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Ambassador's Remarks at the 3rd FICCI-BROOKINGS Dialogue - "Is there a future of India-US strategic dialogue"

Washington, DC

1. It is a great privilege and honour for me to have this opportunity to speak to you at the concluding session of this 3rd Brookings-FICCI Dialogue on India-US Strategic Partnership. Since its institution, this Dialogue, which brings together eminent experts and thinkers from both India and the US, has contributed positively to the overall growth of our bilateral relationship.

2. I have had the privilege to be present at the inaugural Dialogue led by two premier organizations in India and US as well as it second session in November last year in New Delhi in my capacity as Foreign Secretary. Since the last session of the Dialogue, we have had the landmark visit of President Obama to India, which has consolidated the gains of last few years in our bilateral engagement and laid new directions for future expansion of the India-US global strategic partnership.  

3. When one is faced with the question about the future of our strategic partnership, it would be logical to begin with defining what we mean by it and the overall context. India's foremost national task in the decades ahead is to turn the historic economic gains of the last twenty years into inclusive growth that lifts millions more out of poverty, that revitalizes rural India and uplifts marginalized and poor farmers, and that creates a future of potential and possibility for more and more Indians. We wish to hasten the pace of India’s socio-economic transformation in partnership with the international community. 

4. At the last session of the Dialogue, I had outlined the three basic organizing principles – our shared values, our economic partnership and people to people linkages, and security of our people and stability in the world - for a sustained and long-term partnership between India and the United States. I propose to further elaborate on these principles and some key drivers that in my view will shape the India-US partnership in the years to come.

Global partnership for peace, stability and security

5. Today, both India and the US have an increasing convergence of interests when it comes to ensuring peace, stability and security not just in Asia but in the world at large. Our mutual understanding on critical issues, including on global economic situation, terrorism, Afghanistan, regional challenges and Asian stability has become stronger. The frequency, quality and the range of our political dialogue on all regional and global issues have reached a new level. 

6. Terrorism remains a challenge for us, as the recent attacks in Delhi have again reminded us. The fight against the scourge of terrorism must be unrelenting. We have and will continue to take steps to improve our domestic capabilities to counter this threat. At the same time, we are also enhancing our cooperation with the US. In the wider regional context, we both agree that success in Afghanistan and regional and global security require elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

7. India has already committed more than US $ 2 billion towards Afghanistan’s development. We have agreed that we will pursue joint development projects in capacity building, agriculture and women’s empowerment with the US. We believe that Afghanistan can become a hub that could link Central and South Asia through increased trade, transit, and commercial linkages. We have therefore welcomed the New Silk Road initiative as an important step in that direction. As we move towards transition of security to Afghan national forces, it is imperative that the international community continues to remain engaged in Afghanistan and help it build its institutions and economy to ensure a sustained development. Professor Rabbani’s tragic assassination last week reminds us again of the evil designs of the enemies of peace in Afghanistan. We must not let such forces succeed. It is essential that the process of nation building, including intra-regional reconciliation in Afghanistan succeeds. This is vital for ensuring peace and stability in the region as a whole.

8. India’s engagement with Asia-Pacific region has intensified over the last two decades. Our ‘Look East’ Policy enunciated in the early 90s, is meant, at a fundamental level, to reconnect and reach out in the civilizational space we share with our near neighbours in Southeast Asia, and catalyse the sharing of capacities and opportunities to improve the economic well-being of our peoples. Two decades later we have seen India’s quick integration with Southeast & East Asia at the strategic, political, economic, cultural and people-to-people levels. This region is witnessing rapid changes. Both India and the US have a shared interest in ensuring that peace, security and prosperity are maintained even amidst these fast paced changes. We have strengthened our strategic consultations on developments in Asia-Pacific and welcomed the entry of the US in the East Asia Summit to seek an open, inclusive and balanced regional architecture in the Asia Pacific region.

9. One-fifth of the world’s energy supplies now travel across the Indian Ocean. The safety of the Sea Lanes of Communication which criss-cross the Indian Ocean is crucial for the economic growth not just for India and the US but for the entire region. Maritime trade routes in the Indian Ocean are vital for international commerce and global energy security and we have a shared interest in combating threats such as piracy. Therefore we have agreed to enhance our maritime security cooperation. For instance, we are working together with the US and the international community to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Indian and US navies are enhancing their collaboration to deal with natural disasters building on the experience gained so far from the coordinated action. More broadly, our defence cooperation has grown significantly. The paradigm that we should visualize for defence cooperation should incorporate a strong component of joint production, research and co-development , which are all of strategic importance.

10. The safety of and access to the global commons - air, sea, space and cyber domains – is vital for continued prosperity of India, the US and the international community. We have therefore decided to explore how we can work together and with other countries towards this objective. Increasingly, this aspect of the relationship requires intensified study and focus at the level of official and experts.

Bilateral partnership for common prosperity

11. India’s sustained economic growth with its paradigm of greater reliance on domestic demand and investment, our focus to make India a global innovation hub, and our ambitious plans for modernization of infrastructure requiring more than one trillion dollars in the next few years, development of new industrial clusters offer new and exciting opportunities for the US businesses to partner with Indian stakeholders for mutually beneficial ties.

12. The US businesses with their leadership role in technology, product development, research and innovation are already strong partners in India’s economic growth story; and the Indian businesses are creating value, wealth and jobs in the US. We are now working on a bilateral investment treaty that would ensure predictability for investors, and support economic growth and job creation in both countries.

13. I am aware that questions or doubts are sometimes raised here about our pace of reforms. On the other hand from the Indian perspective too there are some challenges including visa and market access issues that the Indian businesses face and which continue to hinder the realization of full potential of our commercial times. We all have stakes in ensuring that India-US commercial engagement maintains its positive trajectory and is not affected by any protectionist sentiments, keeping the long-term perspective in mind. Trade and economic, I am convinced, will continue to be one of the central drivers of the India-US partnership.

14. A crucial input to achieve the ambitious growth targets would be energy. And increasingly it will have to come from clean sources. We are working together across a full portfolio of clean energy options. The US is assisting us in mapping our reserves of shale gas resources. The Civil Nuclear Initiative that has become a symbol of our transformed relationship grew out of our conviction that nuclear energy could help us meet our energy requirements in an environmentally sustainable manner. There are immense opportunities for US companies in this sector and Indian and US companies are already in discussions to set up nuclear power plants in India. On its part, the Government of India is committed to provide a level playing field for all our international partners.

15. Through our bilateral Science and Technology Endowment Fund, we hope to tap into our respective scientific and technological strengths and encourage promising and innovative ideas that could produce material benefits for both countries. We value the support of the United States for India's full membership of the four multilateral export control regimes. We are hopeful that the decision by the US to realign its export control regulations, would help in removing these relics of the past and foster greater collaboration among our scientists and innovators in the areas of research and development, innovation and high technology.

16 Even while our economic growth has been impressive in recent years, we are mindful of enormous development challenges that we face. We need to build more schools and institutions for higher education, skill development, strengthen our health infrastructure. In all these facets of development, we are supplementing domestic efforts through cooperation with international partners the foremost of which is the United States.

17. A key element of India’s developmental plans is to improve our agricultural productivity and consequently rural incomes. This is imperative given that more than half of our population still derives its livelihood from agriculture. We are therefore working together with the US to revive the spirit that animated our cooperation during the Green Revolution. Beyond the bilateral dimension, we plan to work on joint projects in Africa, in collaboration with a few African countries, in the area of agriculture.

18. Similarly in the field of health we are working together to tap into each other’s comparative advantages through initiatives such as Global Disease Detection Center which will facilitate preparedness against health hazards. The productive CEO Forum meeting of last week has come up with several interesting ideas for investment-related bilateral cooperation in such areas as clean energy, technology, health, agriculture, education, security and aviation, trade and energy efficient buildings project. 

19. To fully reap the benefits of the demographic advantage, we need to ensure that there are ample opportunities for education and self development for the young population. Nearly 100,000 Indian students study in the US Universities, and education sector is a crucial area of our expanding cooperation. Next month, we will have the inaugural India-US Summit on Higher Education which we hope will help institutionalize a framework of cooperation where we might be able to benefit from the experience of the United States in university education, community colleges, faculty development and promote student exchanges. 

Concluding Remarks

20. This is just a glimpse of the broad canvas of our engagement at the bilateral, regional and global levels. Our shared values, intensified political engagement, expanding framework of dialogue mechanisms, growing business linkages and most importantly excellent people to people links will be shaping the growth and dynamism in India-US partnership in the coming decades.

21. Of course there would be issues on which there will be a difference of views. In a relationship as wide in scope as India-US strategic partnership, it is quite natural that we would not have the same views on all the issues. But we need to deal with a sense of maturity without losing sight of the broad, long-term strategic goals of this relationship and with sensitivity to each other’s vital interests.

22. Ours is a natural and enduring partnership. It is my firm conviction that the future of India-US strategic partnership is very promising and will advance the cause of peace and prosperity of our two peoples.