Remarks at the Joint Strategic and Commercial Dialogue Opening Plenary

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
September 22, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Minister Swaraj, Secretary Pritzker, Minister Sitharaman, Secretary Moniz, Minister Goyal, the members of both the Indian and the American delegations, and other guests, I am really delighted to welcome everybody here to the State Department’s Ben Franklin Room – that’s Ben back up here on the wall – which was named for a truly unique and accomplished American. Dr. Franklin was many things, including the life of every party that he attended, and his interests and his intellect were global. So I was not surprised to learn that Prime Minister Modi has said publicly that as a child he drew inspiration from reading Franklin’s autobiography. And the prime minister pointed out that although Franklin was from an ordinary family and did not even complete his formal education, he became a scientist, a social commentator, a diplomat, and a man whose wisdom is still heeded two centuries later.

And one example of that wisdom is his saying – he had many sayings – but one of them is that “energy and persistence conquer all things.” And that is an appropriate theme for us today because through our energy and our persistence, and through our joint efforts over a number of years now, the United States and India and moving ahead on all fronts – politically, economically, culturally, and from the standpoint of security.

So, my colleagues, I am really pleased to open our first U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, and we have elevated this commercial component of our dialogue for a simple reason: because in today’s era, foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy. They are two sides of the same coin. And so I hope that we’re going to take full advantage of the chance that this dialogue affords us to expand our bilateral cooperation.

I first visited India more than two decades ago when I was a youngish member of the United State Senate. The Cold War was over and traditional relationships were very much in flux. And I was already committed to the idea that the United States and India could work more closely together and get over the hurdles that existed during the Cold War period.

So leaders were then thinking about how to adjust to a new economic and political reality, and that’s when I met a new finance minister – Minister Singh – who later became the prime minister. And we began to see how the relationship between our two countries could change and change for the better. Travelling to Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore with executives from high-tech industries, I was struck by India’s economic promise – then still in its emerging stage in terms of this modern era, and also struck by its entrepreneurial passion. I saw a country that was waiting to just burst out of the seams, and that is exactly what the world has been seeing ever since. The result has done more than transform India’s economy. It has also brought the United States and India closer and created some truly unprecedented opportunities for the future.

Today we have an agenda that is very long – not quite as long as the Ganges River, but a long agenda. It includes building on the progress that we have already made in the field of sustainable energy, the environment – curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re delighted to have high-level experts here – our leader of negotiations, Todd Stern, and others who are going to talk about this. This topic alone validates our dialogue, because unless our countries lead on these issues, meaningful gains will not happen. And that is, obviously, in the face of what science is telling us, unacceptable.

We’ve made a good start but we have to do more, within and beyond our boundaries, to drive home the urgency of growing economically in ways that are green and clean. And what is clear to everybody is that the choices that one makes in order to grow green and clean do not mean a choice between growth or the environment. Both can take place simultaneously.

I’m very pleased that Secretary Moniz and Minister Goyal will join Minister Swaraj and me to discuss energy and climate during the Strategic Track Plenary. The fact is that our economic partnership is already growing stronger by the day. Annual trade in goods and services between the United States and India has grown nearly fivefold since the year 2000 to just over $100 billion. And my government agrees with Prime Minister Modi that we can increase that figure to more than $500 billion in the years immediately ahead. Bilateral foreign direct investment stands today at more than $35 billion. It can go much higher. And right now our economic connection supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in each of our countries, but we’re not satisfied because we all know that there are many more openings to explore.

We want to continue the momentum, and that is what the commercial component of this dialogue will seek to do. On the security side, our collaboration is always also growing in ways that benefit both of our countries, our citizens, and actually winds up benefiting the world as a result. I spoke last night of India’s heroic role in rescuing people, including many Americans who had been trapped by violence in Yemen, and also of India’s timely and lifesaving response to the earthquake in Nepal.

We’re also working together in the Indian Ocean. Our joint naval exercise MALABAR continues to grow in complexity, and now includes Japan. We have agreed on a new 10-year defense framework and also on a shared strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean that stresses regional security, maritime law, peaceful resolution of disputes, and economic connectivity across the region. The United States is one of India’s largest defense suppliers, and we are partnering to develop and produce advanced defense systems, including through our aircraft carrier working group. And as we gather here today, our annual Army-to-Army exercise – the YUDH ABHYAS – is underway in Washington state.

On health, India and the United States are striving to end preventable maternal and child deaths in developing countries. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to launching a new discussion on oceans conservation. And we’re also building an important and far-reaching partnership in the crucial area of Internet governance.

So we have a lot of progress to show since the first edition of this dialogue when it was a security dialogue back in 2010. We also know that the greatest potential of our partnership can be found in the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens. India and the United States are both defined by our belief that the future can absolutely be made better than the past, so we also share inherent sense of optimism as people. And we believe in freedom and the rights of all. We are aspirational: driven by the insecurity – not driven by insecurity or by fear, but we are driven, I think, both of us, by hope.

So today, it is clear our destinies are converging. Prime Minister Modi will meet with President Obama next week, and we will work to find ways to play to our strengths. And I’m confident that together we can help to shape a world that is more secure, peaceful, and prosperous than it was before our efforts came together.

In closing, our teams have a lot to discuss – I look forward to doing so in a climate of genuine warmth and friendship. And now I’m very pleased to yield the floor to my colleague, Foreign Minister Swaraj.