Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma at the Observer Research Foundation Event on Strengthening the U.S. – India Partnership

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you Sunjoy, for your gracious introduction and for hosting us today.  It is an honor to be here with Ashley Tellis for this event.   I want to thank the Observer Research Foundation for its continued commitment to the value of ideas and critical thought in world affairs, and you should know that we at the Embassy value your insights very much.

I want to say that our thoughts are with Southern India and the people of Chennai as they deal with the serious flooding issues they are having.   I also want to express our sympathies to the victims of the terrible shooting incident that occurred yesterday in California.

A Unique Moment in History

The U.S.-India relationship has been on a solid and decidedly upward trajectory.  Yes, our two heads of state like and respect each other, but as the President points out, it’s only natural that we are friends, since our countries share so many common values.  Our multicultural societies that cherish similar traditions of tolerance, participatory governance, and rules-based international systems are uniquely capable of advancing an inclusive and consultative approach to the global challenges of this century.  President Obama has said that our relationship is one that could define the 21st century and Prime Minister Modi has noted that the true value of the U.S.-India relationship is not in what we can do for each other, but what we can do for the world.  I have described this relationship as an alliance for global prosperity.

And we all have an enormous responsibility to deliver on that potential.

The Progress Achieved

The fair question of course is how we have been doing so far in the challenges set before us by our leaders.  Where is the evidence of our progress?  Let me answer that by going back a decade. The data, I’m happy to report, confirms we have a relationship on a strong upward trajectory.  First, the 10 year numbers: in 2005, our two-way trade numbers were around $30 billion.  Today, they stand at $104 billion. 10 years ago, we had around 30,000 Indian students studying in the US. Last year, we had some 130,000 students study in the US – the highest number ever.  The same goes for visitors – in 2005, we had close to 400,000 Indians visiting the US.  This past year will be the highest on record, with over 1.2 million visas issued.  And in defense we went from $0 in defense sales to well over $10 billion, in just a few short years.  I could go on and on across the categories, but I think you get the picture: we’ve achieved a strong, solid record of performance, but we can do more.

Looking back to January and the President’s historic visit as the guest of honor for Republic day – let me try to give just a brief overview of what we’ve been working on this past year.  We’ve deepened our military to military relationships and now train together in increasingly complex air, naval, army and special forces exercises, we’ve moved to joint production of defense items, and we’ve developed a close and substantive counter-terrorism partnership to help keep both our nations safe.  Next week Defense Minister Parrikar will be the first Indian Defense Minister to visit a major U.S. Combatant Command when he visits our Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii.  Also this fall, Boeing signed a 3 billion dollar agreement to produce Apache and Chinook Helicopters for the Indian Air Force, and much of the componentry will be made right here in India.

We’ve also redoubled our efforts to increase two-way trade, taking on the “ease of doing business” factors that tend to deter US companies and investors, such as tax and legal certainty, and easing the regulatory burden.   We are making progress in this regard, as reflected in the fact that we held our first-ever Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in September with Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker meeting with Ministers Swaraj and Sitharaman.  We followed that up in November with our Trade Policy Forum where U.S. Trade Representative Froman met with Minister Sitharaman to discuss in detail our trade relationship with the goal of continuing to break down trading barriers and laying the foundation for reaching our target of $500 billion in two-way trade.  Another major accomplishment I want to highlight here is the recent 2.6 billon dollar GE agreement to produce next generation locomotives for India’s vast railway system, and again, they will be making and assembling much of the product right here in India.

COP 21

This week in Paris, the President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed the new, deeper partnership India and the United States established during their meeting in January.  President Obama recognized that the Paris climate agreement must protect the ability of countries like India to promote socioeconomic development.  At the same time, the agreement has to reflect serious and ambitious action by all countries to curb their carbon pollution in order to achieve the sustainable growth we seek.  These goals are challenging, but they are not irreconcilable; that is why our teams are working hard to meet them.  I am proud of the leadership role that the US and India are taking.

On Monday, the United States and India joined forces with eighteen other governments and key stakeholders like Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, and the University of California to launch Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.  The combined efforts of government, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations are aiming to reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation in order to make new technologies widely available and readily affordable.  In addition to India’s leadership role in Mission Innovation, it has alsolaunched the International Solar Alliance.  This compact between 121 countries will drive down the cost of the development, deployment, and maintenance of solar energy around the world by promoting investment, skilling people, and facilitating the transfer of knowledge.  This is the type of bold leadership on the international stage that will help humanity get increasingly reliable and cleaner types of energy, and it will help those at the bottom of the economic pyramid the most.

In so many other areas, we continue to push our cooperation to new heights – from global health security, to agriculture, deep sea and deep space exploration, cyber security, and education– we are expanding our work together, and we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Challenges and Opportunities

As I approach the first anniversary of my arrival as Ambassador, I remain optimistic about the positive path we are on, and the results we will continue to achieve for both our countries.  But I am also clear-eyed about the obstacles we confront together.  India has to grapple with several significant development challenges – some 300 million people have no electricity, air pollution impacts the health of too many, massive urbanization and migration from villages to cities continues at a rapid pace, and an estimated 1 million young people are entering the job market each month.

These are real challenges for India that occur on a scale that most countries in the world, would quite frankly, find difficult to grasp.  But in my view, in that scale and in those numbers, are tremendous opportunities and reason for great hope.  I am speaking of India’s human capital, its people, who will become in the years ahead the world’s largest population, with the largest middle class, the most college graduates, the largest youth population, the most patent holders, and the most IT professionals, just to name a categories in which it leads.  The dynamism and energy that exists in India today is unrivaled almost anywhere else in the world, and its democratic traditions, commitment to the rule of law, innovation culture and value of higher education are all powerful assets that will be key to its continued competitiveness and global leadership in the years to come.
I am immensely proud of the progress we have made together in recent years.  My team and I at Mission India are all honored to be here at this most consequential moment in history, working with you to realize the tremendous potential of our relationship not only for our own citizens but for the world.  Thank you very much.