Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Michael Pelletier at Patna University

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good morning, namaste, a salaam aleikum.

Vice Chancellor Simhadri, Principal Sinha, faculty and students, thank you for this opportunity to be with you today and talk about the U.S.-India relationship – something that I’m very excited and hopeful about.  I am also particularly excited and hopeful about the future during events like this, when I get to speak to students and academics, as I believe you are the front runners for this great country’s future and the great future of the India-U.S. partnership.

India has just completed its national elections – an event keenly watched by the whole world.  U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, in his recent statement, said “When the people of India hold the biggest democratic election in human history, all the world tunes in to watch.  And what we saw has been nothing short of remarkable…”  My congratulations to all of you who were a part of this historic process.  I can only echo President Obama when he said, “India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom.”

I believe that the friendship between our two great democracies is absolutely vital, and the United States is deeply invested in our bilateral strategic partnership.  We look forward to strengthening this partnership based on common values, shared democratic traditions, and the binding ties between our people.  And we welcome and heartily endorse President Mukherjee’s remarks at the joint session of Parliament earlier this month, when he said that India and the United States had made significant progress in developing their strategic partnership over the years, and that the Government of India would bring a renewed vigor to our engagement, and intensify it in all areas. We are equally committed to that.

You may be aware that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal was in Delhi earlier this month.  Her goal was to revitalize and renew our ties with your new government ahead of the next round of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue scheduled for later this year.  It was a great chance for her to hear the new government’s priorities and the opportunities it sees in our partnership.

The United States is eager to partner with India to realize the hopes and aspirations of both Indians and Americans.  We look forward to working together in the months and the years ahead.  Our partnership has never been so wide or deep as it is today, and we must challenge our governments to reach the full potential of this partnership, particularly in the areas of bilateral trade and investment, security cooperation, energy and environment, higher education, and global architectures.

Opportunities lie ahead as our two economies become increasingly intertwined and interdependent.  We are living in a truly globalized world, brought closer by technology and trade that are transforming so many aspects of our lives for the better.  As the United States looks towards the Indo-Pacific region, we’ve never been more optimistic about the future, and the role India can play in advancing prosperity and stability in the region and beyond.  We welcome India’s “Look East” policy, particularly as we rebalance U.S. policy to focus on the Indo-Pacific region.  We look to support India’s growing economic connectivity – eastward with Bangladesh, Burma, and Southeast Asia; and westward with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.  These links are vital to regional prosperity and stability in Asia.  We are committed to supporting economic ties that will cultivate new markets and knit these countries closer together – and make them more integrated with the global economy.  The United States firmly believes that India, as the economic powerhouse in the region, is the lynch pin to this growth.  We recently co-sponsored a regional conference in Chennai and Kochi with India’s Observer Research Foundation, ORF, and the U.S.-based Stimson Center, during which experts from numerous countries, including the U.S., India, China, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and others, got together to discuss maritime issues regarding the Indian Ocean region.  This followed on the heels of the visit of our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Fatema Sumar to Delhi to participate in an Indian-hosted regional conference focused on regional economic connectivity.

Our bilateral economic partnership is of course also important and impressive.  Today, the United States is one of India’s largest trade and investment partners.  Our bilateral trade in goods and services has grown to nearly $100 billion per year.  India has leapt from our 25th largest trading partner to our 13th largest trading partner in just over a decade.  Our total two-way foreign direct investment is nearing $30 billion.  These developments are the drivers of innovation, economic growth, and job creation for both of our nations.  As we move forward, the United States is committed to working with India to fully unlock the true potential of our economic ties.  Vice President Biden has challenged us to continue the progress made as we have expanded our bilateral trade.  On July 23, 2013, in his speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange, VP Biden said, “In the last 13 years, we’ve increased fivefold our bilateral trade, reaching nearly $100 billion.  There’s not a one of you sitting out there that knows there is any logical impediment as to why that could not be fivefold that number.  There’s no reason, if our countries make the right choices, that we can’t grow together and more rapidly.”

Defense cooperation is an important aspect of U.S.-India bilateral collaboration, encompassing military-to-military dialogues, exercises, defense sales, professional military education exchanges, and practical cooperation.  The induction of the C-130J and C-17 aircraft into the Indian Air Force and of the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft into the Indian Navy are important milestones.  But we both concur on the need to go beyond merely transactional buyer-seller relations towards more collaborative opportunities in defense trade and industry cooperation.  With this vision, we are engaged with the Government of India to realize the promise of the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, which would mean joint India-U.S. co-development and co-production in the defense sector.  The United States and India must continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation to counter terrorist groups.  We must coordinate our positions on cross-cutting cyber-security issues that impact international and economic security through our respective national security councils.

Another area in which the United States and India must work jointly is on energy and the environment – we must help ensure energy security, combat global climate change, and support the development of low-carbon economies that will create opportunities and fuel job growth in both our countries.  We both agree that technological and business innovation, scientific cooperation, research, development and deployment of environmentally-friendly technologies and products, open trade, and sound regulatory frameworks are needed to deliver solutions for sustainable growth.  The recent actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cut dangerous carbon pollution build on the efforts already taken by many of our states, cities, and companies.  These are common sense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants which will build a clean-energy economy while reducing carbon pollution.  We fully understand India’s paramount and essential commitment to development and eradicating poverty.  And nothing that we advocate together as partners would short change that.  But we have to recognize that a failure to meet our collective climate challenge would inhibit our dreams of sustainable growth and development.  And so we are encouraged with the new government’s desire to roll out a comprehensive National Energy Policy to focus on the development of energy-related infrastructure, human resources and technology to augment power-generation capacity through a judicious mix of conventional and non-conventional sources.  We applaud their willingness to promote cleaner fuels to bring down pollution levels in Indian cities, and most importantly, their will to work with the global community to address the challenges posed by climate change.  In fact, our cooperation and partnership with India in the field of clean energy, the use of renewable energies, and advancing off-grid power solutions, is a highlight of our partnership.

There is, however, no sector that better illustrates the mutual benefit of our relationship than education, a priority sector for both the U.S. and India and one that I know is very important to all of you.  The United States and India share strong tries and a history of collaboration in the field of higher education.  Education is one of the main pillars in our bilateral strategic partnership.  I am sure that all of you recognize how crucial education is to set the next generation up for success.  The commitment by both our governments to collaborate on higher education underscores our shared belief that education is the foundation of the entrepreneurship and innovation that will drive our knowledge economies and growth, and help us meet new challenges.

Right now, there are about 100,000 Indian students studying in the United States.  India is the number two nationality among our international students, after China.  Some of you may be interested in joining those ranks.  American students are also coming to India to study in the thousands, but we need to do better.  While the number of American students in India has increased fourfold in the last ten years, the 4,500 or so who study here each year are less than a third of the number who study in China.  I would like to see many more Americans experience the richness of India’s culture, the vibrancy of its young people, and the dynamism of its economy, as I have had the privilege to do.  That is the kind of understanding of a country that you can only gain by living there and interacting with its people every day.

During the United States-India Higher Education Dialogue last year, we exchanged ideas to encourage cooperation and develop and implement activities between Indian and U.S. community colleges.  In addition, we discussed technology-enabled learning, and how to attract more American students to Indian universities.

I’d like to mention two areas of educational collaboration and exchanges that are happening right here in Bihar.  Yesterday, I met with eight vice-chancellors and pro-vice chancellors from different universities in Bihar, including your own vice chancellor.  This distinguished group of scholars will visit Pennsylvania State University next week.  This leadership conference, held in collaboration with the World Bank, Rutgers University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, will introduce educational reform models for state universities in India building on best practices in U.S. higher education.

And this morning I met with a group of college administrators and facilitators who are implementing the U.S. modelled Community College Initiative in Bihar.  Community colleges in the United States are valued for their contributions to workforce training and, more recently, as open, flexible, educational conduits into regular college programs.  Two of the educators from that group, Sister Doris, Principal of Patna Women’s College, and Professor Ghosh of A.N. College Patna, toured the United States last year to understand how our community colleges function within the higher education framework.  With the support of the U.S. government, U.S. community college administrators are collaborating with the Government of India on their goal of establishing many new community colleges.

We are increasing interactions and ties between our higher education communities, through academic and professional exchanges.  The Fulbright-Nehru program, supported by both our governments, has nearly tripled in size over the last four years, with approximately 300 students and scholars from the United States and India participating annually.  The United States now exchanges more faculty members under this program with India than with any other country in the world.

We have new initiatives linking students with businesses and communities.  One of these is the “Passport to India,” a program designed to bring more American students to study in India and to create strong ties between the young people who will become our future leaders.  Through partnerships with the private sector and non-governmental organizations, this initiative will promote internships, service-learning and study abroad so more American students have the first-hand experience of India, cultural understanding and language skills that underpin economic, academic, and social ties, as well as effective diplomacy.  The University Grants Commission of India has finalized guidelines for twinning arrangements between Indian and foreign educational institutions.  I expect the guidelines will facilitate even greater collaboration between Indian and U.S. universities.

The U.S. Government has also created “EducationUSA Centers” in seven locations throughout India to help you get clear and accurate information about opportunities to study in the U.S.  The centers hold regular seminars on application procedures and strategies.  They also have a library of test preparation materials, computer databases, and individual counseling.  For your region, Kolkata is the nearest EducationUSA Center.  They have a Facebook page, which you can find by searching “EducationUSA.”  They have a toll-free telephone number to answer questions about studying in the U.S.  That number, and much more information, is available on their Facebook page.  In addition, our local outpost in Patna, our American Corner at the Indian Institute of Business Management on Budh Marg, contains a library, internet services, and information on U.S.-India partnerships.  I encourage all of you to visit and utilize the available resources.

And last but certainly not least is the vitality and energy that we share in our people-to-people relations and cultural exchanges.  These individual relationships are deep and promote mutual understanding like nothing else.  Most recently we had a group of young American hip-hop artists here in Patna, conducting workshops with around 60 students.  They shared a unique American genre of music while helping the students to communicate and create public service messages on issues of importance to them such as pollution, gender based violence and bullying.

I hope some among you may get the chance to participate in one of these exchanges and contribute to our vital partnership.  If you do, I am sure it will benefit your personal growth and development, just as it benefits young American students, and builds on the steadily growing and vitally important U.S.-India partnership.

Before I end I would like to say that although we have a large diplomatic presence in India, your country is so large that it can take us a while to visit all the places that we would like to visit.  We are trying to bridge these distances through our social media platforms.  We are increasingly arranging online connections between Indian audiences and experts of various topics in the United States.  I would encourage you to join our online communities so that we can continue to stay in touch.  We are interested to hear from you, to hear what you think about the United States, what you think about India and Bihar and the world we all share.  So I encourage you to reach out to us on Facebook and through Twitter.

But for now, I will be happy to answer any questions you might have and to engage in a discussion about higher education in the United States or any other topic that is of interest to you.

Thank you.