United States companies that downgrading their operations in China and looking alternative markets.

Delivering his first policy speech since taking over as Ambassador to India Juster identified five pillars to take Indo-US partnership forward - Stronger defence ties; strategic economic relationship; energy & environment; inclusive development and cooperation in the region. "India can seize the strategic opportunity - through trade and investment - to become an alternative hub for USA business in the Indo-Pacific region", he told an audience in New Delhi.

Pointing out that "America First" and "Make in India" are not incompatible, Juster said rather investing in each other's markets will be mutually beneficial.

"Increased heft in our economic relationship would necessarily provide a broader and deeper, long-term US commitment to India and the Indo-Pacific region".

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He also said although bilateral trade has reached $115 billion in 2016 from $20 billion in 2001, there is still plenty of room to expand the flow of goods and services in both directions and, in the process, for trade to become more reciprocal.

Referring to defence ties Juster said, "Perhaps in the next year we can announce some major agreements - fighter jets, advanced helicopters, unmanned ground vehicles and intelligence exchange".

"We are concerned about persistent trade deficits, including the one we have with India".

"We want to promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, guarantee freedom of navigation over flight and commerce and other lawful uses of the sea, ensure territorial and maritime disputes are resolved peacefully consistent with worldwide laws", he added.

"India is a leading power in Indo-Pacific region and beyond".

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He also assured listeners that the U.S. will continue to be a country of immigrants and that the ongoing review of visas, including the H-1B category, was only for "refinements".

He also echoed President 's belief that India play a bigger role in Afghanistan, even as he stressed that the situation would not improve till "Pakistan does not contribute positively".

On the issue of H-1B visas, Juster said while the USA continues to attract the largest number of immigrants into the country, it plans to address some of the "fundamental issues" into the various categories of their visa regime.

"That was really a major impetus in suspending the security assistance to Pakistan because we feel they have not done all that they could to try to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan that are contributing to unrest in Afghanistan", Juster added.

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