Remarks at the Institute for Defence and Strategic Analyses

Puneet Talwar
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
New Delhi, India
December 3, 2014

As prepared

Thank you very much, Ambassador Shankar, for that very kind introduction … and even more importantly, thank you for everything you have done to deepen the ties between the United States and India … during your tenure in Washington and afterwards.

Let me also thank General Dahiya, the Deputy Director General of the Institute, for inviting me here today, and Dr. Balachandran for organizing today’s event.

For nearly fifty years now, IDSA has provided excellent insight into critically important international trends. Your work is not only respected in India, but it’s also widely read and valued around the world.

It’s really a great pleasure, on a personal level, to be back in India. I’ve been privileged to visit many times over the course of my career and my life. My own family traces its roots to this country, and India’s vibrant culture and rich history certainly helped shape my own upbringing.

Indeed, I remember my grandmothers sharing with me the extraordinary events they witnessed during India’s independence struggle in the first half of the 20th century.

And if my grandparents could see the India of today… an India with strong democratic institutions… an India that charts its own course… and an India that works to uphold the dignity of all human beings… I know they would be proud of all it’s achieved, and of its promising future.

Just as India has grown and made tremendous progress, so, too, has the relationship between this great country and another great country… my country… the United States of America.

Over the course of my lifetime – and yours – we’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting time in our bilateral relations.

The historic elections last spring, which brought a record 530 million Indians to the polls… about 8 percent of the world’s population… conferred an unprecedented mandate on Prime Minister Modi… and created an historic opportunity for the United States and India to re-energize our relationship.

And today, we are engaged on more issues, more frequently, at more levels of government than ever before. Just in the past six months, India has been one of the top destinations for senior U.S. government officials, demonstrating the importance of the United States’ relationship with India.

Secretary Kerry led the Strategic Dialogue here in July, and was joined by Secretary of Commerce Pritzker. Secretary Hagel visited India in August. My colleagues Mike Froman, Charlie Rivkin, and Rick Stengel, all senior officials, were here just a few weeks ago to discuss our economic ties, and the just-concluded India-U.S. Technology Summit was by far the largest ever held in India. Rose Gottemoeller was here last month to co-chair the U.S.-India Strategic Security Dialogue, and tomorrow I will lead the U.S. delegation to the Political-Military Dialogue, where we will meet with senior officials from the External Affairs and Defense Ministries. I am joined by a team that includes Deputy Assistant Secretaries Ken Handelman and Atul Keshap, from the State Department, Keith Webster from the Defense Department, and Matt Matthews from the US Pacific Command.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to name the US officials that haven’t recently visited India.

Above and beyond the continued expansion of our strategic partnership, Prime Minister Modi has taken the unprecedented step of inviting a U.S. president to be the chief guest at the first Republic Day of his administration. President Obama is deeply honored to accept the invitation and to return to India in January. Not only will this mark the first time an American president will attend Republic Day, but it also marks the first time an American president will have visited India twice during his presidency.


Many Indian officials have also traveled recently to the United States, including, of course, Prime Minister Modi, who had a very successful trip just a few months ago.

When Prime Minister Modi visited Washington, President Obama hosted him at the White House, and following their meetings, they paid a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

It was fitting for these two leaders to go to that moving memorial, because of course Dr. King drew deep inspiration from India’s own Mahatma Gandhi.

Those of you who have been to Washington will know that as you walk along the Martin Luther King Memorial, you can read some of Dr. King’s most poignant messages, etched in stone along the wall for future generations to see.

One of these quotes that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi were able to see, I think captures why the growing partnership between the United States and India is so important in the 21st century.

Over fifty years ago, at a dark time for civil rights in the United States, Dr. King delivered an uplifting message of hope. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” he said. “Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

In so many areas around the world, India has a vital, positive, uplifting role to play – in South Asia, in the Indo-Pacific, and increasingly, on the world stage. India’s rise as a regional and global leader, and its economic and strategic growth, are deeply in the U.S. interest.

Prime Minister Modi has pointed out that he does not only see our relations in terms of the benefits it brings to the Indian people or the American people. That is self-evident. The true power and potential of this partnership, he said, is that when our two countries come together, the world will benefit.

At this time of great promise and possibility in this relationship, I’d like to speak today about our defense ties, and why a closer U.S.-India defense relationship is in both our nations’ – and the world’s – interest. We believe there is especially strong potential in the U.S.-India defense relationship, which we want to translate into action.

Since the signing of our bilateral defense framework in 2005, our defense relationship has become a central pillar of our strategic partnership. And when Prime Minister Modi visited Washington, he and President Obama welcomed the decision to renew the 2005 Framework, and they agreed to reinvigorate the Political-Military Dialogue that we will convene tomorrow.

Together with India, we are proud to hold more than 50 annual military exercises among all the services to train our troops and to encourage them to work together.

In the most recent MALABAR exercise in July… our largest bilateral naval exercise… Japan’s navy joined India and the United States to conduct exercises in the Northwest Pacific. Previously, MALABAR has featured the Australian and Singaporean navies, and we continue to look for opportunities to train and conduct exercises with our many partners in the region.

India has also been a leader in global counter-piracy efforts. Let’s not forget that in 2011, piracy was wreaking havoc on international trade off the Horn of Africa. The number of attacks peaked at 237, with 28 of those attacks resulting in vessel hijackings and sailors held hostage for ransom.

But today, thanks to a concerted international effort, including leadership from India in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, there has been no successful raid against a commercial ship in that region in over two years.

India has also taken great strides to secure waterways and trade routes on the other side of the sub-continent, in the Bay of Bengal.

And going forward, we will continue to remain vigilant against the threat of piracy.

India has shouldered a global responsibility not only on maritime security, but also in peacekeeping. In fact, over the past six decades, India has been one of the top troop contributors for global peacekeeping operations. I know Indian peacekeepers have courageously made sacrifices for their missions… and some have made the ultimate sacrifice. India’s contributions to international peacekeeping efforts can serve as an example for many other nations around the world.

As we look to deepen our peacekeeping cooperation, we are also building the ties between our professional military personnel through educational exchange. We are proud that many of the senior leaders in all services of the Indian military have studied in the United States, including 2 out of 3 of the current service chiefs.

Already, more than 100,000 Indians study at American universities each year. And through our International Military Education and Training program, we look forward to broadening our military-to-military interactions… not only at the leader-to-leader level, but also at the student-to-student level.

Because even while India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, it has the world’s most young people, with a median age of 27 and 600 million people under the age of 25… making education of this group a top Indian priority and these people-to-people ties all the more important to our shared future. That’s why, going forward, as India establishes its National Defense University, we look forward to building bridges between that institution and the U.S. National Defense University.

Another area where we have made tremendous progress is in defense trade. Since 2008, our bilateral defense trade has grown from near-zero to nearly $10 billion.

The benefits of our defense trade have extended far beyond each of our borders. For example, India used C-130Js and C-17 transport aircraft to respond to floods and landslides in India and Nepal. You’ve used U.S.-made equipment to provide typhoon relief in the Philippines, to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, and to resupply your peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

Going forward, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have reaffirmed our strategic commitment to pursue opportunities for defense co-development and co-production that take our defense relationship to the next level.

To us, our defense relationship with India is not transactional; it is an investment in our future together. We want to move beyond a buyer-seller relationship, towards one of co-development and co-production, where both our nations will benefit.

One of the ways we’re doing that is by modernizing our defense exports licensing system. Over the past seven years, the average time to process a license for India has dropped almost 40 percent. And it’s important to emphasize that less than 1 percent of licenses destined for India are denied, a figure that is on par or better than many of our closest partners.

We remain committed to maintaining a transparent and predictable process, even as we find creative ways for our systems to work more harmoniously. That’s why we continue to support the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, or DTTI, which will reduce bureaucratic burdens and expedite technology-sharing and research. We also believe that DTTI, through its emphasis on co-production and co-development, only complements Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” initiative. Yesterday I was in Hyderabad, where I was able to see firsthand the remarkable potential in this area. We hope to see more partnerships take hold, like those between Lockheed Martin and TATA to build C-130 components, and Sikorsky and TATA to build cabins for S-92 helicopters.

We have been discussing more than a dozen co-production and co-development projects with India, and we hope to move on some of these going forward. Still, let’s not forget that our work is unfinished. We need to work together to make defense trade easier. We should do this because of the tremendous security benefits that strengthening our defense ties brings to our people, to this region, and to the world.


But it’s not just about security. It’s also about the economy, and let me focus on that for a moment.

Growing our defense trade helps our companies’ bottom lines… it helps create better jobs on the assembly lines… and most importantly, it gets the best equipment and protection to our troops on the front lines.

But in addition to the clear benefits that defense trade brings to both our countries in terms of good-paying jobs… it’s important to remember that it’s security that underpins global trade and commerce. As Secretary Kerry has said many times over the past few years, “More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy.”

Look, for example, at the Indo-Pacific region. For India, over half of your trade passes through the Strait of Malacca. India, like the United States, has important trade interests all along the Pacific and Indian oceans. And Prime Minister Modi’s “Act East” policy – just like President Obama’s rebalance to Asia – is rooted in the leading economic role that the Asia-Pacific is already playing in this century and beyond. Our interests in the region, and our policies towards the region, have never been more complementary.

That’s why both of our countries have such an important stake in maritime security. It’s why we share a deep interest in a peaceful, rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific. It’s why, as President Obama and Prime Minister Modi outlined both in Washington and at the East Asia Summit in Burma, we believe in freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. We share a vision where all parties pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Securing these sea lanes peacefully is crucial to ensuring that international commerce can continue to flow without disruption.


This is a time of great possibility; of great excitement; and of great importance for the United States and India. We’re seeing a natural convergence not only of our values… not only of our interests… but also of our vision for the way forward… in the Indo-Pacific and the world at large.

By working together, by translating those common interests into common efforts, we will bring more security and economic prosperity, not only to our citizens, but to people all over the world.

Thank you very much.