Remarks by Ambassador at Welcome Reception hosted by USIBC Remarks by Ambassador at Welcome Reception hosted by USIBC

Washington DC,
February 13, 2020.

Nisha, Alice, friends, good evening to all of you

I am delighted, to be meeting with the distinguished members, of the US India Business Council, a group, that I have shared a long and productive relationship with, in my earlier avatar as DCM. Your warm reception, brightens the Washington weather!

Thank you Nisha, for that generous introduction. It goes without saying, that under Nisha, USIBC has become a prominent powerhouse, in the India-U.S. policy sphere. She is a close friend, and true partner for India - one whom I have had the pleasure, to have worked closely with, - from the Hill to Foggy Bottom. She is also, without doubt, one of the most recognizable faces, of the United States in India. But even as we celebrate the progress we have made, Nisha and I would agree, that our task remains unfinished – that the business, of this extraordinary partnership, between India and the United States, is very much, a work in progress.

For open and democratic societies, such as ours, that work is very much collaborative, inspired by the genius, of our peoples. The great ancient strategist, and theoretician of statecraft, Chanakya, said in his famous work, Arthashastra that “one wheel alone does not move a chariot”. India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. Jaishankar, put it a bit differently, when he said, “The street guides the system”. Indeed, the future that we envisage for people, in both our countries, and, for the world, at large, are not, and cannot be shaped, by Governments alone.

Business, industry, academia, think tanks, civil society, media: all play an important role, in building the India-US relationship. It is in this context that USIBC is an important player – as a strong bridge-builder, and a force multiplier; but most importantly, as a mirror, that reflects the expectations of the people. USIBC’s role remains integral, to the success of both governments.

Today, the US-India relationship, is being seen, as the most transformational relationship, of our times. The relationship has enjoyed, strong bipartisan support, in the United States. This is an affirmation, of our shared values; of our common commitment, to democracy and pluralism.

During my earlier stint as DCM, I was fortunate to witness, Prime Minister Modi’s address, to the joint session of the Congress, in 2016. PM Modi said in his address, that our relationship was primed, for a momentous future, that we have overcome, the ‘hesitations of history.’ Since then, we have seen, that our relationship has evolved into, a global strategic partnership. We are co-ordinating and co-operating, in multiple spheres: in counter-terrorism; defence; Indo-Pacific; science and technology; trade and investment.

I consider myself fortunate, to have arrived in the United States, as Ambassador at a time of exciting possibilities. Within 10 days, we will witness the historic visit of President of United States to India. This visit will help, to solidify our partnership, across all spheres.

Friends, our economic partnership, has grown from strength-to-strength, over the years. Prime Minister of India has set, an ambitious target of becoming a US$ 5 trillion economy, by 2024. The United States, is a preferred partner, in that endeavour.

Bilateral trade is growing, at 10 per cent, on a year-to-year basis, and has reached $160 billion in 2019. Two-way investment, between India and US, reached US$ 60 billion in 2018. More than 2000 US companies, have a presence in India. Over 200 Indian companies, have invested US$ 18 billion in the US, creating more than 100,000 direct jobs.

We are a fast growing digital economy. The number of internet users, in India, has overtaken that of the US. Our start-up ecosystem, is the third largest in the world, and is fast growing. We have jumped on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. We are a young country of over 800 million youth, who are aspirational, and dream big.

Defence and Energy co-operation, have been the game changers, in our bilateral relationship. Our energy trade, touched close to US$ 8 billion last year. Mind you, this was zero, a few years ago. In fact, in 2013, I testified, before the House Energy Committee, advocating US energy exports to India. In 2017, our leadership decided, to elevate our energy partnership, to a strategic energy partnership.

The defence partnership has undergone, a qualitative transformation. Our defence trade is valued, at approximately US $18 billion, with potential to grow much more. In 2016, the United States recognized India, as a Major Defence Partner, opening the doors for extended co-operation. By signing agreements, such as LEMOA; COM CASA, we have created an enabling framework, for greater co-operation. During the 2+2 Meeting, in December 2019, we announced the signing of the Industrial Security Annex.

There are growing opportunities, for businesses in defence. Nisha, has just returned, from India, after participating in the Def Expo in the city of Lucknow. As our Defence Minister has said, we are looking now, to become a global manufacturing hub, in Defence.

I also, come here at a time, when India is surging ahead on reforms. The GST, was a major reform, aimed to unify the Indian market. The latest budget, which has been tabled in the Parliament, by the Finance Minister has announced, incentives to boost participation, by Foreign Portfolio investors. There are incentives, for sovereign wealth funds. An Investment Clearance Cell, is envisaged, to provide end-to-end facilitation, for foreign investors. There are opportunities for U.S. companies, through reduction in duties, on a number of items, (Fuel Oil, Petroleum Coke, Plastic, Liquid Crystal Polymers, Platinum, and Microphone Parts).

Friends, ours, is a partnership, between two peoples, and not just two governments. The strong and enduring bonds, between the American and Indian people, has been the foundation of our relationship. During the forthcoming visit, of the President of the United States to India, you will witness, the warmth of Indian people, for the United States.

I believe, that Business and culture are, the two pillars capable, of uniting people, across the world. Business is about money; but not, just about money. It is also about risk, expectation, adventure, and passion.

For the passion that you bring, to India-US relationship, I have tremendous faith, in the USIBC, as a group. I look forward, to working together, with all of you, in this shared passion, for India-US relationship. Thank you!

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