Opening RemarksIndia and the United States: A New Strategic Responsibility
Department of State
Dr. Dobriansky offered compliments to the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy for assembling such a distinguished group to address the critical issues under examination and a special welcome to Minister Ahluwalia, Minister Sibal, and Ambassador Sen. She conveyed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns’ regret for not being present due to a recent death in his family. On behalf of those assembled, she expressed her condolences and concern for his well-being.
Dr. Dobriansky noted that the United States and India find themselves at present in the beginning stages of what promises to be a very beneficial relationship for the peoples of both nations. Significantly, this partnership is not just between governments, nor could it be. Governments are not, after all, she added, the creators of wealth, the makers of markets, or the source of human energy and ingenuity.
President Bush has remarked that India’s greatest assets are its human resources and intellectual capital. More Indian students are studying in the United States than ever before, nearly 80,000 in 2006; for the third year in a row, India has sent a larger number of students to the United States than any other country, including China. The India–U.S. people-to-people network goes even deeper, however. Thousands of Americans live in Delhi, in Mumbai, and in Bangalore, while more than 2 million people of Indian origin, many of them now U.S. citizens, live and work in the United States.
The potential for U.S.–India relations, for years a topic of discussion, is finally being realized. President Bush’s visit to India in March 2006 underscored the great progress the two nations have made in advancing a strategic partnership designed to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. This relationship, the
President has said, rests on the solid foundation of shared values, shared interests, and an increasingly shared view of how best to promote stability, security, and peace worldwide.
The United States appreciates that India is a rising global power. Within the first quarter of the new century, its economy is likely to take its place among the world’s five largest. It will soon be the world’s most populous nation. Its demographic structure bequeaths it a huge, skilled, and youthful workforce. It also continues to possess a very large and ever-more-sophisticated military force that is expected to remain very strongly committed to the principle of civilian control.
India and the United States are natural partners in confronting the central security challenges of the coming generation. The first, Dr. Dobriansky noted, is to gain and preserve access to sufficient supplies of food, potable water, and energy. The second is to counter terrorism and the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear technology; international crime and narcotics; HIV/AIDS; and climate change. On these and many other issues, the two nations’ interests converge.
A critical part of this blossoming relationship—discussed by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh during their March meeting—is the potential for cooperation in science and technology to improve people’s lives. Many of the two nations’ joint initiatives are based on this: the civilian nuclear initiative, the Agricultural Knowledge Initiative, the Bi-National Science and Technology Joint Commission, the clean energy initiatives, and the initiative to fight disease. Dr. Dobriansky proposed to highlight a few of these.
One of the most noted accomplishments of the President’s visit is the announcement of a plan for moving ahead with the U.S.–India Agreement on Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation. She called the plan to put the majority of India’s nuclear program under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards in perpetuity “truly an historic step forward.” The U.S.–India agreement would remove an important source of discord that has affected the two nations’ relationship for over 30 years, and at the same time enhance the international nuclear nonproliferation regime by bringing India further into its mainstream. It would also open up U.S.–India trade and investment in nuclear energy, thus helping India to meet its rapidly growing energy needs in a more environmentally friendly manner. The U.S.–India Energy Dialogue addresses other aspects of energy security by promoting the development of stable, affordable, and clean energy supplies.2 To make possible full, peaceful civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, Secretary Rice and President Bush have committed themselves to working with Congress to change U.S. laws and with the United States’ friends and allies to establish an India-specific accommodation under Nuclear Suppliers Group Guidelines.
However, more than just the civilian nuclear initiative brings the two countries and peoples together. Prime Minister Singh has put economic reform at
the top of his agenda, and the U.S. agenda for developing deep economic and commercial ties with India had never been stronger. “Knitting together our two nations in a dense web of healthy economic interconnections,” Dr. Dobriansky observed, is something from which both stood to gain.
Prime Minister Singh, in the role of finance minister in the early 1990s, had begun the process of opening India’s economy to greater levels of foreign direct and portfolio investment, assuming a larger share of the world’s trade by lowering tariff barriers, and creating a business environment that has sparked the development of a mobile telephone and an information technology and software services sector of world-class stature. It is a process to which Minister Ahluwalia remains a pivotal contributor.
This process is far from completed, however. To achieve sustained higher growth rates and broad rural development, India needs to further develop its airports, irrigation, and communication networks. It needs modern power grids, ports, and highways, as well as many other infrastructure improvements that could be vastly accelerated by greater investment, both public and private. U.S. businesses are even more likely to pursue opportunities in India as New Delhi presses ahead with privatization in areas ranging from insurance to power generation. Similarly, Indian labor market reforms and greater openness to foreign investment in the banking, retail, and services sectors would spark an enthusiastic response from American firms.
Advances had been made along several tracks of the U.S.–India Economic Dialogue during President Bush’s March trip, highlighting numerous areas of bilateral cooperation:
Trade. The U.S.–India CEO Forum had made recommendations to President Bush and Prime Minister Singh to broaden bilateral economic relations substantially. The U.S.–India Trade Policy Forum is working to reduce barriers to trade and investment, with the goal of doubling bilateral trade within three years. Additionally, there is agreement on holding a high-level public–private investment summit in 2006 to work jointly toward completing the World Trade Organization’s Doha Agenda before the end of that year. The U.S. State Department is very optimistic that these dialogues, with the continued and increasing interactions between the U.S. and Indian business communities, would contribute substantially to the prosperity of both nations.
Environment and Energy. The United States and India are working together to create focused government–industry environmental partnerships aimed at addressing shared environmental priorities, promoting activities with both local and global environmental benefits, and engaging the private sector in bilateral environmental cooperation activities. The U.S.–India Fund has underwritten more than 30 major wildlife conservation projects to assist India with conservation and management of its biodiversity, and new efforts are under way on U.S.– Indian collaboration to control illegal wildlife trafficking through the Coalition
Against Wildlife Trafficking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on environmental issues. EPA and other agencies are working very closely with the government of India on issues ranging from air quality management to water resources and environmental governance. Both countries are committed to strengthening energy security and promoting the development of stable and efficient energy markets, and they are cooperating with four other nations in the region, through the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, to promote the development of cost-effective, cleaner, and more-efficient technologies.
Governance. In 2005 the United States and India launched the Global Democracy Initiative to promote democracy and development. The two countries agreed to work closely in the region and globally to deepen democracy by offering their experience and expertise for capacity building, training, and exchanges to third countries requesting such assistance. India has also demonstrated the strength of its commitment to democracy by contributing $10 million to the U.N. Democracy Fund.
Agriculture. India derives 20 percent of its gross domestic product from agriculture, while more than 60 percent of its people made their living through agricultural enterprises. President Bush, recognizing agriculture’s place in the lives and livelihoods of both Indians and Americans, visited the Agricultural University in Hyderabad and, with Prime Minister Singh, announced the revival of longstanding U.S.–India collaboration in agriculture. The Agricultural Knowledge Initiative is a three-year, $100 million commitment by the two nations to link their universities, technical institutions, and businesses to support projects in agricultural education, joint research, and capacity building, in the area of biotechnology among others. Designed to help India address its rural development and poverty issues through technology, research, and educational exchange, the initiative is a high priority for Prime Minister Singh and a symbol of strong, shared commitment to rural development.
Disease Control and Prevention. The two governments are working very closely to confront the major challenges of HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with India through the CDC’s Global AIDS Program. In addition, the National Institutes of Health is supporting Indo–U.S. collaboration in HIV/AIDS research in such areas as the development of vaccines. Meanwhile, to boost private-sector involvement, an Indo–U.S. Corporate Fund for HIV/AIDS has been established. In the field of avian influenza, India is demonstrating world leadership: It has been among the first nations to join the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza and has agreed to host the Partnership’s global conference in 2007.
Science and Technology. Current collaborations between the United States and India in science, technology, engineering, and related research and development are genuine partnerships, not merely the assistance programs of the past.
Both Indians and Americans have long been recognized as being leading innovators in information technology, biomedical research, biotechnology, agriculture, and many other high-tech fields. “India has the scientific and technological base to join the United States as equal partners in pushing forward the frontiers of research,” said Dr. Dobriansky, something that would result in “a very positive impact on the lives of all of our citizens.” Indeed, a key to mutual economic growth and prosperity is to increase linkages among U.S. and Indian knowledge bases: the two nations’ scientists, engineers, researchers, academics, and private sectors.
A new Science and Technology Framework Agreement signed in fall 2005 by Secretary Rice and Minister Sibal establishes, for the first time, intellectual property rights protocols and other provisions truly necessary for conducting active collaborative research. The agreement also builds the framework within which Indian and U.S. scientists in government, the private sector, and academia can collaborate very actively in such areas as basic and engineering sciences, space, energy, health, and information technology.
For many, these new opportunities for increased scientific collaboration come as no surprise. Scientific and economic links between India and the United States have been strong since the very early 1960s—first in agriculture, then spreading into a broad range of areas involving most U.S. governmental agencies. The benefits are currently visible in many parts of the United States, where many experienced Indian scientists and engineers are working as a result of such active collaboration.
Under this S&T Framework Agreement, the United States and India would cofund a $30 million Bi-national Science and Technology Endowment Fund that is designed to generate collaborative partnerships in science and technology, as well as to promote industrial research and development. In addition, the United States and India are exploring the potential for cooperation in Earth observation, satellite navigation and its application, space science, natural hazards research, disaster management and support, and education and training in space. U.S. instruments are to be provided for India’s upcoming first lunar mission, the Chandrayan 1; at a time when the United States had not gone to the moon for many years, this represents an opportunity for the two nations to collaborate on efforts to understand Earth’s closest neighbor.
Despite the number of initiatives listed, said Dr. Dobriansky, she felt as if she had merely scratched the surface of Indo–U.S. collaboration. Calling the countries “natural allies [who were] finally realizing the full potential of close corroboration,” she declared that with the help of the innovators, scientists, and entrepreneurs in the audience, the benefits of U.S.–Indian friendship would be felt by all among both peoples, from farmers to physicists. She concluded by expressing her support for the day’s discussions, her eagerness to be apprised of their outcome, and her thanks for having been given the opportunity to address the symposium.