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Foreign Secretary's address at 5th HTCG Meeting at USIBC

Washington, DC
February 22, 2007 

Thank you Deputy Secretary David Samspon, Ron Somers, General Mehta, Mr. Topa, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today at the 5th High Technology Cooperation Group meeting. I thank Deputy Secretary Sampson for the very warm welcome that he has extended to our delegation and for the fruitful talks we had before we came here.

I am also glad to see so many representatives of the private sector and government present here from India and the US. This reflects the importance of what we are doing in the HTCG. I am confident that what you do over the next two days will help us to take our collaboration in high technology to a whole new level. 

This morning we had excellent discussion on the next steps that we, as partners in the HTCG, could take to intensify our engagement under this dialogue. We agreed that there was a value to both sides in widening this dialogue, both in terms of its substance and the range of areas that we cover. High Technology commerce has been prioritized for us by our leaders, by President Bush, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because these are important areas - not just for the sectors that we discuss here but for the entire range and spectrum of our relationship. We in India are trying to build a knowledge economy; you have one already, and we look forward to working with you, with your strong scientific and technical communities. It stands to reason that high technology is the area where maximum synergies would exist between us as our relationship strengthens. It is the driving force of so many of our joint endeavours. 

Since we last met in the HTCG, we have had the visit of President Bush in March 2006. It was marked by a set of new initiatives and decisions which reinforced this commitment. 

Perhaps the major public focus has been on the civil nuclear understanding. We are in the process of working our way towards its implementation. We are very conscious of the need to do so as quickly as we can. If India is to continue to develop at 8-10%, it needs energy and high technology. Our partnership with the US is, therefore, very important to us. We look forward to the positive implementation of our interaction across the entire spectrum of high technology. 

Deputy Secretary Sampson and I agreed that the HTCG had made significant progress in all four of its focus areas towards facilitating strategic trade between our two countries. But we also agree that time is ripe for a qualitative leap forward by the HTCG. We look forward to hearing from you, particularly from the private sector, about how we can achieve this in the years to come. We hope that at the end of this meeting we will have clear and robust action plans for us to implement. 

India’s long record of protecting strategic high technology, whatever the source, is known to you. So is our exemplary record on proliferation. Our export controls in India will continue to develop and improve.

Looking at the four focus areas that we had agreed on, our cooperation in defence technology has advanced significantly. The new Defence Framework of June 2005 and the Defence Production and Procurement Group set up under that framework have resulted in excellent exchanges. The emphasis in the Joint Technical Group, which is another sub-group, has been on specific areas of interest such as aerospace, life sciences, naval materials and so on. We would recommend that we work together to look more closely at the comparative cost advantages, at the large pool of scientific and technologically trained manpower available in India and the huge potential for collaboration between the defence industries of India and in the US for developing advanced high technology defence applications. 

On bio-technology, our exchanges in the HTCG have picked up momentum during the last year. A private sector joint working group led by the USIBC and FICCI was set up in April 2006. We could consider the establishment of a focus working group on medical devices and pharmaceuticals under bio-technology to add value. India could also be used for contract research and clinical trial studies at a very advantageous cost ratio. 

On nano-technology, I was pleased to learn that a government-level working group will be considered during this meeting and we would be very interested to hear what you have to say about the way forward in this sector. 

IT is, undoubtedly, the sector that has really been the most fruitful and in the forefront of our high technology endeavours so far. Partnerships in this area have not only contributed to the transformation of the Indian IT industry but they have also increased the competitiveness for both our industries. We would like the sub-group, this time, to look at the next generation Information and Communications Technologies and R&D initiatives and show us in the government the way forward that you would like us to take. 

I mentioned some of these details not as an exhaustive list but to demonstrate that we today have a moment of opportunity. Ron mentioned the cusp on which we stand where we can really qualitatively change the nature of what we are doing together. We have the right political climate; we have a vision given to us by our leaders and its now really up to us to take advantage of this and to realize this. 

Before I conclude, I would like to thank the US Department of Commerce and the USIBC for arranging such an impressive meeting; FICCI, CII and NASCOM for being here in large numbers and last but not the least, the US government for helping to arrange this. I am sure that what you do will be useful to us, to industry in both countries and will contribute to our achieving the goals that we seek.

Thank you