Remarks by Ambassador Arun K. Singh at Atlantic Council...
Remarks by Ambassador Arun K. Singh at Atlantic Council event: Diplomacy Beyond the Nation-State: The Megacity Challenge

Remarks by Ambassador Arun K. Singh at Atlantic Council event: Diplomacy Beyond the Nation-State: The Megacity Challenge

Washington, DC

October 8, 2015

Hon'ble Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, Mr. Frederick Kempe, President, Atlantic Council

I thank the Atlantic Council for bringing a much-needed focus and attention to the challenges that the growth of our cities presents to both our countries.

This also presents an opportunity to highlight the merits of the hitherto unsung collaboration between India and the U.S. in making our megacities safe and friendly.

India's level of urbanization stands at about 32% of our total population --- below that of several developing countries. And yet, at over 400 million, India's absolute number of urban residents is exceeded by that of only one country, and our urban population is larger than the total population of any other country. This is the paradox with which we approach our paradigm of urbanization.

In 2011, when our last census data were released, 53 Indian cities boasted a population of over a million, with Mumbai and Delhi each having a population of more than 10 million. To put this in perspective, I am told that the number of American cities with more than a million residents reached double-digit figure for the first time this year, in 2015.

Let me also slip in another statistic: the Indian city of Varanasi has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited city, with historical records of at least 3000 years.

But long history and large numbers also pose the challenge of rejuvenation and restructuring of old cities, introducing modern amenities and making them 'smart' in the IT-age sense of the word, while at the same time preserving their lasting ethos and strong heritage.

According to a High Powered Expert Committee which gave its recommendations to the Government in 2011, there is a requirement of investment in urban infrastructure to the tune of US$ 1 trillion over the next 20 years.

Hence for us in India, the megacity challenge is a living challenge of massive proportion. It manifests itself in the need to find employment and housing -- particularly for the poor, the need to provide sanitation and drinking water, the need to build and maintain efficient public transport, to keep vehicular pollution and industrial effluents in check, and to fight crimes.

The Government of India has been alive to these challenges. National Urban Renewal Mission was created to cater to the infrastructural needs of our cities. Prime Minister has personally promoted cleanliness drive and improved solid waste management practices in our cities under the Swachh Bharat initiative. Recently, by tapping digital and information technologies, urban planning best practices, public-private partnerships, and policy change, the Government has sought to transform our cities and build smart cities.

As India's envoy to the United States, I am glad to see association of the U.S. government, private sector, businesses and the civil society in each of these initiatives --- transformative in their own way for my country.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies have supported the India Smart Cities challenge. The U.S. has been identified as the lead partner in developing smart cities in three Indian cities --- Ajmer, Visakhapatnam and Allahabad. The USAID, through the Urban India Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Alliance, is serving as knowledge partner to support the Prime Minister's 500 cities National Urban Development Mission and Clean India Campaign.

We also have growing bilateral cooperation for making our megacities safe and secure.

The designs of terrorists over our mega-cities was evident to both our countries --- during 9/11 in New York City and during 26/11 in Mumbai.

To meet the challenges of modern day policing in megacities, Government of India has undertaken Megacity Policing initiative with focus on building the technology capability of Police forces. Police functions like law & order, crime, investigation, counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, coastal security, industrial security, critical infrastructure protection, intelligence, cyber crime, economic offences, traffic management, crimes against women & children are targetted for improvement under this scheme. Non-technology aspects of the initiative include best practices like community policing, reaching out through education system, training on soft skills, attitudinal change in police personnel, and enhanced role of women police in building trust in communities.

Currently, police forces in seven cities - Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad --- are being modernized under this scheme. CCTV surveillance, command control centre, dial 100 system, fusion or data centre, highway patrol cars and aerial surveillance are some of the technological inputs to the Initiative.

Implementation of safe city projects in India is critical to the country's overall development, as much of our economic activities, higher education, science, technology and innovation and critical information infrastructure reside in the urban space. Hence Megacities Policing is an important component of our overall attempt to improve our urban landscape, and beyond that, to transform India.

Here again, we have had very promising engagement with the U.S.. Megacities Policing is one of the six major components of our bilateral homeland security cooperation pursued under the Ministerial Homeland Security Dialogue. In our discussion and exchanges in the past few years, technology and capacity-building have emerged as areas where the U.S. expertise and Indian demands could be harmonized. Whether it is tackling terrorism, investigation of modern crimes, identification of suspects, managing intelligent traffic system or building effective command and control system or fusion centres, the U.S. has capacities that can be considered and adapted in India for mutual benefit. They will create security in our cities and potential for business and technology partnership.

Of course, megacity policing is only one small part of our growing cooperation in the field of homeland security, where we are engaging on building capacity in cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection, countering illicit finance, security of global supply chain and science and technology, to name just a few areas. We have launched a partnership for counter-IED cooperation, where U.S. experience, technology and equipment will be very valuable to us. We have agreed to deepen cooperation on law enforcement, counter-terrorism and security matters.

Security cooperation in turn is a small subset of our wide-ranging strategic and global partnership. Today, India and the U.S. are consulting and coordinating positions on global and regional issues like never before, and have recently extended our triangular developmental collaboration to ten developing countries in Africa and Asia. Today, Indian and American scientists are engaged in jointly funded research, from atoms to space. Our industries are co-developing defence technologies and co-producing defence equipment. Indian and American health professionals have come together to eradicate pandemics and conduct research. Our citizens are studying, living and earning their livelihood in each other's countries, like never before. The extent and depth of our citizens' interaction is naturally reflected in the intensity and productivity of dialogue, consultation and collaboration between our governments, steered through fifty government-to-government meeting mechanisms.

In short, our cooperation with the U.S. in various aspects of governance of mega-cities is part of a whole new paradigm of working together and forming habits of cooperation between the world's two largest democracies. It takes diplomacy beyond the nation-state, as the title of today's discussion eloquently makes clear. Policing and civic governance are under the purview of our state governments in India. Hence, the experience of our collaboration in this field will also be richly varied. As our bilateral partnership goes forward under the motto of "Sanjha Prayas, Sab Ka Vikas" or "Shared Effort, Progress for All," we need to take our cities along in this endeavour -- with their myriad challenges and their limitless opportunities.

With these words, I wish you success with your conference on Megacity Security in Mumbai next month.


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