Remarks by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran at the Opening Session of Fourth India-US High-Technology Cooperation Group Meeting
November 30, 2005
I am delighted to join all of you at this opening session of the Fourth Indo-US High-Technology Cooperation Group meeting. I extend a special welcome to my US counterpart and co-chair, Under Secretary David McCormick, who has only recently assumed this responsibility. He is no stranger to India and we can all profit from the experience and enthusiasm that he brings to bear from his earlier private sector incarnation. He is leading an impressive delegation from the US Government as well as of the US industry for what I am sure will be a productive meeting between us. At the outset, it would be appropriate for me to recognise the organisations that have contributed to the industry segment of the HTCG. I would like to express our collective appreciation to Mr. Srinivasan of CII, Dr. Amit Mitra of FICCI and Mr. Ron Somers of USIBC, all of whom are on the dais with me today.
2. The fourth meeting of the HTCG takes place in very positive circumstances. Since November 2004, when we last met in Washington, a number of developments in our bilateral ties have created fresh opportunities for cooperation within the Forum. A major step forward was the successful conclusion of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) initiative that was announced during Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in July 2005. The NSSP enabled us to put in place a regulatory framework for promoting strategic trade and high-technology commerce by addressing concerns of liberal and predictable licensing on the one hand, and technology security and export controls on the other. Among the various results of the NSSP were the removal of many Indian organisations from the Entity List, delicensing of certain categories of dual-use items, institution of a presumption of approval policy in other categories and direct cooperation in developing, producing, marketing and operating commercial satellites. These policy changes were facilitated through the upgradation of India’s export controls, reflected in the passage of legislation on that subject in May 2005, that underlined India’s credentials as a secure and responsible destination. We have improved preventive enforcement capabilities, conducted outreach programmes and embarked on technical exchanges in support of our export control goals.
3. The Prime Minister’s visit to Washington also witnessed a number of other understandings that, directly or indirectly, impinge high-technology trade. The decision of our two Governments to resume full cooperation in civil nuclear energy has opened up new avenues for commerce in this important area. We are currently engaged in the process of implementing this understanding and I am confident that we will have progress to report in the coming months. Civil nuclear energy is one component of a larger energy dialogue between India and USA that began in May 2005, covering oil and gas, clean coal technologies and non-conventional energy sources. The nuclear agreement has a larger implication for our high technology trade as it is premised on US recognition of India’s impeccable record in non-proliferation. It not only recognises that non-proliferation is better served with India as a partner, but also sends a clear message that India cannot be a partner and a target of technology denial regimes at the same time.
4. In regard to space cooperation, the mechanism of a dedicated working group has enabled us to move forward. This meeting of the HTCG would start our discussions on the conclusion of a Indo-US space launch agreement. We are also close to finalising the acceptance of US payloads on our Chandrayaan mission. With a new licensing regime in place as a result of NSSP, our space industries can work together across a broader agenda. A third follow up from the Prime Minister’s visit was the conclusion in October 2005 of an Science & Technology Framework Agreement with an IPR protocol that will allow collaborative research and joint development between our scientists. This will encourage the commercial benefits of our scientific collaboration to manifest themselves more strongly.
5. The pace of cooperation in defence technology has also been encouraging. Following the New Framework of Defence Relationship that was agreed to in June 2005, we are currently exploring contours of cooperation that include technology transfers, co-production, joint development and collaborative research. The first meeting of the Defence Procurement and Production Group earlier this month is a welcome step in this direction. Indian skills and comparative costs make themselves felt in defence applications of high technology as well and Indian companies can become active participants in the global supply chains of major defence vendors. In parallel, there are efforts underway to foster the growth of an Indian private sector in defence. Partnerships and investments encouraged by our offset policy may be expected to contribute to that trend. I am particularly glad that a private sector working group, as proposed by the November 2004 meeting, has been established and is functioning vigorously.
6. The report card for the bio-technology segment of HTCG is also positive. We have had three significant industry events under the aegis of HTCG since November 2004. This is an area with considerable potential for growth and I believe that information sharing, exchanges of best practices and capacity building will serve our mutual interest. Discussions over the next two days should address concerns in the fields of patent protection, commercialisation of research, export control, transgenic agriculture and clinical trials.
7. In nano-technology, we have consciously decided to allocate a dedicated session at this HTCG in order to bring out the collaborative possibilities in research in both countries that would also advance our own national capabilities in India. An Indo-US Joint Centre on Nano-Structured Materials was established in July as an example of public-private partnership. I am confident that the deliberations today will lead up to industry events scheduled for early 2006. Nano-technology is a particularly complex challenge that raises a host of issues ranging from their application also to their ethics. In a country like India, the developmental implications of nano-technology cannot be neglected.
8. Information technology remains the front-runner of our quartet in HTCG. Industry interaction has become increasingly self-sustaining and has begun to be a valuable input into policy formulation. HTCG deliberations are also supported by parallel processes at work in the Indo-US Cyber Security Forum.
9. It is no accident that the vast majority of initiatives that were unveiled during Prime Minister’s visit to Washington had a technology character and were knowledge-based. This is reflective of the changing nature of ties between India and the United States. Authoritative studies have indicated that by 2020, we will probably be two of the three largest economies in the world. Our partnership is expected to benefit not only from shared values and similar practices but equally from our ability to complement each other. The linkages and interactions between the knowledge-enabled aspects of our economies will only acquire greater significance with time. This imparts a particular responsibility to the working of the HTCG as it is our mandate to chart forward directions in this field. I would submit that for the initial phase, we have largely fulfilled our regulatory responsibilities and created an enabling structure for high-technology commerce to expand. Our focus should now be on promotional and outreach activities design to ensure that industry takes full advantage of the opportunities that we have created for them.
10. Our deliberations at this forum must be evaluated against the backdrop of the transformation in Indo-US relations currently underway. Prime Minister’s visit in July this year was a defining event and the resulting bilateral dialogue architecture testifies to the deepening of our engagement. Since then, meetings of our Financial and Economic Forum as well as the Trade Policy Forum, both at Cabinet levels, have taken place. The Defence Policy Group has just completed a very productive meeting. Our Energy Dialogue has gathered pace and we will shortly be reviewing the progress of our Economic Dialogue. The newly established CEOs Forum is also at work, hard at work I am told, likely to produce its recommendations early next year. The Working Groups on nuclear and space cooperation will be meeting in the coming weeks. The Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture has also begun to take shape. Our expectation is that by the time President Bush visits India, hopefully in the next few months, these initiatives would illustrate the benefits of our strategic partnership and demonstrate their centrality to India’s growth and progress.
11. I thank you all for participating at this event today and look forward to hearing the reports from the industry breakout sessions at the conclusion of the day.