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Speech by Ambassador Arun K. Singh at the University of Michigan on October 14, 2015 - "India and U.S.: Shaping a Partnership of the 21st century"

"India and U.S.: Shaping a Partnership of the 21st century"

   Thank you for inviting me today. It is always a pleasure to talk to young audiences, who will shape the 21st Century, about how India and the U.S. will together shape a better future --- for our countries, our peoples and the world at large.

   A few years ago, it was President Obama who hailed the India-U.S. relationship as a 'defining partnership of the 21st Century'. Our Prime Minister has termed it a 'natural alliance'. Together, we have characterized the motive for our partnership as "Shared effort, progress for all."

   What does it mean?

   It means that, as the world's largest and oldest democracies and as pluralist and multi-cultural societies, India and the U.S. possess a natural synergy between our governments. Our 1.5 billion peoples share common aspirations. Institutions in both India and the U.S. pulsate with the same values and beliefs. It means that our full-spectrum relationship represents a 24x7 interaction of our governments, businesses, scholars, tourists and public in all walks of life. And it means that we have resolved to invest in each other's rise and continued prosperity to secure the 21st century against the forces of exclusion and extremism and to uphold freedom and opportunity.

   Then why were our two countries fashionably called 'estranged democracies' not so long ago?

   The answer lies in the geopolitics of Cold War in  the 20th century that this young audience may not even remember. The U.S. quest for political and military alliances against Communism was met with India's determination to avoid its own 'entangling alliances' and power politics.  Disparity in our economic systems and practices did not allow for enough immediate mutual stakes in each other's prosperity. India's bid to protect her strategic autonomy met with technology denial regimes and sanctions by the West, leading to mistrust and disappointment. There were gaps in our immediate strategic and developmental interests, and there was not sufficient and sustained political attention in the two capitals to bridge them.

   Since the end of the Cold War and the onset of globalization, in the new phase of Asia's resurgence and in the wake of the emergence of international terrorism as the foremost global challenge, the India-U.S. pendulum has swung to one of greater strategic convergence, better understanding of each other's strategic circumstances and forging of shared objectives.

   For India, the stakes of partnership with the world's largest economy went up significantly as we embraced globalization. In turn, India's robust and sustained economic growth, in a framework of a democratic polity, market economy and pluralistic society enhanced its appeal to the U.S.  The growing salience of common non-traditional challenges like terrorism and maritime security encouraged habits of cooperation. India's independent ability to bring its voice and influence to bear responsibly on issues, both regional and global and the achievements of Indians in science, technology and arts underscored India's potential as a strategic partner.

   Meanwhile, the three million strong Indian-American community quietly emerged as a visible force within the U.S., by dint of their enterprise, sense of discipline, intellectual attainment and professional achievements. Today, among the different ethnic groups in the U.S., Indian-Americans boast the highest level of educational qualification and the highest level of income. One in every seven patients in the U.S. is seen by an Indian-origin doctor. Forty percent of hotel rooms in the U.S. are owned by Indian-Americans. Fifteen per cent of the start-ups in the Silicon Valley are launched by Indian-Americans. Politically, too, they are becoming active participants.

   If the 20th Century was a period of lost opportunity for India-U.S. bilateral relation, the developments in the last few years show that we are more than catching up in the new millennium. While three U.S. Presidents visited India in the first 50 years of India's existence as an independent nation, in the last 15 years, all the three U.S. Presidents have paid four visits to India. In last one year, our Prime Minister has visited the U.S. twice, interacting with political leaders, lawmakers, captains of industry, scholars, scientists, pioneers of ideas and technology and the Indian-American community. The first-ever vision statement of our countries was issued in September 2014, during Prime Minister's first visit here. Only last month, he was here again --- visiting New York and Silicon Valley this time --- and discovering ways to transform India and build new partnership opportunities through digital technology, renewable energy and entrepreneurship.

   Such high-level attention is certainly not one-sided. President Obama's presence at India's Republic Day this year was an eloquent testimony to the coming together of our democracies. The Delhi Declaration that was adopted during his visit further elevated our strategic partnership. The Joint Strategic Vision that was unveiled at that time reflected their common goals for the dynamic Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region, building on the congruence of India's "Act East" policy and the U.S. 're-balance' to Asia. The U.S. has made political commitment at the highest level for a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member, and for India's membership of APEC.

   Another transformation in our relations in the current century lay in the U.S. moving away, step by step, from technology denial against India, towards recognizing India's energy and security needs,  its impeccable record of non-proliferation and seeing her as a positive partner in regional and global issues. The civil nuclear deal of 2005 and India's re-integration into the global nuclear commerce in 2008 helped overcome another barrier to our engagement. India, on its part, announced its adherence to the guidelines of the export control regimes, completed the implementation of its IAEA separation plan, signed and ratified an additional protocol with the IAEA, passed a domestic legislation on civil nuclear liability, and signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation. The U.S. has been supportive of India's membership of the multilateral export control regimes.

Today, it is natural for India and the U.S. to consult regularly on all major policy issues of the day --- be it security of the global commons, reform of the international economic and financial architecture or creation of an open, balanced and inclusive architecture in Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. Our countries have taken their global partnership to third countries where our expertise and resources are valued, including in e-governance, food security, and capacity-building in election management, in several African countries; and women empowerment projects and agriculture capacity-building in Afghanistan. In the past few years, our global partnership has evolved into bilateral-plus, as we engage with Japan in trilateral format to promote regional connectivity, HA/DR capacities and maritime security. Last month, Foreign Ministers of our two countries and Japan met in New York and this month, our two Navies, along with Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force are conducting exercises off the coast of India, in yet another signal of the coming together of the three largest democracies.

We have created an elaborate political-level dialogue architecture, covering strategy, trade, energy, health, science, education, among others. At the official level, India and the U.S. are engaged in consultations in over 50 dialogue forums, from East Asia to Africa, from disarmament to peacekeeping, from women empowerment to defence policy. At the apex of these dialogues stands the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which is a reinforced 2+2 dialogue of our Foreign and Commerce Ministers. It met in this format for the first time last month in Washington DC.

Defence is one of the areas where the transformation in the 21st century has been most evident. In 2005, our countries concluded their first Defence Cooperation Framework, and it was upgraded and renewed in June this year, when Secretary Carter visited India. We have added the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative to foster collaboration in transformative defence technology, co-production and co-development. We have also begun a new and futuristic knowledge partnership in defence studies. Our countries have contracted US$13 billion worth of defence trade in the past few years. Armed Forces of India and the U.S. conduct more exercises with each other than they do with any other country.

   Our security agencies are working together to fight transnational crimes, from physical to digital world. Our officials are sharing best practices to make our cities safe and secure, tapping knowledge and resources to prevent counterfeiting, to ensure security of supply chains. Our cooperation in counter-terrorism, intelligence-sharing and homeland security has made great strides in the last decade, arising from our common resolve against terrorism. It was further strengthened after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, that counted U.S. citizens among the victims of terrorist plots conceived and masterminded from across our borders. We have engaged each other to overcome the threat of improvised explosive devices with information and technology. 

Our engagement in the economic and financial sectors has also attained much more heft. We are exploring ways to energize our economic partnership further. Last year, in order to raise investment by institutional investors and corporate entities, we established an India-U.S. Investment Initiative, as well as an Infrastructure Collaboration Platform. The U.S. industry will be the lead partner in developing three smart cities in Ajmer, Vishakhapatnam and Allahabad. USAID will serve as a knowledge partner to support the Indian Prime Minister's 500 Cities National Urban Development Mission and Clean India Campaign.

The U.S. has emerged as India's largest trading partner in goods and services, with a total trade volume of US$120 billion -- rising five-fold in the last decade, and our leaders have set their target on increasing the trade volume by five times in the years ahead. American investment in India has jumped from less than US$8 billion in 2004 to US$28 billion today.  India is also emerging as one of the fast growing sources of FDI into the U.S. Over 500 American companies are active in India today, as are 200 Indian companies here. A recent survey of 100 Indian companies operating in this country has shown that they have created more than 90000 jobs and made tangible investment of over US$15 billion here, with plans to do much more.

We have an Energy Dialogue covering oil and gas, renewable energy, coal, energy efficiency and nuclear energy. Each of these have seen several practical outcomes. The India-U.S. PACE programme --- Partnership to Advance Clean Energy ---- has created avenues for joint research and deployment of clean energy resources, such as solar, advanced biofuels, shale gas, and smart grids.  The programme was strengthened and expanded last year to encompass new priority initiatives of our government: a new Energy Smart Cities Partnership to promote efficient urban energy infrastructure; a new program to scale-up renewable energy integration into India's power grid; cooperation to support India's efforts to upgrade its alternative energy institutes and to develop new innovation centers; and formation of a new Clean Energy Finance Forum to promote investment and trade in clean energy projects. 

In the run-up to the Paris Conference later this year, Climate change has emerged as a subject of robust bilateral engagement. We look forward to working also with the U.S. to find the right balance between mitigation effort and development, using instruments of finance and technology. Recently, a new U.S.-India Partnership for Climate Resilience, a new program of work on air quality and a new U.S.-India Climate Fellowship Program were launched. 

Today, Indian and American scientists are engaged in jointly funded research, from atoms to space, combining India's talent with American infrastructure, and transforming lives of millions around the world. Joint Centres on Clean Energy Research and Development have brought best institutions in the two countries together. Collaboration in monsoon forecasting has brought tangible benefits to Indian farmers. In space sector, India's Mars and Moon Missions have benefitted from collaboration with the U.S. The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission is conceived as a dual frequency radar imaging satellite for Earth Sciences, to be launched in 2021.

A Regional Global Disease Detection Centre has been set up in Delhi based on U.S. experience and with U.S. partnership. The United States' support to surveillance of diseases in India was instrumental in making India polio-free; now our collaboration is intended to accelerate control of measles and rubella. We have successfully collaborated for a locally produced vaccine against rotavirus, which will save the lives of an estimated 80,000 children each year in India alone. We have begun cooperation in setting up world-class cancer research and diagnostics facility in India.

   More than a million of our citizens are travelling in both direction every year. Indian students in U.S. universities like this one contribute over US$ 3 billion through tuition fees, and more to the local economy, in addition to enriching intellectual and social life in campuses. We have decided to deepen university linkages, including greater emphasis on community colleges. Grants in priority fields of science, technology and agriculture have been significantly expanded. The government has now offered to have U.S. institutions partner with a new Indian Institute of Technology at Gandhinagar. Under India's proposal to establish the Global Initiative of Academic Networks or GIAN, India would invite and host up to 1,000 American academics each year to teach in centrally-recognized Indian Universities, and we would hope to see some of the faculty from this prestigious university spending some time in India under this programme.

   I must also add a note here on the transformation underway in India and in our relation with the U.S. in the past one year. The new government of India, which has enjoyed a clear one-party majority in Parliament, has demonstrated its willingness to quicken the pace of India's economic reform. Externally, the government is keen to be an effective and credible partner of the world, using all its abilities, and exercise a leading role, rather than just a balancing one. This change of approach has created opportunities for complementarity of efforts with the U.S., which is seeking like-minded partners around the world to maintain and strengthen economic and political order.

   The U.S. on its part was quick to offer to partner with India in realizing the goals that our new Government set for India's transformation, and as a result, the narrative in our relations has begun to reflect newfound energy and optimism. The excellent personal friendship enjoyed by our two leaders has provided a solid political foundation for our overall relationship. In three summits with the U.S. in a year, the Government addressed lingering differences with the U.S. on nuclear liability, injected new energy into defense and economic cooperation, and explored pragmatic ways forward on IPR issues and partnership to tackle climate change. These Summits created new milestones, new expectations and new excitement.

   In first Vision Statement between our two countries, in 2014, we adopted the motto of "Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go" for our relationship, and agreed 'to work together not just for the benefit of our two nations, but for the benefit of the world'. This is evident in the challenges that we are taking up --- development and deployment of clean energy through joint research, climate resilience partnership, conservation of biodiversity, high energy physics, synthetic aperture radar, space situational awareness, fight against Ebola and development of affordable vaccine, agricultural productivity, women's empowerment and disaster preparedness in third countries. If these are indicators of the challenges that we will face in the 21st century, it is clear that there is only one way to overcome them --- and that is through partnership of countries like India and the U.S.

Going forward, I believe that together, India and the U.S., representing the best traditions of democracy, pluralism and Rule of Law in two different parts of the interconnected world, create a force for global peace, prosperity and stability in the 21st century. No relationship between India and another country can today match the range, depth, quality and intensity of the India-U.S. partnership. The U.S. has been our foremost partner, not only in trade and investment, but also in technology, knowledge and development. As India unveils ambitious and transformative economic programmes at home --- be it infrastructure, smart cities, Make in India, Digital India and renewable energy --- the potential for doing business with India and to work for India's rise as an economic powerhouse has perhaps never looked more appealing for the U.S.. We see the U.S. as an indispensible partner in achieving these goals, which are intrinsic to our national vision. By investing in India's rise, the U.S. has pledged its friendship to a country where 800 million youth under the age of 35 years are impatient for change and eager to achieve it. This is what makes the 21st century so interesting for all of us. Only recently, the Financial Times reported that India now ranks as the top destination of FDI, ahead of China and the USA for the first time. 

There is universal recognition in both our countries of the necessity to make the India-U.S. Global Strategic Partnership truly global in outlook, truly strategic in content and truly transformative for India's development.

Of course, when there is such intensified engagement, there will be issues, challenges, disagreements and, on occasion, perhaps disappointments. Autonomy of decision-making and differences, we believe, are not inconsistent with our strategic partnership. Experience has taught us that deeper dialogue and effort at empathetic understanding is the best way to overcome such challenges, since the big picture is one of convergence and partnership.