Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
IIT-Kanpur Golden Jubilee Alumni Convention
Washington, DC
July 9, 2010

As prepared

I’m so pleased and honored to be here with you this evening for the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur Golden Jubilee Alumni Convention. The Kanpur Indo-American Program is considered by many to be one of the most significant success stories in the rich history of bilateral higher education exchange programs between the United States and India. That is saying a lot, ladies and gentlemen!

I’d like to pay homage to the sheer creativity, ingenuity, and intellectual capacity that is with us in this room tonight. You are truly an extraordinary group of individuals. It reminds me of a story about President John F. Kennedy, (another part of IIT’s storied past) who once held a White House dinner for all the American Nobel laureates -- then living -- in 1962. The story goes that over hors d’oeurves, one of the guests said to him: “Mr President, there must be more intelligence gathered under this roof tonight than ever before.” “Yes,” replied Kennedy, “except for when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Well, I must say, ladies and gentlemen, that Thomas Jefferson would have met his match here tonight, at the IIT-Kanpur Golden Jubilee!

When IIT-Kanpur began offering classes to a mere 100 students in 1959, it had already defied many skeptics, who doubted that an Indian Institute of Technology could exist outside of a major urban city. The faculty was small and primarily comprised of local academics. Yet, in just three short years, IIT-Kanpur would distinguish itself as a truly special place to study, a center of learning that would offer the best of India -- and the United States.

Dr. P.K. Kelkar, IIT-Kanpur’s first Director deserves special credit for his progressive vision and his unyielding enthusiasm to partner with the consortium of nine premier American universities. By 1962, the Kanpur Indo-American Program was in full swing. In fact, at the White House on November 11, 1961, John F. Kennedy told Jawaharlal Nehru that he hoped Nehru would consider the bilateral agreement on KIAP a “souvenir” of Nehru’s November 1961 visit to the United States. What a souvenir it turned out to be, ladies and gentlemen!

I thought I would use this opportunity tonight first to speak with you about U.S.-India relations and last month’s exciting U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.

I would also like to discuss the importance of continued U.S.-India cooperation on education by our governments and our people, and how we can build on the enduring legacy of successful initiatives like the Kanpur Indo-American Program to shape and contribute to Indo-US education initiatives in the 21st century.


Broadly speaking, relations between the United States and India have never been better, and are likely to continue on their very promising trajectory – both in the near future and over the long-term. That’s why President Obama has called India an “indispensable partner” and said that our relations with India will be one of the defining partnerships for the United States in the 21st century.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton wanted to elevate our relations with India by establishing a Strategic Dialogue which convened for the first time last month in Washington. We began the Dialogue to give senior-level strategic direction to the many working groups and dialogues already in progress, conceive new initiatives to confront the new challenges of the 21st century like climate change, and capitalize on new opportunities for cooperation in areas like food security and clean energy.

An important part of our dialogue is to ensure that government efforts are informed and guided by the businesspeople, scientists, educators and others who contribute so much to deepening the partnership between our people.

In the days leading up to the Dialogue on June 3, numerous think-tank panels convened across Washington, DC to discuss and debate various aspects of U.S.-India relations.

On June 2nd, the U.S.-India Business Council celebrated its 35th Anniversary with a stellar event featuring:

o Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna

o Indian Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal

o U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

o Director, National Economic Council Larry Summers

In his keynote speech to the USIBC, Larry Summers predicted that the India of 2040 may well be a nation with “over a billion people in middle-class living standards,” underlining the significant opportunities before us.

On June 3rd, the State Department hosted the main event: The first ever U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which included bilateral and full delegation meetings led by Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna.

Secretary Clinton stated in her opening remarks that: “To fulfill [our shared destiny], we must not only build on areas of agreement but, frankly address doubts that remain on both sides, doubts among some Indians that the United States only sees India or mainly sees India in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan… So with this dialogue and the level of confidence that we have established between ourselves, we will confront these concerns directly and candidly… Next year, when this dialogue meets in Delhi, we should be able to point to real results.”

How do we plan to do that? Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna have decided to group our cooperation into five principal pillars: (1) Strategic Cooperation; (2) Energy and Climate Change; (3) Education and Development; (4) Economics, Trade, and Agriculture; (5) Science, Technology, Health and Innovation. Let me briefly outline some of the important steps we already have taken in each.

In the area of Strategic Cooperation, we reached agreement with India on nuclear reprocessing six months ahead of schedule, and we’re heartened that the Indian Government is committed to passing Nuclear Liability Legislation that is the last step needed for our companies to begin civil nuclear investments in India.

Our counterterrorism cooperation has expanded dramatically to include rail security, urban policing, information exchange and much more to bring terrorists to justice and help prevent terrorist attacks. Secretary Clinton has welcomed India’s contributions to Afghan reconstruction, capacity building, and development efforts – and its offer to enhance these efforts. We are now exploring how the US and India can work more closely together in Afghanistan.

Military-to-military relations are burgeoning. The Indian military holds more bilateral exercises with the United States than any other nation. As Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy recently noted, we are “creating conditions where close U.S.-India defense cooperation is normal, expected, and routine.” Foreign Secretary Rao has rightly said that U.S.-India defense relationship has evolved from a purely military relationship to a “state of comprehensive engagement.”

In the Energy and Climate Change pillar, we have launched a U.S.-India climate dialogue to capitalize on the improved coordination between the US and India in international climate negotiations. The U.S. appreciates the important role Prime Minister Singh played in helping to forge a consensus in Copenhagen last year. We support continuing the progress made in Copenhagen on the key issues that are necessary for any global climate regime—mitigation, transparency, financing, adaptation, technology and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

It is important for the global community to continue to make progress and find common ground on these essential issues in the lead up to the climate change talks later this year in Cancun.

One practical way we are working together on a low carbon energy future is through the US-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy. PACE has the potential to impact the lives of every Indian as we aim to support India’s goals in their solar and energy-efficiency mission: to bring electricity to every Indian household. The impact of this effort on India’s social and economic development will be profound.

I will touch on the pillar of Education and Development in greater detail later in my remarks, but let me say here that passage of India’s foreign education investment bill could pave the way for unprecedented new opportunities for education cooperation between the U.S. and India. Indeed, education was a big theme of the Strategic Dialogue. Imagine the possibilities: there are already over 113,000 Indian students studying in the United States. The opportunities for our educational institutions to tap into potentially the world’s largest education market and to provide those services in India, and to help create opportunities for Americans to study in India, are enormous. This will have tremendous benefit for the quality of education in India and the U.S. and further reinforce the strong people-to-people bonds between our two countries.

There was great excitement about the potential for education cooperation from the private sector. The U.S.-India Business Council launched the U.S.-India Higher Education Forum to serve as a platform for companies, NGO’s, and academia to provide direct input to both the Indian and U.S. governments.

In the pillar of Economics, Trade, and Agriculture, the State Department hosted on June 22 a revitalized and renewed U.S.-India CEO Forum. Finance Minister Mukherjee, Commerce Minister Sharma, and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia headlined the Indian delegation, along with the influential and innovative CEO’s from top U.S. and Indian companies.

The CEO Forum provided an invaluable opportunity for the private sector to specifically recommend ways that Washington and Delhi can enhance business to business linkages between the United States and India. As Secretary Clinton remarked, it is imperative that Washington and Delhi don’t hinder progress being made in New York and Mumbai.

India has managed to sustain impressive levels of economic growth even as it continues to gradually open its economy to international trade and investment, create jobs, and lift people out of poverty. Indian leadership will be essential in the months and years ahead as we seek to raise economic growth rates and ameliorate poverty around the world.

The U.S. and India signed a MoU on Agriculture Cooperation and Food Security. This initiative will build on decades of U.S.-India agricultural and scientific collaboration to increase further our partnership on agricultural and food productivity research, human resources capacity building, and natural resource management.

Also, during the Strategic Dialogue, U/S Hormats and USAID Administrator Shah met with Deputy Chairman Ahluwalia and agreed to continue our vibrant agriculture dialogue, with a new focus on weather/crop forecasting, developing farm-to-market linkages, and cooperation to enhance food security in third countries.

Last but not least, in the pillar of Science, Technology, Health and Innovation, Minister Krishna and Secretary of State Clinton committed to addressing export controls and increasing high-technology trade. The U.S.-India Health Initiative was launched during the week of June 21-25th, with the visit to Washington Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad for talks with Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius. They discussed the soon-to-be-finalized Global Disease Detection (GDD) center in New Delhi. With technical assistance and oversight from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the GDD will involve a number of collaborative activities, such as emerging disease detection, pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and bio-safety training/capacity building.

Another prospective area of cooperation discussed during the U.S.-India Health Initiative was health education. The Indian delegation was particularly interested in collaborating on the training of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, as they seek to address health care shortages that exist in the rural areas of India.

Since 1999, the CDC has provided over $111 million to India for polio eradication. Encouragingly, India is experiencing a record low number of new polio cases this year, due in part to their successful development of vaccines. We hope that India will continue to join with the United States to address polio in other countries.

As might be expected in our partnership with India, our S&T collaboration is robust. We recently held the first meeting of the India-U.S. Science and Technology Joint Committee, which brought together leading government, private sector and academic science and technology experts to discuss our common challenges and opportunities. We are collaborating to utilize our substantial common scientific knowledge to push the boundaries of that knowledge further, and melding our entrepreneurial spirit – a shared strength both the U.S. and India enjoy and have in common – with this technological capacity to create jobs.

Both sides committed to a new innovation exchange between leading technology innovators and entrepreneurs. We expect the first U.S. Technology delegation will travel to India later this year to exchange best practices and thoughts on developing enabling environments for innovation in India and the United States, as well as in third countries.

This is just a sampling of the many new and innovative ways the United States and India have enhanced an already robust partnership. The future is limitless in the ways in which we can strengthen this relationship to benefit the citizens of both nations. As President Obama summed up, “the United States values our partnership [with India] not because of where India is on a map, but because of what we share and where we can go together.”

The Future of U.S.-India Education Cooperation

I would be remiss with this distinguished audience if I didn’t delve into one of the bilateral sectors with the greatest potential for growth— education. We talk a lot about what our engagement with India looks like in the 21st century— how we will together advance solutions to the defining global challenges, from food security to public health, from climate change to workforce development.

But we need look no further than this room to see why education is at the forefront of those discussions and underlies everything that we do. The distinguished history of IIT-Kanpur underscores the valuable legacy of cooperation that our two countries share—and that you are part of.

It is a new day in India. Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani says, “The new India is united by a respect for achievement; yearning for a better life; and an unprecedented belief that such a life is possible regardless of caste or social and economic status.”

Nilekani eloquently describes why analysts from Goldman Sachs to McKinsey are so optimistic about India’s future. He states that while the working-age population of other major economies will be falling, India will have an additional 47 million workers in 2020, almost equal to the shortfall in the world’s other large economies.

These legions of Indians entering the workforce for the first time represent an immense economic opportunity for India and its partners—but only if they receive the education and training they will need to compete in India’s globalizing economy. As I said earlier, the United States is educating over 113,000 Indian students in U.S. schools. We welcome more Indian students and would love to see a much larger number of American students seeking education in India.

In July 2008, the U.S. and India signed an historic agreement making India a full partner in the funding and governance of our flagship exchange, the Fulbright Program. This has enabled us to double the number of Fulbright-Nehru Scholarships we award. The Fulbright Program has awarded over 8,200 scholarships to Indians and Americans since its inception in 1950.

America’s educational institutions would like to do more joint work in India. The Indian Government also seeks greater cooperation. Prime Minister Singh and Kapil Sibal, India’s new Minister for Human Resource Development, have ambitious plans for educational reform. As I said earlier, the US looks forward to early passage of the Higher Education Bill currently in parliament to catalyze new and deeper bonds between our respective educational institutions.

The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative launched by our two leaders last November will enhance those bonds by, for example, financing faculty development programs that will be critical to maintaining high education standards as higher education experiences rapid growth in the years ahead.

Let me conclude by repeating Secretary Clinton’s challenge to you: please think about how can we work together to create new higher education partnerships that reflect the world we live in today and the new global challenges we face together.

We in the Bureau of South and Central Asia welcome your ideas. More and more the United States Government is looking to partner with businesses, foundations and individuals like all of you to advance our common objectives.

This is not just government rhetoric! I have brought on to my staff two individuals who can be valuable points of contacts. Molly Teas is coordinating educational cooperation with throughout the South and Central Asian region while Mitul Desai will be developing public private partnerships with the Indian and other diasporas in our region.

I hope we can build upon the remarkable legacy of the Kanpur Indo-American Program, and chart new and innovative education cooperation opportunities that will further develop our two knowledge-based societies and economies.

Happy anniversary Kanpur! Let me extend my best wishes to all of you for your continued success.

Thank you very much!