Remarks at U.S.-India Business Council's 34th Anniversary "Synergies Summit"
Secretary of State
Thank you. Thank you all so much. It is a great pleasure for me to be back here at the Chamber for such an important occasion. I want to thank David for that introduction, and I want to thank my friend, Indra, for those very kind words. It gives you an idea of how much we admire each other and her leadership of a great American company with obviously international reach.
To Ron Summers and to the U.S.-India Business Council Board, thank you so much for this important dialogue. This could not be better timed. It is early in our new Administration, and we are clearly committed to furthering and deepening our relationship with India in every way possible. I’m also pleased to welcome India’s new Minister of Commerce and Industry. Anand Sharma is here with us, and newly arrived ambassador Meera Shankar.
It is exciting to see the election results in India as well, as the Congress Party and the people of India made such a strong statement about the future that they hope to make together. And I look forward to working with Minister Sharma and the ambassador and others on our common agenda and goals.
I will be visiting India next month, which I’m looking forward to. It is exciting for me to have an opportunity to return again, and it is also a great privilege and honor to be doing so representing the United States.
I think also somewhere in this very large lunchtime audience are two members of our new team. And if they are, I’d love for them just to stand up, and you could get a look at our new U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Are Ron and Gary here with us? Well, they’re off working. That’s why they’re not. (Laughter.)
And I want also to just thank some of the other people who have been so instrumental in this Council whom I have worked with over the years: Sy Sternberg, the former chair and CEO of New York Life; William Cohen, a former Secretary of Defense and now chair and CEO of the Cohen Group; obviously Bal Das, who is a great friend of mine, an investor and very actively involved on behalf of India and Asia from New York; Ambassador Susan Esserman, another friend who has a lot of work through her legal career that involves the India-U.S. relationship. These are all members of the Council, and I am grateful for everyone who has committed to this work.
The broad range of talents in this room is an indicator of how important the relationship is. Now, when I first had the great delight of visiting India in 1995, I was just overwhelmed by not just the hospitality and the warmth of the people with whom I met, from the very highest to women in villages who were working for better lives for themselves and their families, but how easy it was, even back in ’95, for India’s many accomplishments to be overlooked in other places in the world. Here was a country defined by democracy, diversity, and dynamic growth, a country that had over 1.1 billion opportunities to enhance not only individual potential, but the nation’s. And when I was elected to the Senate, I co-founded and co-chaired the Senate’s India Caucus, the first time we had done that. And I have returned to India to talk about this partnership which I think is critical not only to both of our countries, but literally to the future of the world, the kind of world we want to shape together.
And it is great for me to be standing in front of this significant crowd and to say that the word about India has obviously spread. People know what kind of business and investment opportunities are there. India’s growing role in the global economy is accepted the way we accept the law of gravity. And the partnerships that are blooming at all levels of our societies are indeed exciting.
Now, I tell you this because I want you to place me and where I stand as Secretary of State. It is in a position of deep commitment to building stronger ties with India, a commitment based on mutual respect and mutual interests. And I know that President Obama feels the same way. We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century. The forces of positive change versus those of destruction, the forces that move people forward rather than holding them back. We are both eager to build on this relationship, and of course, we’re not alone. We build on the past.
It is now three successive United States administrations from different parties that have identified the U.S.-India relationship as a foreign policy priority. For the United States, this is a project that transcends partnership and personalities, and I believe the same is true in India. When the U.S.-India nuclear deal passed the United States Congress, it had strong bipartisan support, including backing from two former senators named Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as well as a senator from New York.
But the agreement also received support from across the political spectrum in India. The formation of India’s new government is an opportunity to strengthen our ties and launch new initiatives. Now that the government is in place, we are moving quickly to strengthen our ties. Our senior career diplomat, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, and his newly minted Assistant Secretary of State Bob Blake have returned from India this weekend to tell me of the enormous potential for progress in our relationship with New Delhi.
In a world where, let’s admit it, frankly, the headlines can get depressing, our relationship with India is a good news story. And I think it’s going to get even better. But it’s important to place this in history and to remember that the United States and India haven’t always had such a promising partnership. We need to acknowledge the road we have traveled together. We have already come through two distinct eras in U.S.-India relations on our way to this new beginning.
The first era opened with India’s founding and lasted through the end of the Cold War. It was colored by uncertainty about each other’s motives and ambivalence about whether to pursue closer cooperation. The relationship between our countries was never hostile. But the missed opportunities for closer partnership during this period were casualties of old conflicts between East and West, and North and South.
After the Cold War ended, President Clinton opened a new chapter of engagement with India. I love saying that, and it has the benefit of being true. (Laughter.) Talks between former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and his Indian counterpart helped to establish a new foundation for our relationship. And of course, my husband and daughter had an extraordinary visit toward the end of his term in office.
This second stage in our history continued through the last U.S. and Indian administrations and culminated in completion of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement this past October under the Bush Administration. This landmark accord, which the Obama Administration is fully committed to implementing, provides a framework for economic and technical cooperation between our two countries and allows us to move beyond our concerns about the status of India’s nuclear program, an issue that dominated our relationship for much of the last decade.
The nuclear deal, which was completed through the efforts of former President Bush, removed the final barrier to broader cooperation between us. And that brings us to today. We find ourselves at the beginning of a third era. I’ll call it U.S.-India 3.0. The new governments in Washington and New Delhi will build this future together, and we will be discussing the details of that partnership when I visit India next month.
But today, I can tell you my hope and President Obama’s hope that the next stage in our country’s relationship will see a dramatic expansion in our common agenda, and a greater role for India in solving global challenges. We recognize the extraordinary progress that India has made already, and we know that many of these advances have not come easily, and we don’t take them for granted. As we pursue an enhanced bilateral partnership, we should recognize that compared to other metrics of our cooperation, our official ties are past due for an upgrade.
You see, a funny thing happened on the way to this third era of U.S.-India relations. Our scientists and business people, our universities and movie studios, and vibrant Indian-American personal familial connections accepted the truth that cooperation between our countries can be a driver of progress long before our policymakers did.
Today our trade between our nations has doubled since 2004 and now exceeds $43 billion; there are over 90,000 Indian students studying in the United States; and the new Fulbright-Nehru program strengthens educational exchanges between India and the United States with both countries acting as full partners in governance and funding.
We find ourselves in an unusual position. We need the bilateral cooperation between our governments to catch up with our people-to-people and economic ties. We need to make sure that the partnership between Washington and New Delhi, our capitals, will be as advanced and fruitful as the linkages that already exist between Manhattan and Mumbai, or Boston and Bangalore.
Now, that’s not to say that our governments have not made significant progress in our cooperation over the past several years. Top officials see each other more often, and I think we speak more candidly with each other, which is a true sign of friendship. And we have found more common ground of late. But this is a relationship that has largely grown from the ground up. And I think our governments are ready to start following the examples of partnership established by our citizens, our companies, and our colleges.
I hope that an expanded partnership between the U.S. and India will be one of the signature accomplishments of both new governments in both countries, and I do plan to make that a personal priority. To achieve the goal of stronger ties between our countries, we will have to confront and transcend the mistrust that has hampered our cooperation in the past, and address the lingering uncertainties in our relationship still today.
Each of us have our own perspectives, as you would expect, about the challenges we face as individual countries and as partners in the world. Some Americans fear that greater prosperity and partnership with India will mean lost jobs or falling wages here in the United States. Some Indians believe that closer cooperation with us runs counter to their nation’s very strong tradition of independence.
But as friendly democracies, in fact, as the oldest and largest democracies in the world, we should work through any issues in our relationship and differences in our perspective by focusing on shared objectives and concrete results. I want to put us into the solutions business.
In order to achieve that and realize the benefits of this 3.0 relationship, we need to build on several natural platforms. The first is global security. India and the United States share an overriding interest in making the world more secure. The tragic attacks of 26/11 were a global event. They played out in slow motion on television screens across India, the United States, and the world. The violence inflicted on the people of Mumbai, and the loss of six American citizens in those attacks, was a reminder that terrorism represents a common threat to our nations and our people, and we must meet it with a common strategy.
As part of that strategy, we should expand our broader security relationship and increase cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence sharing. As you know, America faced an extraordinary challenge ourselves after 9/11 – how to organize as a government and a people to better prevent and prepare for future attacks. India faces that same terrible challenge. And the President and I are committed to working with India in whatever way is appropriate to enhance India’s ability to protect itself.
Our own post-9/11 process had its strengths and its faults. And I think we can learn from India, too, as it develops new mechanisms for cooperation between federal and state security forces.
We should also work to realize a vision articulated by generations of Indians, Americans, and recently by President Obama, of a nuclear-free world. The Civil Nuclear Agreement helped us get over our defining disagreement, and I believe it can and should also serve as the foundation of a productive partnership on nonproliferation.
We have a common interest in creating a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, where India is already providing $1.2 billion in assistance to facilitate reconstruction efforts. The United States is committed to the task ahead in Afghanistan, and I hope India will continue its efforts there as well. And of course, we believe that India and Pakistan actually face a number of common challenges, and we welcome a dialogue between them.
As we have said before, the pace, scope, and character of that dialogue is something that Indian and Pakistani leaders will decide on their own terms and in their own time. But as Pakistan now works to take on the challenge of terrorists in its own country, I am confident that India, as well as the United States, will support those efforts.
As India and other nations play an expanded role in resolving international security challenges, we should be prepared to adapt the architecture of international institutions to reflect their new responsibilities. India’s moral stature and its long tradition of leadership among developing countries means that it is particularly well-suited to take on the challenges that multinational institutions face. I have always believed states should be awarded enhanced roles in international bodies not only on the basis of their power, but whether they use that power constructively to advance the common good and address global problems. India already is a major player on the world stage, and we will look to cooperate with New Delhi as it shoulders the responsibilities that accompany its new position of global leadership.
Human development – particularly in the fields of education, women’s empowerment, and health – is another platform for cooperation. In both India and the United States, the most important national asset we possess is the energy and creativity of our citizens. In Prime Minister Singh, we have a partner who is determined to leverage India’s progress to improve the lives of his people. We need to work together to ensure that every child, girl or boy, born in our countries can live up to their God-given potential.
As part of that commitment, we should build on the goals articulated by India’s leadership to boost literacy, expand vocational training, and improve access to higher education. I hope we can partner with India to improve outcomes at all levels of education. Our countries should continue the tradition of intellectual exchange by increasing opportunities for interaction by American institutions of higher learning and their Indian counterparts as well.
India’s women have made great strides. The country has a woman president, a woman leader of the nation’s largest political party, more women in parliament than ever before. In many areas, the United States can learn from India. (Applause.) But there is more work to be done in both of our countries. (Laughter.) We should continue working together to promote initiatives like micro-lending and provide training programs for rural women as tools to help lift them and their families out of poverty.
We can also work together to address health challenges including nutrition, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases, as well as the growing problem of chronic disease in both of our nations. We need to share knowledge and best practices to improve human development at home and around the world. And I appreciate all that is being done by this group and certainly this Council to promote economic and trade cooperation. We should begin negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty soon. And I’m confident that our Trade Representative and Minister Sharma will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to help move the Doha Round negotiations to a successful conclusion.
President Obama has been clear that the United States has learned the lessons of the past. We will not use the global financial crisis as an excuse to fall back on protectionism. We hope India will work with us to create a more open, equitable set of opportunities for trade between our nations.
Encouraging greater agricultural cooperation should be a major focus of our economic agenda. India is ripe for a second green revolution. A significant expansion of India’s agricultural sector would have dramatic benefits for Indians, but also could help to spur agricultural revolutions in Africa and other parts of the globe where food security remains a persistent problem.
All of you in this room will be critical partners as we work to expand economic cooperation. Our commitment to work with the business community means that in September we will re-launch the CEO Forum on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. We hope that effort, along with other initiatives, will channel the power of the private sector and entrepreneurs to build and improve the lives of both Indians and Americans.
Finally, we should bring together the best of our technological and scientific brains to encourage breakthroughs in both science and technology. This is particularly important on issues related to energy and climate. We are committed to working with India to see India’s economy continue to prosper, to create more economic opportunity, rising incomes. We want Indians to have a higher standard of living. And we hope our countries can work together to achieve that overriding goal, while avoiding the mistakes that were made by everyone in creating the climate crisis we face today. We think there is great promise in a clean energy cooperation strategy focused on adopting low carbon technologies, improving energy efficiency, forestation, and water management. And these efforts should be supported by new and existing high-level dialogues between representatives of our governments.
We can also learn from Indian doctors and companies that are pioneering low-cost solutions to many of the health challenges we face today. The Serum Institute’s groundbreaking work to reduce the cost of vaccine manufacturing is one example of this phenomenon. There are many others. Applying their discoveries to global health initiatives will help us save resources and lives.
Public-private partnerships between governments, industry, civil society will be vital to everyone of these platforms. Yes, we can use all of you to help us drive economic cooperation, but also to improve human development and technological advances as well. And I think that the security cooperation is not just government-to-government, but can operate much more broadly and deeply.
So four platforms of cooperation – global security, human development, economic activity, science and technology – can support us in launching this third phase of the U.S.-India relationship. I think our successes and our futures are intertwined. Obviously, we want India to do well on its own for its own sake, but we also have a stake in that outcome, because we want India to succeed as a model of democratic development. We want India to succeed as an anchor for regional and global security. And we want India to succeed so that the world’s two largest democracies can work together as strong partners.
This is a relationship with deep roots. Both of our countries emerged from struggles against colonialism to become proud, independent democracies. And both are living proof that people espousing espoused different faiths, speaking different languages, and travelling different paths can unite and form nations that are greater than the sum of their parts.
Sixty years ago this October, then-Prime Minister Nehru told a joint session of the United States Congress that, quote, “Progress cannot go far or last long unless it has its foundations in moral principles and high ideals.” The United States and India share an allegiance to what Nehru called the “fundamental human rights to which all [those] who love liberty, equality and progress aspire.”
So let us build on those timeless principles, and let us create a new era in our relationship that will produce so much progress for our people, so much more peace for the world, and live up to those high ideals that both of our nations and our peoples represent and aspire to.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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