I am truly honoured by the invitation to address such a distinguished gathering and to be among many old friends and well wishers of India in this season of Thanks Giving. I am very grateful to each one of you for being present to listen to me this evening.
Many of you have spent long years in the study of India. You have provided intellectual sustenance to the idea of a strong India-US partnership and what it means for our two democracies and the world at large.
I see the future of the India-US partnership with confidence and optimism. There is a growing convergence in our national interests, both within the bilateral framework and on regional and global issues. The changes in the global economic and political structures and the growing interdependence among nations today offer us a unique opportunity to look beyond our bilateral engagement to establish a strategic partnership of global dimensions. If we are to effectively tackle the multiple challenges that confront the world, India and the United States, as two leading democracies, must work together.
The immediate challenge before us is to bring the world to full recovery from the global economic and financial crisis.
I have no doubt that the creative and entrepreneurial genius of the American people will ensure that the US economy emerges from this crisis stronger and well placed to contribute to global economic growth.
India is playing its own part in the process of global recovery. Despite the slowdown, our economy grew by 6.7% last year and is expected to grow by 6.5% in the current fiscal year.
India and the United States have strong compulsions to work towards an open and liberal regime for transfers of goods, services, investments and technology. This will stimulate recovery in the global economy, create jobs and spur growth in our own economies.
Our generation has an opportunity given to few, to remake a new global equilibrium after the irreversible changes brought about by the rapid geopolitical and economic shifts of the recent past.
Nowhere are the changes more visible than in Asia. India and the United States can work together with other countries in the region to create an open and inclusive regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific region.
The India-US partnership can contribute to an orderly transition to the new order and be an important factor for global peace and stability. Both India and the United States draw strength from our common values of respect for cultural diversity, democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. Our two nations have been shaped by the thoughts and ideals of two apostles of peace of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We should advance these ideals as fundamental rights of all human beings.
We have made some progress in moving towards a more representative mechanism to manage global economic and financial issues. The same cannot be said about governance of the political and security order. There is a need to reform the United Nations and its Security Council.
In my interactions with President Obama, I have found shared thinking on the moral imperative of putting the poor at the forefront of the global agenda. In Africa, Asia and elsewhere, they must have access to education and give them bankable skills, to nutrition and to health-care.
The India-US partnership can promote global cooperation in dealing with issues that the world has to face together, whether it is hunger, global security and terrorism, nuclear disarmament, climate change or the spread of pandemics.
History has taught us that peace, security and prosperity are indivisible. That is why the evolution of Afghanistan as a stable and moderate nation state is so vital for the region and the world.
The road to peace in Afghanistan will be long and hard. But, given the high stakes involved, the commitment of the international community must be sustained by firm resolve and unity of purpose.
India has enduring civilizational links with Afghanistan. We do not see Afghanistan as a theatre of influence. Our interest is in building a region of peace and stability. India will continue to assist Afghanistan in building its institutions and its human resources.
Democracy in an ancient land like Afghanistan will take time to take root and to come to terms with the country’s history and tribal traditions. It is vitally important that all major regional and international players put their weight behind the government of Afghanistan. This is the only way Afghanistan can meet the daunting challenges it faces.
My government has invested heavily over the past few years in normalizing relations with our neighbour Pakistan. We made considerable progress on the road to a durable and permanent settlement of all outstanding issues. I have said that we are ready to pick up the threads of the dialogue, including on issues related to Jammu & Kashmir.
We seek a South Asia of peace, friendship and prosperity, where its borders will be energized by the flow of people, goods and ideas. For this to happen, Pakistan must make a break with the past, abjure terrorism and come to the table with good faith and sincerity. It is my solemn hope that India and Pakistan can together move forward to write a new chapter in the history of our sub-continent.
We are three days away from the first anniversary of the heinous and barbaric terrorist attacks on Mumbai. The trauma of that attack continues to haunt us. Terrorism poses an existential threat to the civilized world and must be defeated. We should not harbour any illusions that a selective approach to terrorism, tackling it in one place while ignoring it in others, will work or pay dividends.
We welcome the fact that President Obama has committed the United States to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. India has been committed to this goal since our independence. We believe that India’s security will be enhanced, not diminished, by the complete elimination of nuclear weapons the world over.
There is much that India and the United States can do together to reduce the global risks of nuclear proliferation, including by building a new global consensus on the way ahead. The negotiation of a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament will be a significant contribution.
We welcome President Obama’s initiative to host a Summit on Nuclear Security in April next year. Our countries can play a vital role in strengthening global resolve to prevent terrorists from gaining access to materials and technologies related to weapons of mass destruction.
The negotiations heading toward Copenhagen are proving more difficult than we would have liked. There is disagreement among industrialized countries and between industrialized and developing countries. It is important for all countries to make every effort to contribute to a successful outcome at Copenhagen.
India was a latecomer to industrialization and as such we have contributed very little to the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. But, we are determined to be part of the solution to the problem. We are willing to work towards any solution that does not compromise the right of developing countries to develop and lift their populations out of poverty.
We recognize that we have to act on climate change in our own interest, since we are among the countries most impacted by climate change. It is for this reason that we have adopted an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change. We are committed to ambitious and time-bound outcomes that will increase the energy efficiency of our economy, the share of clean energy including nuclear power in our energy mix, and our forest cover. All this will require considerable resources. We have undertaken to do what we can with our own resources. We will do more if there is global support in terms of financial resources and technology transfer.
India’s economic transition is gathering pace. It will be faster in the years ahead as we harness the expanding economic productivity of our young population. The unshackling of our markets; the latent demand, particularly of our rural economy; and the fact that our domestic savings rate now is as high as 35% of our GDP all suggest that we can achieve a sustained growth of 9% per annum over the next couple of decades. This will create the resources to make our development process more inclusive as well as sustainable.
The social agenda has come to dominate the domestic political discourse in our two countries. This was the verdict of our general elections held in May 2009, and I believe it was also of yours. The time is opportune for us to substantially enhance our cooperation in the critical areas of education, health, energy, science and technology and agriculture.
Collaboration between our software industries has powered the global knowledge economy. We can build and we must on this experience and look at new frontiers of cooperation.
American agricultural science and technology can help India usher in a second Green Revolution.
India’s competitive advantages in the pharmaceutical and medical services industries can support healthcare reform in the United States.
India has embarked on its largest education expansion program since independence. There are plans to set up more than 40 new universities and institutions. We would like to benefit from the great American university system, which attracts a large number of Indian students every year.
We can cooperate in the development, production and deployment of green technologies. In this context, we should fully harness our bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement to shape the nuclear renaissance in the energy industry.
We deeply appreciate the cooperation that we have received from the United States in the area of counter-terrorism in the recent past. I am convinced that we can do much more together on a sustained basis to combat increasingly sophisticated terror networks, transnational criminal groups and cyber terrorism.
Our defence and strategic dialogues have added important dimensions to our relatioship. Maritime security, including countering piracy and protecting sea-lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean and beyond, is another important area where we should expand cooperation.
The edifice of the India-US partnership is founded on many pillars. It is a relationship based on pragmatism and principle; and strengthened by shared values and common interests.
Our ties draw heavily on the strength and vitality of the Indian and American people. The 2.7 million strong Indian American community has made good the enormous opportunities provided to them in their adopted home. They are a powerful factor in drawing our two countries together.
President Obama’s advocacy of an inclusive approach to problem solving and primacy to dialogue as an instrument of policy create many more opportunities for our two democracies to work together in realizing the vision of a shared destiny for all humankind.
Collaboration and cooperation between our two countries will be indispensable for shaping a global society that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the 21st century and where countries can pursue their legitimate interests in a secure and just environment.
I thank you for listening to me.