Opens the Plenary Session of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue With Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, and welcome to the Benjamin Franklin Room here on the eighth floor of the State Department for this very important dialogue between the United States and India.
On behalf of President Obama, his Administration, and the American people, it is my great pleasure to welcome External Affairs Minister Krishna and his distinguished colleagues from the Indian Government to the State Department for this first-ever Strategic Dialogue at this high level between our two countries.
Minister Krishna and I announced this dialogue in India last summer with the intention of bringing together senior officials from across our governments to attest to the commitment we both feel to our relationship. And here today we have United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke; FBI Director Robert Mueller; Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman; USAID Administrator Raj Shah; Dr. John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House; Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Froman; our ambassador from the United States to India, Tim Roemer; and other distinguished and – may I add, Minister Krishna – very hardworking members of the Obama Administration under the leadership of Under Secretary Bill Burns and Assistant Secretary Bob Blake. And we are very pleased that President Obama will be joining us later today.
We meet at a pivotal moment. For nearly two decades, India and the United States have worked intensively to build a strong, positive relationship, one that has delivered benefits to Indians, Americans, and people worldwide. This dialogue is an effort to build on that history and deepen our cooperation so that we can together solve common challenges and evoke the full talent and energy of our people.
Now, while this dialogue marks a new stage in the U.S.-India partnership, it is rooted in exchanges already taking place. Our governments collaborate on nearly any issue you can name, from fighting terrorism to empowering women to eradicating disease to monitoring the weather to improve crop forecasting. Last year, $66 billion in trade flowed between our nations, more than 10 times our trade level in 1990. And the United States is very proud to be home to nearly three million Americans of Indian descent, one of the fastest-growing and most accomplished immigrant communities in our country, as evidenced by Administrator Shah, who you will hear from later.
Indeed, India holds a very special place in the hearts of many Americans, including me. My first trip to India 15 years ago was a transforming experience for me and for my daughter, and then for my husband when he was able to go in the year 2000. I’ve returned since, including last July, to witness for myself India’s cutting-edge leadership in energy, agriculture, education, and business.
Today, the United States stands with India, not only because of what India means to us, but what India contributes to – and represents to – the world. We’ve said it many times, but it cannot be said too often: India is the world’s largest democracy, its second-fastest growing economy, and a rising power, not only in Asia but globally. It has vibrant democratic institutions, a very free press, a robust civil society, and an innovative private sector. It is also a model of democratic development that is lifting millions of people out of poverty by widening access to tools of opportunity, such as education, healthcare, food, water, and jobs.
India’s rise is a defining storyline of the early 21st century. And the US-India partnership will help shape the rest of this century. To quote Prime Minister Singh during his recent visit to Washington in November, “As two leading democracies, India and the United States must play a leading role in building a shared destiny for all humankind.” Well, Prime Minister Singh said it beautifully. And that mission is worthy of our best efforts. To fulfill it, 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, or that we will hasten our departure from Afghanistan, leaving India to deal with the aftermath; doubts in America that India has not fully embraced its role in regional and global affairs or will not make the economic reforms needed to foster additional progress.
So with this dialogue and the level of confidence that we have established between ourselves, we will confront these concerns directly and candidly. And both of our governments will hold ourselves accountable to our respective people by making sure our conversations lead to concrete actions. Next year, when this dialogue meets in Delhi, we should be able to point to real results.
Let me just briefly review some of the topics of the dialogue. Security is a top priority because both of our nations have been seared by acts of terrorism on our home soil. Together, we will discuss how to increase our cooperation on counterterrorism by better sharing intelligence and training first responders to make our own homelands more secure.
The Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative provides the foundation for a strong partnership on another security challenge: nuclear proliferation.
We will also discuss our continued partnership in the area of defense. And we have Under Secretary Michelle Flournoy here today. The United States is committed to the modernization of India’s military, as demonstrated by our defense trade. Our military holds more exercises with India than with any other country. I think that might be a surprise to people in both of our countries. And we are both committed to training peacekeepers worldwide. And I want to recognize India’s long tradition of peacekeeping, which includes a squadron of Indian women peacekeepers serving in Liberia, whom I visited with when I attended a class of police recruits in Monrovia last August.
We will also address another urgent challenge: climate change. And I want to commend India, which has taken important steps, helping shape the Copenhagen Accord and pledging to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 percent by 2020. And we have our climate envoy, Todd Stern, here with us. Through our Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, Indian and American scientists will together develop and deploy technologies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This collaboration taps into a strength we share: our capacity for scientific innovation.
And connected to climate change is food security, a major initiative of the Obama Administration. India and the United States are working to strengthen agriculture worldwide through our Feed the Future Initiative, to replicate the successes of India’s green revolution in places where food is still too difficult to grow, buy, or sell.
India’s growing global role requires us to reassess institutions of global governance. India’s rise will certainly be a factor in any future consideration of reform of the United Nations Security Council. But India is not only a rising global power; it already is a regional power. And in this dialogue we will confront regional concerns – most urgently, securing Afghanistan’s future.
India, the United States, and countries worldwide have a stake in a stable Afghanistan. And India’s contributions to Afghanistan’s future – including $1.3 billion in assistance – have been positive and significant. India is building Afghanistan’s new parliament building. And Indian and American groups are working together to help Afghan engineers bring greater source of electricity to Kabul.
Beyond Afghanistan, India wants to work with – India and United States want to work together to create an open and inclusive regional architecture that makes it possible for countries throughout Asia to rise and prosper and gives India a greater room to participate and lead. So we must address regional priorities together – for example, the need to protect vital sea and air routes that foster trade and to respond swiftly to natural disasters, as India did in its response to the tsunami.
Our ability to tackle regional and global challenges together rests on our bilateral relationship, which we must continue to strengthen. And one key is education. More than 100,000 Indian students now study in the United States. And we want an equal number of Americans to study at Indian universities, so they can be steeped in India’s history, culture, and languages. To that end, our governments have tripled the number of Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship scholars. The new Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative will develop partnerships between Indian and American universities. And we hope that India will pass legislation now under review that would allow foreign universities to open campuses in India in accordance with appropriate regulations, of course. A number of U.S. institutions have expressed interest in opening Indian campuses and working with Indian scholars and students, whose talents are internationally renowned.
Education is vital to our economic partnerships, which are multiplying rapidly. India’s economic progress in recent years, even during this terrible economic downturn, has been remarkable, and we have seen the effects as millions have been boosted into the middle class. And we’ve seen the result of globally competitive industries. But while Mumbai and New York are humming with enterprise and entrepreneurialism, Washington and New Delhi have lagged behind. Together, we must reduce barriers to trade and investment going in both directions. And we urge India to reduce or ease caps on investment in critical sectors, which would help open markets and create millions of jobs in both countries.
So through this dialogue, we will discuss these issues and many more, honestly and respectfully, with admiration for each other and each other’s accomplishments, but with acceptance of our historic and cultural differences, but trust in our long and enduring friendship.
An expanded partnership between India and the United States can be and should be a signature accomplishment of our governments. I consider it a personal priority. Together, I believe the discussions that we have in these dialogues will help shape the future of our own nations and improve the lives of millions of Americans and Indians and help also to determine the course of the world in this century. This is both our opportunity and our responsibility.
Now it is my great personal pleasure to introduce External Affairs Minister Krishna, who has been a wonderful partner and a very gracious counterpart during my time and his in our respective jobs.
FOREIGN MINISTER KRISHNA: Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton, for those very warm words. I know that since you became the Secretary of State for the United States you have been one of the most positive influences on the relationship between our two countries. India has always recognized that. And let me compliment you and let me thank you for the positive manner in which you have always looked towards India, and I’m sure that India will come up to your expectations.
I’m indeed happy to meet you at this inaugural round of the Strategic Dialogue. As I said, you are a champion of a strong and vibrant India-U.S. partnership. And your dynamism and unflinching support have substantively contributed to this process. I’m joined here by my esteemed colleagues from various ministries, which underscores the importance that we attach to this dialogue and vividly express the vibrant nature of our relationship.
Before coming on this very important mission to the United States, I met with the prime minister and the prime ministers conveys his greetings to President Obama and to you, Secretary Clinton, and to the people of the United States for the warm reception that they extended to him when he visited last in November. And he looks forward to a deepening and enlarging relationship between our two democracies.
Before I proceed, I would like to introduce the delegation which is accompanying me. I have with me the Minister for Human Resource Development Honorable Kapil Sibal, who is guiding the destinies of the education of which you so eloquently talked about in your introductory remarks. And we have the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is no stranger to the United States, and he has been the czar of the Indian planning process – (laughter) – and while under his guidance, we have been moving decisively forward. And we have the Minister of State for Science & Technology Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, who himself is a scientist in his own right. As a result of that, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, has charged him with the responsibility of guiding the Ministry of Science and Technology in the new government.
And of course, we have the foreign secretary, about whom I – (inaudible) doesn’t need any introduction to you, Secretary Clinton. And we have the secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest, who has been applying his mind and then finding – trying to find solutions to the climate change, about which you referred to in your introductory remarks. And we have also the secretary who is in charge of biotechnology, and we have the secretary in the prime minister’s office. We have the ambassador of India in United States, Mrs. Meera Shankar. And we have my advisor, Mr. Shastry. And we have the deputy chief of mission, embassy of India and joint secretary who deals with the United States America, Shrimati Gaitri.
Secretary Clinton, the relationship with the United States is one of the most important bilateral relationships for India. Since the visit of President Clinton a decade ago, our two countries have been able to transform the relationship fundamentally as India moves ahead to achieve our priority tasks of economic and social transformation to allow our people to realize their full potential.
We have an increasing and well-justified stake in a stable international order. We are committed to working with the international community to find solutions to the pressing global challenges of the day. Today, our two countries share an increasing convergence of interests on a whole range of global issues. Our two nations have been shaped by enduring foundation values of openness, pluralism, and tolerance. These inspirational values and interests provide us the opportunity to work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
I truly believe that ours is a relationship of limitless opportunities for mutual benefit. This confidence comes from not just the improvement in the relations between our two governments but also from the vibrant, cross-cutting, and dynamic linkages between our energetic and dynamic peoples. Indeed, the creativity, the imagination, and the enterprise of our two peoples has contributed immensely to the improvement of our relations. I believe that our discussions today will build upon these successes and strengthen our multifaceted relationship.
The institution of our Strategic Dialogue is a reflection of the deepening and broadening of our relations. I am particularly satisfied to note that we have, together since your visit to India last year, made tangible progress on every aspect of our expanded agenda of dialogue and cooperation. That includes not just bilateral issues but other global challenges. We both have an abiding interest in a stable international order and in the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia and beyond. And a tremendous opportunity is now before us to work together to achieve this all-important objective.
The global nature of the security challenges that we face today, particularly the threat posed by transnational terrorism, requires us to cooperate more closely than ever before. Though the epicenter of this threat lies in India’s neighborhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world, as we have seen time and again and most recently a few weeks back in Times Square. Given the fact that the groups who preach the ideology of hatred and violence are increasingly coalescing, sharing resources, and operating as one, it is incumbent upon all of us to focus our efforts laser-like on every one of them. Targeting only one out of such groups would only provide false comfort in the short term and will not assure in long term stability.
I am happy to note the tremendous progress that we have made in strengthening our counterterrorism cooperation, particularly since the Mumbai terror attack. We value the support we have received from the U.S. Government in our investigations. In this regard, access to our authorities to persons who have been apprehended by your government in connection with Mumbai terror attack is perhaps the logical next step. We are confident that our continued cooperation will lead to realization of this objective.
The conclusion of the negotiations on arrangements and procedures for reprocessing has taken us closer to realizing our objective of commencing commercial collaboration in nuclear energy with United States companies.
Another key area of our bilateral dialogue is cooperation in high technology. I am glad that we are working together to pave the way for liberalizing export control restrictions that are applied to India. Given the strategic nature of our partnership, and particularly at the conclusion of the Civil Nuclear Initiative, these controls are not only anomalous but also a hindrance to furthering trade and investment in this particularly significant sector of our economies. We look forward to early steps in this direction.
Our two countries have enormous opportunities to deepen cooperation in trade and investment and creating jobs and opportunities. I am happy, therefore, that we have launched a new financial and economic partnership as well as a framework for cooperation on trade and investment that should help us to reach new heights in bilateral trade and investment.
There is tremendous potential for scientific and commercial collaboration in green technologies. The Clean Energy Memorandum of Understanding that you and I signed last November enables us to move forward in creating a strong bilateral partnership in this area. I look forward to an early implementation of the joint research centers envisaged in the MOU. This is where our partnership to promote balanced and sustainable economic development for the benefit of every man, woman, and child in each of our countries can have great significance.
Madam Secretary, agriculture is another key sector of our cooperation and we look forward to an increase in cooperation in agricultural research, human resources capacity building, natural resource management, agribusiness and food processing, weather forecasting for agricultural production, and collaborative research for increasing food productivity. Given India’s experience and expertise, there is also an opportunity for both of our countries to pool our resources and work together for global food security.
Educational exchanges have since long contributed to strengthen our people-to-people linkages and also fostering greater S&T collaboration. Our two peoples, through their innovation and entrepreneurship, have cooperated in the past, especially in the area of information technology. As we in India (inaudible) with our educational reforms, there is an opportunity for us to enhance such academic exchanges and collaboration. The spirit of innovation and intellectual quest should define our exchanges in these fields and chart new frontiers in our relationship.
In addition, we have also identified new areas of cooperation, including in health and women’s empowerment. I am happy that the first meeting of women’s empowerment dialogue took place last week here in Washington itself. The empowerment of women and the recognition of their potential for immense contribution to the national cause as we look to the future is a core policy priority of the Government of India. And I know that this is also a key policy priority for the U.S. Administration.
Secretary Clinton, we have a truly broad-based agenda with wide-ranging opportunities. I look forward to our discussions this morning and reviewing the achievements of the last 20 years, while charting of a course for the year ahead of us.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister Krishna. And we do indeed have a very broad agenda and we will now get about discussing it. The press will be departing. We will be seeing them later. But as they depart, let me again thank all of you for coming, and we will begin to move forward on the agenda and the concrete steps that we wish to take in order to achieve our shared goals.