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Remarks by Ambassador Nirupama Rao at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: 25 January 2012

•I am really very privileged and happy to be back at the Woodrow Wilson Centre. 

•It was about two years ago that I had the occasion to speak here on India-US relations. Speaking then I had noted that while we were separated by a distance of ten thousand miles, yet we were connected in a very direct way because of our shared values, our strong and enduring democratic institutions, the rule of law, our culture of debate and discussion, and our shared commitment to preserve the pluralistic and secular nature of our diverse and open societies. This is supplemented by a strong political support, cutting across the political spectrum, in both our countries for strengthening our bilateral relationship and an increasing convergence of interests. 

•In the period since, our relationship has further matured and deepened and is fast becoming a strategic partnership with global dimensions. Today, it is an exciting time in India-U.S. relations when we have a virtually limitless horizon of what we can do together. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has described our partnership as one uniquely founded on both "principles and pragmatism.” President Obama calls it "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."

•In myriad ways we are working together with our partners in the US, both in the government and outside, such as with experts here at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to build a great partnership based upon common values, converging interests and a shared vision of the world. 

•We have established a Strategic Dialogue in 2009 which has 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. 

•The economic partnership has emerged as the bedrock of our strategic partnership and a central driver of our bilateral partnership. We are expected to touch US$ 100 billion in two way trade, both in goods and services. The story of our commercial relations is a story of boom in bilateral trade that is broadly balanced; a story of strong (over 200%) growth in US exports to India over the last decade; a story of trade creation and trade expansion in new areas of economic cooperation; a story of how Indian businesses have integrated with the US economy by investing in value and job creation here; and a story equally of how US business have leveraged India’s strengths to produce globally competitive products, technologies and services. 

•Beyond trade, our investment links are growing; research based commercial partnerships are on the increase and technology exchanges are expanding in different fields of economy. We are working on a Bilateral Investment Treaty. As things currently stand, it is a mutually complementary framework of ties. 

•Our political engagement has strengthened significantly and our strategic understanding has deepened. Whether it is terrorism or the challenge of maintaining peace amidst fast paced changes across the world our understanding of the nature and the source of problems that we face has deepened through continuing dialogue. 

•Our cooperation in the field of security has expanded considerably. While there was not much interaction between our militaries only a couple of years ago, today they hold regular dialogue and joint exercises in the air and on land and sea. We are today collaborating in fighting terrorism, coordinating anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia and working together on humanitarian missions in the Indian Ocean region. 

•Our bilateral defence trade, negligible only a few years ago, is expanding. We have already purchased US $ 8 billion worth of US defence equipment and as we continue to modernize our defence forces, I am confident that the United States will become an important source for procuring high technology defence equipment. I believe that we can do better by looking towards co-production, research and development. 

•Indeed our relationship goes beyond a merely bilateral construct, and has a much wider and much deeper significance for peace, freedom and prosperity of the entire humanity. We are working together to craft solutions to the foremost global challenges of our times – the threat of terrorism as it affects both our nations, the dangers of religious extremism, promoting development in Afghanistan, the global financial and economic crisis that has given new content and meaning to the work of forums like the G-20, the common challenges of addressing the impact of global climate change or disaster relief, pandemics or piracy at sea.

•We both understand the need  for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region. We instituted a regular dialogue on developments in the region last year, have held four rounds of meetings, and have agreed to further deepen these strategic consultations. Going beyond the bilateral dimension, we also have instituted a trilateral dialogue between India, US and Japan whose first meeting was held in December last year. These consultations help increase mutual understanding and would enhance our cooperative endeavors 

•In Afghanistan, where India despite its own challenges, is providing significant economic assistance of over US $ 2 billion, both our governments are also supplementing our individual efforts through joint projects in areas such as capacity building, agriculture and women’s empowerment. We understand the imperative of ensuring success in Afghanistan. To this end, we have a shared interest in building Afghan institutions, capacities and more importantly the elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are now working together and with other regional countries in developing Afghanistan’s economy in a sustainable manner. 

•Another aspect is our growing cooperation in developmental sphere that synergizes our complementary strengths for mutual prosperity. India is in the midst of a national endeavour to achieve socio-economic development for its billion-plus population in an inclusive and participatory way. 

•While we have been able to achieve good economic growth in recent years, we remain acutely aware of the enormous development challenges that confront us. We need to improve our agricultural productivity, build more schools and institutions in higher education, focus on skill development to reap the benefits of demographic dividend, and strengthen our health infrastructure. And in this task, we see the United States, with its economic and technological prowess, as an important partner on the basis of mutual benefit. Cooperation in areas such as nuclear energy, high technology and clean energy resources, agriculture and health are making our partnership mutually more rewarding, with flow of ideas, knowledge and people in both directions.

•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. Health is yet another critical area where there are exciting opportunities for collaboration tapping into each other’s comparative advantages. We are working together across a full portfolio of clean energy options. The US is assisting us in mapping our reserves of shale gas resources.

•The growth of the knowledge economy is an exciting frontline of our engagement today. We are tapping into our respective scientific and technological strengths, innovation, and encouraging co-development of a vibrant S&T eco-system through projects under the bilateral Science and Technology Endowment Fund of US $ 30 million. I believe this could produce benefits for both our countries as well as produce global public goods. 

•Both the Governments have launched the “Singh-Obama 21st Century Knowledge Initiative” in November 2009 with funding of US$ 5 million from both the sides to increase linkages between US and Indian universities. The first India-US Higher Education Summit held in Washington DC last year has laid a road map for our joint efforts in expanding collaboration in the field of higher education between our two countries. 

•Our relationship is unique in that it goes way beyond what the two Governments are doing. In fact people-to-people links are at the heart of our growing partnership. The energy, creativity and enterprising spirit of our people, private sector and civil society are building new bridges across hitherto uncharted waters and adding resilience and vibrancy to our relations. 

•I believe we have a robust agenda for qualitative improvement in our partnership in the months ahead at the bilateral and global levels, from our development partnership in education, health, agriculture, science and technology, clean energy to trade and economic cooperation, security cooperation, dialogue on export controls and high technology trade and deepening of consultations on global issues. 

•I would like to conclude by noting that both our governments are committed to build on the excellent foundation that has been created to fulfill our common objective of creating a partnership that not only benefits the peoples of both countries, but also responds to the global challenges of our time. It has the potential to shape the destiny of our peoples, and indeed, of the larger humanity.