Remarks at the Center for American Progress' India: 2020 Program
Secretary of State
Neera, thank you very, very much. Thank you for confirming to me your mother’s fealty. (Laughter.) I’m deeply appreciative for her support through the years and I’m sorry we lost you when you were 18, but I’m glad you wound up here, as is everybody else. We’re delighted that you’re here.
It’s a privilege for me to be back at the Center for American Progress, and I am very, very apologetic for the delay. I know I’ve kept you all from your appointed rounds and I apologize for that. It’s good to get the telephone unglued for a few minutes here. Obviously, we are still working hard at trying to deal with the issue of the crisis in the Middle East. I spoke to it a little earlier today, so I’m not going to repeat what I said, except to say to all of you that we want to be able to find a way to get to a table to discuss the underlying issues which are real and impactful on everybody and on the region. And we hope to be able to find the magic formula by which the violence could cease for a long enough period of time to try to find that sustainable ceasefire which could allow you to move on from there. The region has known violence for far too long. Too many innocent people caught in the crossfire, too many lives ruptured, and so it is imperative for all of us in positions of responsibility to do everything we can to try to find a diplomatic way, a peaceful way forward if possible.
It is a privilege for me to be back here at the Center for American Progress. Ambassador Sandhu, thank you for being here representing the Embassy, the DCM here, all of our ex-ambassadors and ex-assistant secretaries of Defense and otherwise – greatly appreciative for their supports and efforts to advance the very crucial relationship between the United States and India. And at a time when so many people are – you know, back in history when they were looking for a lot of simple slogans and silver bullets to cure an immediate problem, which was pretty basic, that the Democratic Party was out of the White House and sidelined in the minority in both the House and the Senate – that’s when a guy named John Podesta stood up and was determined to get past the day-to-day ups and downs of the Washington echo chamber, and helped to shape a principled and progressive policy agenda for governing.
John knew then what he practices now in the White House for President Obama: Good policy is good politics. So – excuse me, let me get rid of my flight here – good policy really does make good politics. I always found that and I’ve always tried to practice that. Under Neera Tanden’s leadership for the last couple years, CAP has continued to prove that good ideas are still the most important currency in our political debate. And that is a principle that has also guided CAP’s work on foreign policy, especially in convening Track II, the first intensive climate change dialogue between the United States and India.
India 2020 builds on that success by showing how the United States and India together can tackle global challenges, from security in the Asia Pacific to providing clean energy to delivering more inclusive growth. And Vikram Singh and Rich Verma are going to help lead us together on that, bringing some of the best minds together in terms of policy and politics, and I thank you very, very much for your contribution. Rich and Vikram, thank you for what you’re undertaking. It is really a dialogue about what is in most people’s currency but not always yet fully blossomed, one of the most important relationships internationally.
Now I just got back, as I think you all know, from a pretty intensive trip to Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, and to Europe, working to try to find an end to the violence that has threatened our ally Israel, and which has also cost hundreds of innocent lives in Gaza and elsewhere. The fact is that we were able to produce at least the beginnings of a ceasefire process, a 12-hour ceasefire, then confusion over 4 hours and 12 hours. But the bottom line is the concept of that, I think, is still appreciated by all, and the key now is to find the road, not the question of what.
Now there are some in America who question America’s efforts actually not just in America. There’s some people who ask this elsewhere. But particularly here, they question about our efforts to bring peace to various conflicts around the world. I think they ought to ask: What’s the alternative? Make no mistake, when the people of Israel are rushing to bomb shelters, when innocent Israeli and Palestinian teenagers are abducted and murdered, when hundreds of innocent civilians have lost their lives, I will and we will make no apologies for our engagement.
Ungoverned spaces threaten us all. Instability threatens us all. And upholding the rule of law and humanitarian standards are not only national security imperatives; they are the right thing to do. This is who we are and this is what we do. And frankly, I think it is what we do with greater gusto, with greater grounding, if you will, in international rule of law and structure, than almost – almost any other country.
But I want to be very clear about something, and that’s why I’m here today: Even as we focus on crises and flashpoints that dominate the daily headlines and govern the cable talk shows and so forth, even as that happens and they demand our leadership, we will always act with long-term strategic imperatives foremost in our mind, and that’s why we’re here today. You can go to any capital in the world and you can find different nuanced and self-assured perspectives about American foreign policy. But if you were lucky enough to have the top hundred foreign policy thinkers sit in a room together and you asked them to name the most important relationships for which the United States, with that relationship, will most affect the direction of the 21st century, I can guarantee you this: Every single one of them would rank the U.S.-India relationship right up there in the top tier.
So I want to emphasize the key relationship for the United States – one of the key relationships for the United States in that context is the deepening relationship with India, and particularly trying to deepen our ties with India in terms of our strategic imperatives, both of us. It doesn’t matter just to us or to India; it actually matters to the world. And that’s why, in my first months as Secretary of State, I went to India. And it’s no coincidence that at the time, I – that in Prime Minister Modi’s first 100 days in his government, I’m now returning to Delhi for two days of Strategic Dialogue and discussion. And it was no accident that in the intervening time, we’ve had many discussions and meetings and the prime minister – former Prime Minister Singh, came here to the White House during that period of time.
But then, of course, they had an election. And as everybody knows, from certain number of months during an election, things tend to be put on hold. Now is the time to renew that dialogue with a new government, with a new set of opportunities, new possibilities. This is a potentially transformative moment in our partnership with India, and we’re determined to deliver on the strategic and historic opportunities that we can create together.
In a globalized world, we recognize that yes, India’s going to have many different partners. That’s the nature of the world we’re in today. But we believe there are unique opportunities for just United States and India, and that the dynamism and the entrepreneurial spirit of Mumbai and Bangalore, of Silicon Valley and of Boston – that is precisely what is required in order to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.
President Obama is absolutely right to call this a defining partnership for the 21st century. India’s new government has won an historic mandate to deliver change and reform. And together, we have a singular opportunity to help India to be able to meet that challenge – to boost two-way trade, to drive South Asia’s connectivity, to develop cleaner energy, to deepen our security partnership in the Asia Pacific and beyond. The United States and India can and should be indispensable partners for the 21st century, and that is, I assure you, the way we approach the Modi government and the way we view this particular time. This week, Secretary Pritzker and I will be emphasizing those opportunities as we meet leaders of India’s new government.
Now we face, as we all know – and Neera talked about it, and it is true – this is a particularly challenging moment. Forces that were pent up for years in the Cold War tampened down by dictatorship and absence of freedom to speak have suddenly been released everywhere, and everywhere everybody is in touch with everybody all the time. It changes the face of politics profoundly everywhere. People have more information, more ability to organize, more ability to talk to each other. So we do face a host of critical challenges together and we face a world in which more young people more rapidly are demanding more from their governments with too many places where there’s too little response. And that is a challenge for all governance, none more so than what we do to link our economies, India and the United States, in order to further our shared prosperity agenda.
What we do to strengthen global security and a rules-based international system, how we turn the challenges of climate change into an opportunity for greater cooperation and economic growth – these are the big challenges. These are opportunities for us. Our countries have had a decades-long relationship, and I can personally remember the lingering sense of suspicion and distrust when I first went to India at the end of the Cold War. I traveled to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore with executives from companies like Raytheon and Nextel, companies that are doing booming business in India today. I remember talking to then-Finance Minister Singh about the reforms that were needed and the opening up of the economy and the ability to be able to attract capital and have rules that made sense to everybody that we all understood. I remember that back then, and I felt then the possibility of the enormous potential of a closer, stronger partnership.
And now, it’s not hard to see how in this moment, we can actually deliver on that partnership’s full promise. The new Indian Government’s plan, “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, together with all, development for all – that’s a concept, a vision that we want to support. We believe it’s a great vision, and our private sector is eager to be a catalyst in India’s economic revitalization. American companies lead in exactly the key sectors where India wants to grow: in high-end manufacturing, in infrastructure, in healthcare, information technology, all of them vital to sort of leapfrogging stages of development so you can provide more faster to more people
India also wants to build a more competitive workforce, and already 100,000 Indians study each year in American universities. But America’s community colleges actually set a remarkable standard for 21st century skills training. We should be expanding our educational ties across the board, increasing opportunities for young people in both of our nations. I know Prime Minister Modi drew from that energy of India’s youth during his campaign. He repeatedly pointed out that while India’s one of the world’s oldest civilizations, it has the world’s youngest population. Prime Minister Modi has said that young people have a natural instinct to rise like a flame. And he has spoken about India’s duty to nurture that instinct, and we believe, frankly, that’s a duty for both of our nations.
And that means strengthening the exchange in technical education, in vocational programs for high-skilled trades, and especially in areas where we can build on the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of both of our nations. And we all know about the extraordinary work ethic that people in India have and the capacity to be able to do this and seize this opportunity. One of the marked contrasts of this moment is this juxtaposition to parts of the world where young people demanded a participation in this world they see around them, and rose up against leadership that had stultified over the course of years, decades even – Tunisia, Egypt, Syria. They all began without one flake of religious extremism involved in the revolutions that brought change. It was all about young people gathering and forcing the notion that they wanted something more to life. They wanted opportunity, education, respect, dignity, jobs, a future.
So this possibility I’ve just defined between India and the United States, which fits very neatly into Prime Minister Modi’s vision that he expressed in a campaign which was ratified overwhelmingly by the people of his country is exactly the vision that we need to embrace now, and that’s why this opportunity is actually so ripe. This area of cooperation is particularly exciting, I think, and I’m particularly confident about these opportunities, because only countries that reward creativity the way the United States and India do could have possibly launched Hollywood and Bollywood. (Laughter.) Only countries that celebrate the entrepreneur the way we do could have launched Silicon Valley and Bangalore as global epicenters for innovation.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are in both of our DNA, and they not only make us natural partners; they give us natural advantages in a world that demands adaptability and resilience. The United States and India cannot afford to just sort of sit back and rest on these currently existing advantages. We have to build on them and we have to build on them by investing more in one another. Now unlike some other nations, the United States cannot direct a private corporation to go invest in a particular country. President Obama can’t order businesses to build factories in Kolkata or Chennai. It just doesn’t happen.
But we do know this from several hundred years of experience: If India’s government delivers on its plans to support greater space for private initiative, if it creates greater openness for capital flows, if it limits subsidies that stifle competition, if it provides strong intellectual property rights, believe me, even more American companies will come to India. They may even race to India. And with a clear and ambitious agenda, we can absolutely help create those conditions.
So as we work with our trading partners around the world to advance trade and investment liberalization, India has a decision to make about where it fits in the global trading system. India’s willingness to support a rules-based trading order and fulfill its obligations will help to welcome greater investment from the United States and from elsewhere around the world. The greater transparency and accountability that Prime Minister Modi put in place during his time as chief minister tells us he has already provided a model of how raising standards can actually increase economic growth.
Now I believe the United States and India should continue to reach for the ambitious target that Vice President Biden laid out last summer in India, to push from 100 billion to 500 billion a year in trade. And whatever impediments we may face along the way, we need to always be mindful of the opportunities and the bigger picture around this. So it’s in our – excuse me. It is completely in our mutual interest to address those obstacles that kind of raise their head here and there as you go along the way and to remember that a lot bigger opportunities will come from more robust ties, so we need to keep our eye on the prize out there and not get dragged down by one small or lesser particular aspect of a restraint. The bigger picture has to guide us and the end game has to guide us.
If you have any doubts, just look at the opportunities that Ford is creating right now in India. They’re doubling production from plants in Gujarat and Chennai. They’re investing 1 billion to make India a global hub for exports. Take a look at the jobs that TATA is creating for Americans by expanding auto design and sales in the United States, adding to its 24,000 employees already in this country. Already, Indian investment creates close to 100,000 jobs right here at home.
And we also convinced – we are convinced that just as the United States and India can do more to create shared prosperity, so can India and its neighbors. Simply from the size of South Asia’s market – 1.6 billion consumers – and from India’s geography, sitting at the center of this dynamic Asian continent, the opportunities are leaping out at us. They’re just enormous. And just to underscore how untapped this potential is, consider this: South Asia is the least integrated economic region in the world. Fastest growing region in the world, Southeast Asia.
By strengthening trade links with Bangladesh, by building on the political opening in Burma, by increasing trade with the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia, India can be at the heart of a more connected, prosperous region. So we are deeply committed to helping India grab ahold of these opportunities.
That’s why the United States is supporting an Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor to connect South Asia to Southeast Asia. That’s why we’re focused on investing in regional infrastructures and in the creation of a regional energy market. And that’s why we’re supporting new trade routes linking Central and South Asia with the New Silk Road Initiative. I mean this is – the possibilities here are gigantic.
Now clearly, Prime Minister Modi understands the opportunities that regional connectivity provides for India and for a more stable, prosperous region. And by inviting leaders from around the region to his swearing-in, and by bringing them together to speak about connecting their economies as one of his first orders of business, he is eager for India to play a leading role. And guess what? So are we.
Nowhere is that leadership more critical than in improving cross-border trade and relations between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi took the important first step of inviting Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration. Both men are business-minded leaders who want to create opportunity for their people. I talked to Nawaz Sharif after his visit there. He was very encouraged, thought it was positive, possibilities he understood. So improved trade is a win-win for both countries and both peoples. And I know that there are plans for the commerce secretaries and foreign secretaries to meet in the coming weeks in order to build on that. I commit to you that the United States will do everything we can to encourage India and Pakistan to work together and improve the prospects for both prosperity and stability in the region.
Now India has already shown a deep commitment to regional stability with the generous investments in Afghanistan. At this critical moment of transition and in the coming months, support from all across the international community will be vitally important. In the coming days, I will continue to work closely with President Karzai, with the candidates, with the United Nations in order to provide Afghanistan with support during the transition. And we look forward to working also with India on this, and we look forward to India engaging with its neighbors so that Afghanistan’s connections to the region and the world are defined by the opportunity that they can create together.
Far beyond Afghanistan, India is assuming greater responsibilities for regional and global security. As India plays an increasingly global role, its interests are served by forging strong partnerships on a broad range of issues. Among South Asian nations and within international organizations, India should be a global leader. That’s why President Obama voiced his clear support for a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.
For several years, India has been a major partner in the fight against piracy in the Strait of Malacca and off the Horn of Africa. Even as we speak, India and the United States are participating in RIMPAC and Malabar joint naval exercises. Secretary Hagel will explore broadening our deepening – the deepening possibilities of our relationship with India when he travels there in early August.
Counterterrorism is also a challenge to both of our nations. The United States and India are continuing a very close partnership in that regard we began after the horrific Mumbai attacks, and then we began to train first responders in order to help protect our citizens. And President Obama was critical clear – crystal clear about the stakes for our counterterrorism partnership in his West Point speech in May. And our two nations have already provided one model of how these partnerships can work. Our collaboration on counterterrorism and real-time information sharing has helped us confront common threats and bring terrorists to justice.
But there is obviously room for us to be able to do more. When terrorist attacks took 400 Indian lives in 2013 alone, we know that the threat of terrorism remains too real and far too high for India’s people. Confronting terrorism requires our continued partnership and it requires continued vigilance. And it also means leading with our values. India and the United States are two nations that have worked hard to overcome our own divisions so that today we draw strength from pluralism and diversity. We’ve got to provide that example as we work to provide opportunity beyond our borders, addressing the conditions that allow extremists to thrive in the first place.
I won’t tell you where, but I’ll tell you I was with a foreign minister of a country in Africa recently, and we had dinner and we talked kind of candidly and openly as you can in that situation. And he said to me – I asked him about their Muslim population and what was happening. And he said, “Well, X percentage of our population is Muslim, and we’re very worried, because the bad guys have a strategy. They grab these young minds when they’re 13, 14, 15, 16. They pay them originally, and then when they get the minds, they don’t pay them anymore, they don’t have to. Then they send them out to recruit or conduct a mission. And they subvert the state. They have a strategy. Do we?”
It’s a prime question for all of us, and in so many parts of the world where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 30, 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18 and more in some places – if these people don’t find jobs and they don’t get an education and they don’t have opportunity and dignity and respect and a voice, then you know who’s going to grab them and say, out of frustration, “There’s a better way.” That’s part of our challenge and responsibility as great global powers, and that’s part of how we tame the most dangerous impulses of a more interconnected world.
One challenge that drives home just how interconnected and interdependent we are on this planet is this challenge of a lifetime called climate change. For millions of Indians, extreme weather and resource shortages are not future threats; they are here now. They’re endangering their health and prosperity and security every single day.
In India’s largest rice-producing region, West Bengal, the Monsoon rains have been 50 percent lower than average this year. This comes after the monsoons all but failed last year in several Indian states, helping to cause one of the worst droughts in a generation, affecting 120 million Indians.
In parts of northern India, armed bandits have imposed what amounts to a water tax, demanding 35 buckets a day. So believe me, it is not hard to measure the ways in which climate change every single day is already a catalyst for instability. I can show you places in the world where tribes fight over a well and people are dying because of the absence of water.
And while parts of India suffer from a once-in-a-generation drought, others suffer from – guess what – historic rains. When I arrived in India last summer, Uttarakhand was grappling with historic floods that killed more than 5,000 people.
So climate volatility is clearly taking a toll on India’s population. And so is pollution. Of the 10 cities in the world with the worst air quality, six are in India. Each year in India, the effects of air pollution cause nearly 1.5 million deaths.
So we know what the down sides are, but happily, guess what, we also know what the solutions are. And forging these solutions is a huge economic opportunity for both of us. The solution comes from areas where we already do things very well, where we’ve already made great progress, where innovation, smarter energy policy, and clean energy technology are already defining the future.
Let me just share with everybody – I reinforce this again and again whenever I get a chance. The solution to climate change is energy policy. It’s not some magical, unreachable, untouchable thing out there. It’s not pie in the sky. It’s energy policy. And where we put good energy policy in place, we reduce emissions and we begin to contribute to the solution. It’s a huge market, my friends.
I also remind people that the market that created the great wealth of the United States of America during the 1990s, which made Americans individually and otherwise richer than they’d ever been in American history – at the top end it made people richer than they did in the 1920s when we didn’t have an income tax, and every single quintile of American income earners saw their income go up in the 1990s. You know what that was? A $1 trillion market with one billion users. It was the high-tech computer, personal computer, et cetera market.
Today’s energy market is a – today’s energy market is a $6 trillion market now, with four to five billion users, growing to nine billion users over the course of the next 30 years, by 2050. Just think about that. It’s an opportunity for huge numbers of jobs, for transformation in the provision of our power, transformation in health, get rid – lowering the pollution, moving into the new energy sources, providing safety and security in energy so we don’t have instability. And I could run on in the possibilities, not the least of which our global responsibility to stand up for and leave a cleaner, better, more sustainable Earth to our children and our grandchildren. It’s a way of living up to our responsibility as stewards of the planet, which, by the way, is directed to us in every major scripture of every major religion.
Now, both of our nations pride ourselves on science and innovation. So the bottom line is this is up to us. It’s up to us to deliver. I know Prime Minister Modi understands the urgency. He’s called for a Saffron Revolution, because “the saffron color represents energy.” And he said that “this revolution should focus on renewable energy sources such as solar energy, to meet India’s growing energy demand.” He is absolutely right, and together I believe that we can at last begin a new constructive chapter in the United States-India climate change relationship.
The United States has an immediate ability to make a difference here, and we need to eliminate the barriers that keep the best technology out of the Indian market. And the United States can help India find and develop new sources of energy through renewable technologies and greater export capacity for liquefied natural gas.
Already, we’ve brought together more than 1 billion in financing for renewable energy projects. And with this funding, we helped to bring India’s first 1,000 megawatts of solar power online. But we need to build on the U.S. India Civil Nuclear Agreement, so that American companies can start building and can start providing clean power to millions in India. And we need to build on the $125 million investment that we’ve made in a Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center.
Prime Minister Modi has also made a commitment to electrify every home in India by 2019. With fewer limits on foreign technology and investment in India’s green energy sector, we can help make clean power more cost-effective and more accessible at the same time. We can provide 400 million Indians with power without creating emissions that dirty the air and endanger public health. And by working together to help an entire generation of Indians leapfrog over fossil fuels, we can actually set an example to the world.
So I readily acknowledge that today’s climate challenges did not start with India. And we know that the United States is the second-largest emitter of carbon in the world – the first now being China, who have overtaken us. But we also know that we can’t solve these problems alone – no one. They require partnership. And our partnership requires our leadership. By acting right now to reduce emissions, just as President Obama has done here in the United States, by investing in innovation, and by working together in the UN climate negotiations, we could prevent the most devastating consequences of climate change and meet this generational challenge.
Lastly, in this century, one that will continue to be defined by competing models of government, India and the United States have a common responsibility – we already have it; we share it – to prove that democracies can deliver for their citizens. Our two nations believe that when every citizen, no matter their background, no matter their beliefs, can make their full contribution. That is when we are strongest and that’s when we’re most secure.
So we are two confident nations, connected by core values, optimistic nations, never losing sight of how much more we can and must achieve. From women’s rights to minority rights, there is room to go further with our work together. And we also have to speak with a common voice against the violence against women in any shape or form that is a violation against our deepest values.
The United States and India are two nations that began both of their founding documents with exactly the same three words: “We the people.” By deepening our partnership, we can work together to deliver opportunity to all of our people and become stronger nations.
President Roosevelt, of course, described America as having a “rendezvous with destiny.” India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke about India’s “tryst with destiny.” This can be a moment where our destinies actually do converge. And if we harness our capacity of our two nations, if we deepen our partnership, if we make smart choices, if we seize these opportunities, the United States and India can create a more prosperous and secure future for the world and for one another.
That is why I leave for Delhi tomorrow night, and that is why the President will welcome Prime Minister Modi to Washington in September. Because this is the moment to transform our strategic relationship into an historic partnership that honors our place as great powers and great democracies. We intend to leave not an instant behind us. We are going to get to work now. Thank you. (Applause.)