Thank you. Namaste, Sat Sri Akal. I have to say that because that makes my parents very happy. I can now tell them I did that.
Thank you for the very kind welcome. I want to express my gratitude to the Observer Research Foundation for arranging this speech today. For 30 years, ORF has brought together India’s leading policy-makers to help build a stronger and more prosperous country. My colleagues in the United States respect and appreciate ORF’s work. And I thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
I am so pleased to be back in Delhi. It’s been an amazing visit to this beautiful country that gave so much to my parents and in turn to me. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Prime Minister Modi yesterday, which was an amazing exchange on issues between our two countries. I’ve had the chance to do some wonderful things during my short time here. Yesterday I visited Humayan’s Tomb which is absolutely stunning and a real treasure for India.
This morning I had a fascinating and inspiring interfaith tour of Old Delhi. It reminded me that, of all the things that America and India share, freedom of religion is one of the most important. Nations as diverse as ours can only be held together by true tolerance and respect.
As I noted during my visit in 2014, India is like my second home. I am deeply moved and humbled by the warmth and hospitality that I have been shown. From government officials, to students, and people on the street coming up to say hello, Indians have treated me like one of their own. I am deeply grateful for your friendship.
As some of you may know, I was formerly the governor of my home state of South Carolina. Campaigning for the position I would always start every speech by saying, “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents that reminded us every day how blessed we were to be in the United States.”
That sentence said a lot about, not just me, but most Indian-Americans. We are proud of our heritage. Indian-Americans are the blessed. Blessed by the beneficiaries of two extraordinary worlds — the deep traditions, work ethic, and love of education in India, and the endless opportunity of America.
I am proud to have served my state as its first female and first Indian-American governor. I’m proud to be among the Indian-Americans who now serve in the Trump Administration.
Being an Indian-American is part of my story and it always will be. My parents met at a hill station in Dharamsala. Fifty years ago, they came to America with eight dollars in their pockets.
They came to a southern town in America. It wasn’t always easy for them. They stood out in rural South Carolina in the early 1970s. My father wore a turban. He still does. My mother wore a sari.
I was born in the small town of Bamberg. We were the only Indian family in the town, which put us in kind of a no-man’s land. No one quite knew what to make of us. We were different.
Over time, that small community came to accept and then embrace us. Our differences didn’t disappear, but as our neighbors got to know us, the focus was no longer on differences but on our similarities.
But my story is not unusual. Everywhere I go I meet Indian-Americans who are amazing people. They have given so much of themselves to their new country. And they have brought so much of the customs and teachings of India with them. And that has served them well.
Indian-Americans are the most highly educated and most philanthropic of any minority group in the United States.
And it’s no mystery why we’ve been so successful in America. There is a kind of magic that occurs in America. Generations of immigrants from every corner of the world have found opportunity and success in America since before the United States was even a country. But Indians seem to be particularly receptive to the idea of America.
In my lifetime, the relationship between the United States and India has grown from indifference and mutual suspicion into friendship and partnership. That, too, is no mystery. The same shared values make India and America naturally great friends.
Our shared commitments to democracy and freedom form the foundation of what can be a strong global partnership. Our two countries share indispensable commitments to the rule of law, the fundamental freedoms expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a free and open international system.
Working at the United Nations has brought home to me how important it is for countries to share these values.
Countries that honor and respect the voice of their people don’t threaten peace and security. They uphold it.
But if you look at the trouble spots in the world, you will most often find countries that don’t respect the will of their people.
In South Sudan a generation is being lost to unending conflict and horrific human rights crimes. The government cannot or will not find a way to stop the fighting. And it is the women, children, and families of South Sudan that end up paying the price.
In North Korea the regime has devoted a huge portion of its limited resources to its nuclear and missile programs, even in times of famine and at great cost to the lives of its people. Only a strong, effective international sanctions effort has brought the regime to the negotiating table. Time will tell whether the people of North Korea will finally be given priority over their government’s dangerous nuclear ambitions.
And then there is Iran. Iran is a theocratic dictatorship that abuses its people, funds terrorism, and spreads conflict throughout the Middle East. The Tehran regime is the hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden, force behind most of the conflict in the region. And its aggressive ambitions reach much further abroad. Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon threatens all of us.
Meanwhile, India is a state with advanced nuclear technologies widely accepted around the world. Why is that? Because India is a democracy and continues to be a responsible leader. In the last couple of years, India has joined three major nonproliferation groupings. The United States also fully supports India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India continues to demonstrate it is a responsible steward of its nuclear technology.
The world is united against Iran having nuclear weapons because we all have good reason to worry about what Iran would do with those weapons.
India and America enjoy a natural friendship that is based on our shared values and interests. The Trump Administration seeks to take the U.S.-India relationship to the next level; to build a strategic partnership rooted in our common values and directed toward our common interests.
The dynamism and youth that I’ve seen here in Delhi have reminded me that at its core the U.S.-India relationship is forward looking. It is about the future. The future of India, the region, and the world.
The Indo-Pacific region includes half of the world’s population. By the middle of this century, it will constitute half of the world’s gross domestic product. Fifty percent of the world’s trade passes through these sea lanes. The Indo-Pacific is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. There is no question that this region will be a dynamic and consequential force in the 21st century.
It is essential, therefore, that we use every tool at our disposal to foster continued prosperity, peace, and security throughout the Indo-Pacific region. In his speech to the Shangri La Dialogue, Prime Minister Modi spoke compellingly about India’s vision for the region. It included a vision of sovereign countries pursuing growth, in his words, “free and fearless in their choices.”
President Trump shares that vision. A free and open Indo-Pacific region is central to that vision.
America’s vision of the Indo-Pacific future is aspirational, but it is also realistic. We recognize that not all nations in the region embrace our values that the two countries share. But our vision for the region is inclusive. We seek for every country, large and small, the ability and opportunity to interact as sovereign and equal nations.
India, and a strengthened U.S.-India partnership are at the center of this approach. Perhaps no other partnership has as much potential for global peace and prosperity over the next 10, 20 or 50 years.
Our relationship will mark a new milestone when the U.S. and India conduct the first ever 2+2 Dialogue. The delay in that meeting was completely unrelated to India. The time and location are being re-scheduled now. It will happen very soon. This is an important sign of how much our security and defense cooperation has grown in recent years and the new level of strategic confidence in our partnership.
The United States and India already have strong economic ties. India is in the midst of a remarkable economic surge. And as our economies grow closer, we are looking for increased trade and increased investment. We’ve already made great progress. Two-way, U.S.-India trade has more than doubled over the last decade. And we want to do more.
Our mutual commitment to open, market-based economies is our competitive advantage. We also share something that is harder to capture and almost impossible to reproduce — a capacity for innovation. Bangalore and Silicon Valley are twin engines of creativity and innovation.
We have a mutual self-interest in protecting and preserving the postwar order that has helped safeguard our prosperity.
There is also great opportunity for the United States to help meet India’s energy needs. Recent purchases of U.S. crude and liquefied natural gas are just a couple examples of this potential. There is also room for progress on civil nuclear cooperation.
Moving beyond economics, the United States and India have also both felt the pain of terrorism. We share a commitment to defeating terrorists and the hateful ideology that motivates them.
We share an urgent interest in eliminating the terrorist networks that threaten us, and to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and their sponsors. Both our nations lost citizens in the horrific Mumbai attack a decade ago. As fellow democracies, the United States and India must be global leaders in the fight against terrorism.
We have greatly expanded our counterterrorism cooperation in the past decade. But we can and we must do more. We must use all of the elements of our national power –- economic, diplomatic and military –- to protect ourselves. This includes working together at the United Nations to designate terrorist leaders and networks. Neither of our nations can afford to turn a blind eye to regimes that produce, harbor, and support terrorists.
In this area, the United States is approaching our relationship with Pakistan differently than in the past. In many instances, Pakistan has been a partner with us, and we value and respect that. But we cannot tolerate its government, or any other government, giving safe haven to terrorists. We won’t tolerate it. We are communicating this message to Pakistan more strongly than in the past and we hope to see changes.
The U.S.-India military partnership is also deepening. We have significantly upgraded our security cooperation with India, which is now a major defense partner of the United States. When America’s and India’s Defense and Foreign Ministers meet they will discuss ways the United States can continue to support India as a provider of regional security, particularly in and around the Indian Ocean. These discussions will undoubtedly involve issues like joint exercises and military hardware and technology. But the strategic partnership we hope to build is bigger and more durable than that.
Advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific means ensuring the freedom of the skies and the seas. But it also means promoting market-based economics and supporting liberty and good government. It means protecting sovereign nations from external coercion in order to provide peace and stability. It means respecting the fundamental freedoms that allow entrepreneurs to dream, nations to grow and citizens to live with respect and human dignity.
When you look across the region, you see a number of healthy and robust democracies that share our values. Countries like the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.
And then you see China.
China is an important country, and the United States, like India, seeks a productive relationship with China. But unlike India, China does not share our commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. This makes China’s expansion of loans and investments in countries in the region a matter of concern for many of us. China’s failure to respect the rights of its people and the rule of law will limit its own ability to grow and prosper over the long term. And unlike with India, this will limit the United States’ relationship with China.
The future of the Indo-Pacific region, then, will depend on how democratic nations address international economic and strategic threats. That is why India is not only a friend of the United States, but a vital strategic partner.
One last area in which our special relationship has borne fruit at the United Nations is in peacekeeping. India is consistently among the top three contributors of military and police officers to UN peacekeeping missions. About 7,000 Indian troops are deployed at any given time, protecting civilians in conflict zones across the globe.
The United States has an ambitious reform agenda for UN peacekeeping, and we are increasingly working together with India to strengthen the capacity of our peacekeepers. We recently broke new ground in coordinating together on training a mobile peacekeeping team in Zambia.
Earlier this month, we completed another joint UN Peacekeeping Course in New Delhi that brought together instructors from the U.S. and Indian militaries to train with African partners.
This is just another example of the ways like-minded friends can work together to increase peace and security.
In the years to come, I am confident that the United States and India will stand shoulder-to-shoulder in many ways to confront the challenges of the Indo-Pacific region and the world. Too much is at risk if we fail to do so. Our shared peace and prosperity depend on it.
For our part, the United States will not hesitate to defend the values and institutions we cherish. We know and appreciate that India shares in that determination.
I admit I have my biases, but I believe both Indians and Americans have much to be grateful for. We have both been blessed with strong values and energetic citizens. And these blessings are both the foundation of our relationship and the promise of our future together. Our challenge now is to use the gifts we’ve received to build something stronger, better, and more prosperous.
Freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights. These are treasures in and of themselves. But they are also the tools we can use to build a better U.S.-India partnership. As an Indian-American, I can understand the relationship, maybe more so than others.
On my last visit to India, when I was governor of South Carolina, I had the honor of visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. It was a very special experience for me. My mother was born in the shadow of the Golden Temple. She gave up family, friends, and a life of privilege to come to America.
When I was a little girl, I could never have dreamed that I would be a governor and an ambassador. But my mom did. And so did my dad. They gave me the blessings of my Indian heritage and my life in America. I’ve worked to make the most of these gifts – and to pass them along to others.
May India and the United States do the same. May we have a long and lasting partnership. And may we use that partnership to share our common gifts with the rest of the world.
Thank you, and God bless.