Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
San Diego, CA
September 30, 2010

I’m so pleased and honored to address such a dynamic and unique group of leaders, esteemed academics, community members, and students here this afternoon. The University of California, San Diego is one of the premier educational institutions in the United States.

This university has graduated many top students into the highest ranks of public service. In fact, the person at the forefront of forging stronger U.S.-India relations – our exceptional Ambassador to India, Dr. Timothy J. Roemer – is an alumnus of UCSD.

I’d also like to acknowledge the San Diego Indian American Society, which helped put this lecture on. It is phenomenal that your organization bestows outstanding high school students with a Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship Award – a reward that will not only benefit the student recipients, but the communities they seek to improve and enrich in their adults lives.

The Society’s efforts are yet another positive example of how the 2.5 million Indian-Americans do so much not only for the United States but to build stronger ties and understanding between the U.S. and India. Such people to people ties provide critical ballast and underpinning for our fast growing partnership.

You know, I often say that a day spent outside of the Washington beltway, is a day well spent. I read a wonderful article in the Washington Post the other day about the jokes Secretary Gates made about Washington. “Washington, D.C. - a place where so many people are lost in thought because it is such unfamiliar territory; a place where people say, 'I'll double-cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Well as usual, our Secretary of Defense has it right. A day spent outside of Washington and spent in San Diego – now that is a day really well spent. I love visiting this city! Thank you again for giving me this opportunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Just a few blocks from the Department of State headquarters in Washington D.C., stands a statue of Mahatma Gandhi – eternally frozen in a strong stride, wearing his famous contemplative look. Inscribed on the base of the statue is his powerful edict, which, despite its simplicity carries inimitable importance – “My life is my message.”

Gandhi’s message, along with his philosophy and brilliant strategy of social justice through non-violence, was always consistent. Dedicating his life to the peaceful empowerment of Indians of all backgrounds, he inspired hope and peace among many and set a powerful example for future change-makers to follow.

I often have the opportunity to speak to young audiences in South and Central Asia. I always remind them of Gandhi’s advice to his followers: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
This simple but profound advice speaks to the importance of the individual, the importance of seizing opportunities, and the importance of believing in yourself, all parts of the common values and aspirations that unite America and India.

Gandhi’s statue in Washington also is a permanent reminder of the enduring relevance of social justice in our own great nation, and often invokes comparison to another great visionary.
Dr. Martin Luther King furthered the causes of peace and tolerance in the United States by dedicating his life to peaceful movements against segregation, discrimination, and poverty.

Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. and Mrs. King's historic 1959 visit to India that in many ways inspired and invigorated the civil rights movement in the United States. Dr. King’s trip was a landmark of the Civil Rights Movement – a moment in our history that gave due reverence to the impact of one historical movement to another, a continent away.

In his autobiography, Dr. King wrote that “Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.” His wholehearted embrace of “Gandhian” principles was clearly instrumental to the eventual success of the American civil rights movement.

Barack Obama – America’s first African-American president, and a student of those principles – identifies Gandhi’s autobiography, and Taylor Branch’s terrific three-part biography of King, as works that helped shape him. The President has repeatedly noted that Gandhi and King are among his heroes.

Earlier this month, Washington was abuzz with the unveiling of the new Oval Office decorations ¬– a Washington tradition that follows the election of each new President. The new Oval Office rug is the centerpiece of the room, and on it President Obama had inscribed the famous Dr. King mantra which reads: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

That same sentiment helps animate our foreign policy agenda and our strategic partnership with India. We are democratic countries founded on the principles of tolerance and pluralism, driven by optimism and knowledge-based economies.

These common values and our increasingly convergent interests have driven an unprecedented transformation in Indo-US relations in just one decade.

After the Cold War, President Bill Clinton seized upon India’s rapid economic emergence and liberalization to lay the foundation for this transformation through his iconic five-day trip to India in the year 2000. The Bush Administration built upon the Clinton legacy, with the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Deal – a landmark achievement for both of our countries.
President Obama had called India our “indispensable” partner for the 21st century. That’s why the President and Secretary Clinton are now forging a new strategic partnership with India that will help shape the 21st century.

India’s strategic importance to the United States reflects several factors:

• 1/3 more of our trade is now with Asia than Europe.
• India soon will be the world’s most populous country. And it is a young country. At a time when much of the industrialized world faces rapidly declining birthrates, half of India’s population is under age 25.
• It is the world’s second fastest growing economy today and is projected to become the world’s third largest economy in the year 2025.
• In remarking on the implications of India’s growth for US business, Larry Summers told the US-India Business Council earlier this year that the India of 2040 may well be a nation of “over a billion people in middle-class living standards.”
• Finally, within Asia no other country has the thriving democracy, economic promise, the sheer human capital and the growing record of cooperation with the United States than India has.

Under Secretary of State William Burns summed up the opportunity before us in a recent speech:
“Never had there been a moment when India and America mattered more to one another. And never has there been a moment when partnership between India and America mattered more to the rest of the globe. As two of the world’s leading democracies, we can help build a new global commons – an international system in which other democracies can flourish, human dignity is advanced, poverty is reduced, trade is expanded, our environment is preserved, violent extremists are marginalized, the spread of weapons of mass destruction is curbed, and new frontiers in science and technology are explore. That is the moment, and the promise, that lies before us.”

That is why President Obama hosted Prime Minister Singh to the White House last year for the first State Visit of his Administration, when he called the U.S.-India relationship “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

As part of the effort to give more definition to the partnership, President Obama and Secretary Clinton established a Strategic Dialogue last year, which convened for the first time in June in Washington.

The purpose of the Dialogue is to give senior-level strategic direction to the many working groups and dialogues already in progress, and to conceive new initiatives that will further propel our countries towards prosperity.

The Dialogue already has cemented closer cooperation on education, agriculture, clean energy, counter-terrorism, space exploration, food assistance, and other activities.

In a little more than one month, in early November, President Obama will make a three-day visit to India that will mark another seminal milestone in our bilateral relations.

As we work with our Indian friends to plan for the President’s visit, three cross-cutting themes will illustrate the breadth, depth and promise of our partnership:

• First, the visit will illustrate how India’s economic rise has created new opportunities for mutually beneficial economic partnerships between our two knowledge-based economies.
• Second, our education and agricultural collaboration will draw on resources in both countries to help sustain inclusive growth in India and the continued rise of India’s poor into the middle-class, enlarging a market that benefits the world economy, and especially the U.S.
• Third, the visit will underscore the importance we attach to India’s growing leadership in Asia and beyond, and how our partnership will help build global security and prosperity.

Being here at UCSD today it is important to acknowledge the symbiosis between education and all three of our thematic groups.

A strong education system in both the United States and India is at the crux of each nation’s knowledge-based economy, and will fuel innovation and facilitate growth for decades to come.
A strong education system in both the United States and India is at the crux of each nation’s knowledge-based economy, and will fueld innovation and facilitate growth for decades to come.
With so many young Indians ready to enter the work force, India needs to rapidly expand its system of higher education to provide them the training they need to sustain India’s knowledge economy.

India cannot do this alone. Later this year or early next, India’s dynamic Minister of Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal hopes to shepherd a bill through India’s Parliament that for the first time will allow foreign universities to establish campuses and offer degrees in India. This will open significant new opportunities for American universities to develop new partnerships, and new research and development opportunities with Indian counterparts.

Having provided an overview of U.S.-India relations, and the facets of cooperation that will help sustain our positive momentum, let me now pivot, and discuss the invaluable role that the San Diego area plays as an incubator for enhancing business, defense, and human ties between the United States and India.

President Obama envisions a partnership where American and Indian businesses create new wealth with job opportunities for the peoples of our countries, where scientists can develop jointly new drugs to combat global diseases, and where our militaries can work to protect global sea lanes from piracy. San Diego is an important part of making the President vision a reality.

As India emerges as a global player, it seeks to build a 21st century military with the latest cutting-edge technology. Instead of relying on its historical partner Russia for hardware, it has started to look to the U.S., and San Diego-based companies are a key component.

For instance, a company called M Ship, based mere blocks away from the San Diego harbor, is a small, but very innovative naval architecture and technology firm that recently conceived of and developed the M80 Stiletto, an experimental Navy craft with a patented M-shaped hull.
The “M hull” is designed to limit wake and ensure a calm ride, even at high rates of speed, often critical for sensitive military missions.

M Ship has reached out to begin “preliminary work” with a Hyderabad-based company to find new building materials. M Ship’s CEO Bill Burns notes could enable further U.S.-India collaboration in M Ship’s building and design endeavors.

Also, as I mentioned before, we are working toward finalizing an agreement for the Indian Air Force to acquire ten C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Often referred to as the “workhorse of the U.S. military” these transport aircraft will boost India’s strategic airlift capabilities, improving its ability to respond to military and humanitarian crises in India and around the globe.

This $4.4 billion deal could potentially create up to 30,000 jobs in the U.S., and would be particularly important for Southern California: the assembly line for these colossal aircraft is located in Long Beach, just a mere 80 miles up the freeway.

The numbers of other San Diego-based companies that have strong ties to India are ever-growing. Dr. Paul Jacobs, one of the participants at the recent U.S.-India CEO Forum in Washington, DC, is the dynamic leader of Qualcomm, which – as I’m sure all of you know – is based here in San Diego.

Qualcomm has made enormous strides in integrating itself into the Indian marketplace, creating jobs in the San Diego area and setting itself up to be a leader in wireless services in India.
In mid-June, Qualcomm won a significant share of India’s next generation wireless service, by paying over a billion dollars to provide coverage in large swaths of both New Delhi and Mumbai. It will partner with two Indian-based telecommunication firms to provide exceptional mobile broadband coverage for millions of Indians.

It speaks to the interconnectedness of our two nations that an American firm – based right here in San Diego – will be an integral part of creating faster wireless networks in India, a key component of commerce, health care, innovation, and the further development of our knowledge-based economy.

Qualcomm also has taken a leadership role in corporate social responsibility.

• Qualcomm and the Azim Premji Foundation of India have joined forces to improve education access in rural India by advancing web-enabled educational content and provid[ing] wireless broadband access to a number of rural and government-run schools in India.
• The program is designed to expose dozens of government-run schools in “underserved communities” to wireless broadband technology.
Other strong San Diego business linkages include Amylin Pharmaceuticals, based less than ten miles from here. Amylin has partnered with Bangalore-based Biocon, India’s largest biotech firm, to develop a new diabetes drug.

Amylin would contribute technology capable of combining two hormones into a single drug, while Biocon will manufacture the product and offer development expertise, and the companies will share development costs.

Yet another example of a San Diego-area company that has forged a partnership with India is the firm International Stem Cells, based in Oceanside. They have partnered with a Hyderabad-based biomedical company to develop pharmaceuticals.

These partnerships are part of a wider Indo-U.S. trend that is turning conventional economic thinking on its head. Thinking about the emergence of developing powers – be they India, China, Brazil or even Turkey – tends to focus on how the growth of these nations could adversely affect economic conditions here in the United States. But a recent study by India’s Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry showed that Indian firms are investing almost as much here in the U.S. as their American counterparts are in India.

For example, the Indian Mahindra Group’s wholly-owned subsidiary Mahindra USA sells lower horsepower tractors to farmers across the country. The tractors are assembled at three facilities in Texas, Tennessee, and here in California. They are also planning future investments in the United States.

Another example: Mukesh Ambani – owner of the behemoth Indian company Reliance Industries – expects to create approximately thousands of U.S. jobs and infuse enormous amounts of capital to explore for and develop shale gas here in the United States. No longer are U.S.-India business ties a “one way street.”

In fact, a new poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, however, shows that Americans have an increasingly favorable view of India, and Americans increasingly favor a free trade agreement with India, a figure that has risen 9% points in just 4 years.
I predict that this positive sentiment will only continue to rise, as both Americans and Indians see the huge and growing synergies between the United States and India.

Star of India
Let me conclude by paying tribute to a San Diego landmark, the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world.

This beautiful ship made several tumultuous trips to India, surviving a mutiny on one trip and barely weathering a cyclone on another before making subsequent successful trips as a cargo ship back and forth from the subcontinent. The endurance and strength of the Star of India exemplifies the ties between our great nations.
San Diego, as a multicultural center of learning, innovation, and business, will carry on the Star of India’s legacy by catalyzing new opportunities and partnerships between the United States and India. In doing so you will be following the words of Mahatma Gandhi: be the change you want to see.

Thank you very much for this opportunity. I would be very pleased to take any questions and hear your comments.