I am truly delighted to be here this evening at Yale University - one of the finest seats of learning and the imparting of knowledge. It is an honor for me to have this opportunity to address the Yale Community about India-US relations.
Yale has had a historical connection with India that goes back more than three centuries beginning with Eliahu Yale and his days in Madras (now Chennai). Yale has been a pioneer among the US universities when it comes to the study of India – its languages, literature, religions, history, and its politics, economics and society. I understand Yale was the first US University to start teaching Sanskrit. Many eminent Indians and Indian-Americans have passed through its portals. Yale is today not only continuing its tradition of engagement but has strengthened it and extensively broadened it through the Yale India Initiative that was launched in 2008.
Through its various programmes and partnerships with Indian institutions of higher education, Yale is making a singular contribution in fostering greater understanding among Indian and American peoples. People-to-people connections between our two countries are in fact the warp and weft of the rich fabric of India-US relationship. Indeed, a key element in the relationship between India and the United States has been that it is people-centric and responds to popular aspirations going beyond the calculations of political expediency. Yale is therefore I believe doing a yeoman’s service in promoting and strengthening relations between our two countries. Yale has about 160 Indian students, which I understand, is the second largest number of international students after China. Yale has also initiated a higher education leadership programme for India and many of the participants in the inaugural course are present this evening.
I would like to thank Dr. Richard Levin, President of Yale University for his leadership and commitment for enhancing Yale’s connections with India.
As both India and the US work towards becoming a truly knowledge societies we believe there are immense opportunities for forging new links in the areas of education, research and innovation as also technology and skill development. Therefore deepening of our cooperation in the field of education has been identified by both governments as a key priority as we chart the course ahead for our strategic partnership.
India-U.S. cooperation in the field of education is today poised for major expansion. We in India see education as critical for achieving its goals to have inclusive growth and to realize the potential for taking the Indian economy to even higher growth trajectory. The Indian Government has announced major initiatives for massive expansion and upgradation of the education infrastructure, both in the primary education sector as also higher education. In a little over a weak, the first India-US Higher Education Summit will be held in Washington D.C. co-chaired by our Minister for Human Resource Development and the US Secretary of State. The Summit will bring together not just government officials but also academics and entrepreneurs who are engaged in this area and will provide a platform to develop a blueprint for furthering our horizons in this area.
This is just one of the facets of our multi-faceted partnership with the US today. Ours is a partnership that seeks to meet common aspirations for mutual prosperity and for peace and security. President Obama’s landmark visit to India last November has indeed helped in taking our relationship to a new level.
The expanding cooperation between India and the US is strongly rooted in our shared values of democracy, individual freedoms and rule of law, in excellent people to people contacts and business linkages and in our increasing ability to work together in a variety of fields from fighting the menace of terrorism to ensuring the stability of global economy. The India-US Strategic Dialogue initiated in 2009 identified five principal areas for expanding cooperation: strategic cooperation, energy and climate change; education and development, economy, trade and agriculture, science and technology, health and innovation.
In India, we regard the US as our most important partner in our quest for social and economic development and we are working to expand our relations across the entire spectrum of our bilateral agenda, including in areas which I believe, are of importance to the United States as well - areas such as trade and investment, science and technology, clean energy, health, higher education and agriculture.
Let me take a few moments to elaborate on this many splendoured nature of our relationship.
The steady growth of Indian economy has not only helped improve the living standards of many of our peoples, but has also opened up new opportunities to expand our mutually beneficial economic and commercial ties with the United States. Two-way trade in goods continues to grow steadily reaching about US$ 49 billion last year. Services trade is buoyant; and capital flows are now in two directions. The US businesses are becoming strong partners in India’s economic growth story; and Indian businesses are creating value, wealth and jobs in the United States. Because Indo-U.S. economic ties have been knowledge-, technology- and people-intensive, it has had a profound impact on the relationship that goes beyond the business sector.
In order to continue on our high growth path, India will need to invest in building a world class infrastructure that could cater to the demands of a billion plus population and ensure the availability of abundant supplies of clean sources of energy to fuel such growth. In both these areas we are working to build mutually beneficial ties. Yale’s partnership with TERI for the US-India Energy Summit in 2009 is an example of the kind of innovative linkages that our two countries are tapping into for partnership in the vital area of clean energy. With the US, we are now engaged in a broad array of clean energy solutions.
In India we have placed high importance to improving our agricultural productivity that would result in better livelihoods for our rural population. We are partnering with the US across the entire range of issues related to agriculture – from using space technology for better monsoon prediction and crop productivity to improving the linkages from farms to markets. I understand that Yale has developed some excellent partnerships with Chinese universities in this area. It is my hope that under your India Initiative you would be able to expand your partnership with Indian Agricultural universities that would benefit both India and the US.
Health is yet another critical area where there are exciting opportunities for collaboration. Our scientists are already working with the US institutions such as National Institutions of Health and Center for Disease Control capitalizing on each other’s comparative advantages and skills. And here again it is my hope that Yale would take a lead in forging partnerships with Indian institutions for research, development and deployment of cutting edge technologies in pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors that would contribute to better health for our peoples.
India and the US have established a Science and Technology Endowment Fund to help foster such mutually beneficial collaborations. We have also, in yet another sign of mutual confidence, overcome concerns of the past on India’s space program and have made a promising beginning to a new era of cooperation. I believe in co-development of the vibrant S&T eco-system as the new foundation of expanding Indo-US cooperation, where we harness synergies to produce global public goods.
As we work to enhance our mutual prosperity, there is also an increasing level of cooperation between our countries, to ensure peace and security both in the regional context and in the wider global context. All of us are familiar with the challenges that our two countries face - global economic stress, profound geopolitical changes, especially in Asia, as also regional instability and the continuing threat of terrorism in South Asia. Whether it is terrorism or the challenge of maintaining peace amidst fast paced changes in Asia-Pacific, our interests increasingly converge; our understanding of the nature and the source of problems that we face have also become increasingly similar.
Our cooperation in the field of security has entered new territories and explored new frontiers. Our militaries, once unfamiliar with each other now hold regular dialogue and joint exercises in the air and on land and sea. We coordinate anti-piracy efforts and have worked together on humanitarian missions. Our defence trade was negligible a decade ago, but today we have placed orders worth US$ 8 billion, and it is bound to grow even more in the future as India looks to modernize its armed forces. The paradigm that we visualize for defence cooperation should incorporate a strong component of joint production, research and co-development , which are all of strategic importance. Our counterterrorism cooperation has acquired new momentum and depth, even as India continues to take steps to improve our domestic capabilities to counter this threat.
In Afghanistan we are not only engaged in our individual assistance efforts but are now working together in areas such as capacity building, agriculture and women’s empowerment. Both our countries understand the imperative of ensuring success in Afghanistan, and defeating the evil designs of forces of instability. While successful transition of security in Afghanistan in 2014 is important, that alone would not guarantee long term stability in the region. This would require building of Afghan institutions, capacities and more importantly elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan – a goal that both our countries share in common. India has invested significant resources for Afghanistan’s development in areas identified by Afghanistan. In addition we feel that there is also a need to work together as well as with other regional countries to make Afghanistan a hub linking the South and Central Asian countries. With its growing economy and expanding markets, India can and is willing to partner with other countries and play the role of an anchor for long term prosperity and stability of the region.
In the broader regional context of the on-going changes in Asia-Pacific region, there is today a much greater awareness between our two countries of our Asian-Pacific identities. We are witnessing the rise simultaneously of several powers in the Asia-Pacific region and new questions are being raised about the role and responsibilities of extra-regional powers. The region is undergoing rapid change and throwing up new challenges of reconciling historical differences with growing inter-dependence. We have always been conscious of our Asian identity, of our location at the strategic and cultural cross-roads of Asia. The future of the Asia Pacific region is of vital importance to India’s own future. The US too regards the region as one of special strategic focus.
The safety of the Sea Lanes of Communication in the Indian Ocean is crucial for economic growth not just for India and the US but for the entire region. Maritime trade routes in the Indian Ocean are vital for international commerce and global energy security and we have a common interest in combating threats such as piracy. One-fifth of the world’s energy supplies now travel across the Indian Ocean. Therefore we have agreed to enhance our maritime security cooperation. For instance, we are working together with the US and the international community to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
When President Obama visited India last November, he and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh spelt out the shared vision of both countries for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia, the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. We have agreed to work together and with other countries of the region for evolution of an open, balanced and inclusive security and economic architecture in the region. We believe that this would need to be a consensus based process, so that all stakeholders can make their respective contributions to regional security. India aspires to this vision in cooperation with all countries, including the US, through partnership, consultation and dialogue. As the US prepares to participate in the East Asia Summit in November this year, we will continue our consultations to ensure that the Summit has a productive outcome.
India and the U.S. have been described as natural strategic partners. Our relationship is in a state of constant evolution in a rapidly changing world. We will move forward and deepen our strategic partnership guided by our long-term objectives and shared ideals of democratic functioning to meet the important challenges of our times and to advance peace and prosperity in our increasingly interdependent and interconnected world.
With that, I would be happy to take a few questions.