(As Prepared for Delivery)
Good Morning everyone, I’m excited to be with you today and welcome you to the 5th U.S. –India Aviation Summit. I would like to thank Minister Gajapathi Raju and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for hosting this event this year in Bengaluru and also my colleague USTDA Director Lee Zak for helping make this happen. It is well known that India is poised to become one of the top three aviation markets in the next five years. This Summit is a key opportunity for government and aviation-sector leaders to set bilateral cooperation priorities and continue to build out a broader commercial engagement agenda in the areas of civil, business, and general aviation.
The ties between our two countries have grown considerably closer in the past few years. The historic visits of Prime Minister Modi to the United States and President Obama to India have helped our relationship to soar, paving the way forward for even more ambitious new collaborations.
“Strategic Plus” describes a greater deepening and strengthening of our bilateral relationship. It reflects an enhanced commitment to our shared interests. This relationship has blossomed in the last year, manifesting itself by the two summit meetings and a recent meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
I recently returned from the U.S. where the President and the Prime Minister met to reaffirm their commitment to building a resilient and durable relationship. I was also able to attend the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in which both our countries engaged on a range of issues and have committed to continue the positive momentum in the commercial and economic relationship.
Cooperation on civil and military aviation has formed a big part of that relationship. Together we are promoting greater engagement between our governments and the private sector to enhance the civil aviation sector in India.
Together, our countries cooperate on civil aviation using three key mechanisms. First, we connect through the U.S. –India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP), a bilateral public-private partnership designed to enhance the long-term strategic and commercial relationship between the American and Indian civil aviation industries. The ACP has produced substantial business success for ACP companies and we look forward to partner in many more niche aerospace sectors with India. For example, we are looking to bring in the component of a greener footprint and more secure environment in our future partnerships.
Secondly, we provide India with technical assistance to support best practices and technologies for aviation safety and security; airport and air traffic management modernization; and air navigation and communications systems.And third, our governments cooperate to share information and technology related to countering improvised explosive devices, mutual technical visits, and security best practices through the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
The U.S. and India have shared an OpenSkies agreement since 2005, expanding international passenger and cargo traffic between our two countries each year. This agreement allows our carriers to offer more affordable, convenient and efficient air service to consumers while promoting high quality job opportunities and economic growth.
I was pleased to learn that Air India will soon add three weekly flights to and from New Delhi to San Francisco. When I recently visited Silicon Valley, there was a lot of buzz about this new route and how it will literally help connect our tech and innovation communities. This is yet another example of the growing connectivity between our people and the expanding growth and opportunity in India’s aviation sector.
Since I arrived in India almost a year ago, I have taken close to 30 trips within the country. I’ve seen first-hand the economic impact that regional connectivity brings to communities throughout India and its great potential to create opportunities for both business and skill development. In the upcoming years these will grow further through the development of brownfield and greenfield airport projects; the creation of much needed maintenance, repair and overhaul hubs; and the launching of additional educational facilities to skill the next generation of India’s aviation and aerospace engineers and workers.
In a world filled with complex security and economic challenges, the fact is this relationship matters more now than ever before. Our leaders have aggressively set out to create greater economic opportunities for our people and to work more closely together on a range of issues.
Our commercial ties continue to deepen and enrich the lives of millions in both our countries. Two-way trade between our economies increased fivefold over the past decade to reach over $100 billion today. Our leaders are committed to accelerating bilateral trade $500 billion in the years ahead and I have no doubt that the aviation sector will contribute to that goal in a significant way.
Technology-leading U.S. firms are putting their support behind Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious initiatives, including Make in India. And Indian firms and investors are increasingly present in the U.S. to help power America’s growth and to create jobs. This Summit highlights our governments’ continued efforts to strengthen our bilateral relationship and build new relationships in the civil aviation sector.
From the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903 to Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon in 1969, breakthroughs in aviation have been about courage and innovation. I forecast that in the years ahead India and the United States will share our courage and embrace the innovative genius of our two nations to produce further breakthroughs that we cannot even imagine today. And I look forward to being amazed and proud when that happens!
Thank you very much.