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Ambassador's Address at the Georgetown University - Trends in India’s Foreign Policy

Washington, DC

President of the Georgetown University
John J. DeGioia
Dean of the School of Foreign Service
Carol Lancaster
Members of the University community
Ladies and Gentleman,

    I would like to thank Georgetown University for giving me this opportunity to meet and interact with the distinguished faculty and the student community of this prestigious institution of academic excellence.

I am particularly happy to know that Georgetown University has had an extensive association with India, and has been one of the leaders in forging partnerships with Indian institutions of higher education and learning. I would like to particularly thank President DeGioia for his personal commitment and constant support in promoting stronger linkages and friendship between our two countries.

It is my privilege to announce that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations has finalized arrangements with the Georgetown University for  establishing a Chair of Indian Culture and Society at its campus and we would be signing formal documents later this evening.

And in about two weeks from now, Georgetown University will also be hosting the first India-US Higher Education Summit. The spirit of inquiry, creativity and the tradition of imparting knowledge have been the hallmarks of our two societies. In this backdrop, it is our hope that the Summit will provide a unique platform for the academic community and officials from both our countries to share their experience and knowledge to chart a new road map for advancing our partnership in the field of education, encourage more students both from India as well as from the US to take advantage of the unique educational experience that each of our countries has to offer. Such exchanges will strengthen scholarship and research in each of our relationships and deeper foundations for our relations.

    The Indian government in the last six years has attempted to pay special attention to the growth and development of our university and higher education system to provide high quality education and carry out research in frontier areas of science and technology. But we recognize that we need to do more in the years to come. Education is therefore one of the strategic areas in which India and the US are trying to forge new linkages. And this in a way is also intimately linked to the priorities and objectives of our foreign policy – the topic on which I would like to share my reflections with you this evening.

During the six decades into our journey as an independent nation, we have followed a foreign policy that would help us pursue our national interests which is to ensure rapid socio-economic transformation and nation building efforts. Our foreign policy has evolved over these years keeping pace with India’s progress as well as the changes that have taken place in the global environment.  

When we got our independence, the primary task of our foreign policy was to enable us to begin the process of economic and social transformation that was the urgent need of the day as two hundred years of colonial rule had resulted in India becoming from one of richest in the world to one of the poorest. Our independence struggle, a unique example of non-violent peaceful mass movement that lead to the overthrow of a colonial regime, has had a strong influence on our outlook and our interaction with international comity of nations as we began our journey as a young and independent nation. We pursued a policy therefore that would ensure a peaceful environment, strategic space and autonomy for us, free of entanglement in Cold War conflicts or alliances and open up development options  for our people.

Six decades later, the world is very different. The end of the Cold War, and accelerating processes and challenges of globalization, has led to greater inter-connectedness among countries. Recent events such as the global economic and financial crises and threats to peace and security by terrorism have demonstrated the indivisibility of security and prosperity of countries, whether big or small, developed or developing. India too has undergone a profound change in these years. Sustained economic growth and modernization are transforming the Indian society at an unprecedented pace and our engagement with the global economy and the world is growing rapidly. The impact of technology is being increasingly felt. Our expectations from the world have changed, as has our capability.

And this is reflected in how India perceives its own future, its ties with its neighbourhood and its approach to the larger international order. Realizing our economic growth targets and ambitions in a conducive and a peaceful, stable, external environment while promoting core values of pluralism, democracy and secularism remains a fundamental goal of India’s foreign policy. But at a broader level this also includes maintaining external security as well as internal security, ensuring sustained economic growth, access to capital inflows, technology, ideas and innovation as we build our society and economy.

India is placed in a complex neighbourhood which has seen rapid and often turbulent changes in the last thirty years. A peaceful neighbourhood is an irreducible requirement for the success of our efforts to accelerate domestic economic development. This thread runs through our foreign policy.

When you look at the map of South Asia today, it might be hard to imagine that only about 60 odd years ago, the different countries represented on the map today, were largely a single political and economic unit. South Asia had been historically and culturally a contiguous region with deep social, cultural, linguistic linkages. But the region has witnessed political fragmentation and severing of economic links which were only hardened due to subsequent political developments. While we do not want to turn the clock back or wish away the political realities that exist today but we believe that we can try and revive, for common good, our traditional linkages and free flow of goods, peoples and ideas that characterized our shared space as South Asians. India has thus articulated a vision of South Asia that restores such historical economic and civilizational linkages.

We wish to create an environment with our neighbours that enables us to work together to fulfill our common objectives of economic development and to provide better and happy lives to our citizens. We have therefore articulated a policy in our neighbourhood that emphasises the advantages of building networks of inter-connectivity, trade, and investment so that prosperity can be shared and so that the region can benefit from India’s rapid economic growth and development. As our economy grows and our capabilities increase, we have indicated a readiness to provide asymmetrical benefits to our neighbours to ensure that they have a preferential access to our markets. In addition to bilateral processes, we have attempted to reinvigorate the SAARC as an important vehicle for achievement of a peaceful, prosperous and stable South Asian region, by conveying our willingness to assume greater responsibility. We will continue to work with each of our neighbours, through the innovative use of development partnerships, our economic and technological capabilities, the development of cross border infrastructure projects as well as our civilisational linkages, to achieve the goal of a peaceful and prosperous region.
    
In Afghanistan for instance, we have provided developmental aid and assistance, at a considerable human cost, to help build Afghan capacities and institutions. We believe that democracy and development are the key instruments to ensure that Afghanistan becomes a source of regional stability and not slide back into extremism. Our development assistance to Afghanistan is over US $ 2 billion. We have undertaken projects in areas that have been identified by the Afghan government as priority areas for reconstruction and development. All our projects are undertaken in partnership with the Afghan government, and are aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and with focus on local ownership of assets. As we continue our fight against terrorism, we firmly believe that greater regional cooperation and economic integration of the Afghan economy with South and Central Asia would create favourable conditions for lasting peace and security. We have therefore welcomed the New Silk Road initiative as an important step in that direction.

While we have certainly progressed in developing healthy and normal relations with most of the countries in the neighbourhood, our relations with Pakistan have been complicated by the issue of terrorism. We desire friendly and cooperative relations with Pakistan and believe that a stable Pakistan which acts as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism is in its own interest as much it is in India’s interest and in the interest of our region. We are determined to persevere with our dialogue with Pakistan in order to resolve outstanding issues so that our region is stable and peaceful. Therefore we have re-started our dialogue with Pakistan. But our relations can only grow in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

As India looks forward to an increasing role in global affairs we are looking today at expanding circles of engagement, starting with our broader neighbourhood, West Asia, Central Asia, South-east Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean region and world’s major powers. Our ‘Look East’ Policy enunciated in the early nineties, is meant, at a fundamental level, to reconnect and reach out in the civilizational space we share with our near neighbours in Southeast Asia, and catalyse the sharing of capacities and opportunities to improve the economic well-being of our peoples. Two decades later we have seen India’s quick integration with Southeast & East Asia at the strategic, political, economic, cultural and people-to-people levels.

We have been witnessing unprecedented developments in West Asia, the Gulf and the North Africa. We believe that people in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and shape their own future. At the bilateral level, we are adding important elements to our traditional ties with countries of the Persian Gulf region by leveraging economic opportunities and our historical linkages.

The ongoing geo-political changes in Asia have been the subject of much comment in the strategic community. It is a recognized fact that the world is witnessing a shift of economic and political power to the Asian region. India supports the evolution of open, transparent, inclusive and balanced regional architecture in the Asia Pacific region for Asian countries and major non-Asian players to interact and cooperate to address traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

We have expanded our network of international relationships, political engagement and economic and technical cooperation with the world. The world today is increasingly multivalent, marked by considerable political cooperation among major powers whose economies are becoming inextricably intertwined with each other. Today, it is no longer possible for India to envisage security – internal or external – in traditional terms. A combination of greater inter-dependence, applications of technology and new and non-traditional vulnerabilities have created challenges that could not have been imagined earlier.

The threat of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, the prospects of pandemics or cyber crime are manifestations of problems faced by a more industrialized and integrated world. At the same time we face issues such as ensuring food, water, energy security. These are interlinked issues, and will have critical impact as our ability to address them successfully will greatly shape our future. All these are also issues that require greater international cooperation and coordination.

India's stakes in a global and regional environment of peace, stability and broader prosperity have never been higher.  Buoyed by its rapid and sustainable economic growth, India is more willing and able to play a role commensurate with its size and destiny, whether in the UN Security Council or other multinational institutions such as G20 or in multilateral negotiations on Climate Change. We seek effective and urgent reforms of the global institutions of governance which meet the aspirations of everyone and reflect the contemporary realities of the 21st Century. In this regard, we deeply appreciate the affirmation by  President Obama that in the years ahead the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.  

Let me take a few moments to comment on our transformed relations with the US. I had mentioned earlier about the measures that the two governments are taking to strengthen our cooperation in the field of education. Indeed in India, we attach importance to our strategic partnership with the US both for advancing global peace, stability and progress as well as in the pursuit of achieving India’s national development goals including promoting better education opportunities, improving agriculture productivity, creating a world class infrastructure and  development of sustainable energy sources.

The expanding cooperation between India and the US is strongly rooted in our shared ideals and values, excellent people to people contacts and business linkages, widespread political support in both countries and our ability to work together in a variety of fields. Over the past ten years, the canvass of India-US partnership has widened immensely in its scope and content.

Today we are not only discussing issues such as strategic space sectors cooperation but also a broad range of development issues that directly and positively impact on the lives of our citizens including cooperation in education, health, agriculture, weather forecasting, innovation, etc. We are engaging with each other and cooperating on most major global issues as also on capacity building in third countries. As President Obama put it, India-US partnership will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

I have attempted to give you a broad brush picture of the factors that motivate and shape our foreign policy. To sum up, I would like to say that our foreign policy is a reflection of our national interests, our conviction that the dynamism and energy of the Indian economic growth story must be shared with our region, that to sustain our growth trajectory we need an environment that is free from transnational threats like terrorism, and that inclusive structures of dialogue and cooperation are necessary to address the new challenges that we face.

India remains ready to play a role commensurate with its size, its growing economic strength, its democratic stability, proven capacity to manage its enormous diversity, and its contributions to the cause of global peace and security.

With that, I would be happy to take a few questions.
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