U.S.-India Post-2+2: A Conversation about Operationalizing our Commitments with U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti

Photo of Ambassador Garcetti and Professor. Harsh V. Pant, Vice President- Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation

To my friends from the media, thank you so much for being here. The end of the week, I went to sleep at about 03:00 a.m., so I’m a little less coherent. I was traveling back from the Cricket World cup, which, even though I know it was not the outcome that India had hoped for, I want to congratulate you on doing a superb job hosting the World cup this time around throughout India. Almost like a mini G20 with all the cities and all of the enthusiasm and all the great hospitality, is something quite difficult to hold.  Let me give you a few remarks, just prepared remarks, on the 2+2 and then open up a kind of conversation that I’ve enjoyed having in the last seven months, a frank conversation.

Frist and foremost, I think the U.S.-India relationship, which I’ve described as something multiplicative, not additive – It’s U.S. times India, not U.S. plus India. The importance of it continues even in the most challenging modern times, that we are faced, with two wars globally, among others, with tensions diplomatically, with economic challenges. That the United States continues to prioritize India and that India continues to prioritize the United States speaks volumes, first and foremost, of the friendship that underpins our relationship, and the importance that we place upon this relationship. And I think increasingly, the good work that we do, and we get it right and we work together on some of the most challenging issues for our countries, and for the world. And nothing (inaudible)…of it more than a little over a week ago when we welcomed Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin here. It was Secretary Austin’s third time in India, second this year, and Secretary Blinken’s third time this year alone. There are all sorts of metrics I point out to, like for instance, our Secretary of Treasury, Jan Yellen. This was the number one country she went to in the world, outside of the United States, four times. And this is unprecedented, to see the level of engagement of higher-level officials from both sides in each other’s countries. Hardly a week goes by where we don’t have those sorts of engagements. Secretary Austin, his second visit this year in India was ahead of his onward travels to Southeast and East Asia, to Indonesia and South Korea. Secretary Blinken, as many of you know, was on a whirlwind trip to nine different countries, and this was a program of intensive diplomacy. But that the 2+2 was still centered as something critical, important, and that he wanted to do speaks volumes of this relationship.  Secretary Blinken had engaged with counterparts across the Middle east and in the Indo Pacific before coming here, to make headway on some of the world’s most urgent issues and I think that positioned him for a very good discussion with his Indian friends here. And New Delhi’s inclusion in this ambitious diplomatic agenda is a clear sign not just of India’s importance to us as America, but also to the global conversation, at a moment when we need to continue to have Indian leadership in the world. Following Prime Minister Modi’s historic June visit to the United States and September G -20 summit, where we welcomed the President here, it’s become increasingly clear that the United States and India are not just part of the conversation. We are a crucial driver of the conversation, and of the solutions.  Which brings me back to the 2+2. I would say, if I had to summarize it distinctly, most of the discussion is really centered on peace. How do you build, sustain, establish peace in the world? And how can we have durable peace that the United States and India work on across the world in the face of new and existing threats? And by those threats, I don’t just mean war.

A peace that’s threatened by health challenges, by climate challenges, by poverty, by perceived or real divisions between geography, North, South, East, West. And as the joint statement showed, as a lot of veterans I welcomed, I think, the fourth former Ambassador to India from the U.S. this weekend for an informal conversation at my house. And all four of them in the last two weeks, as I’ve met them, have said, “we can’t believe how much substances are in the joint statements that are put forward. It’s clear you’re doing deep, serious, important work that isn’t just about saying “We will talk more” but we will do more”. And I think the joint statements reflect that both countries resolved to promote a resilient, rules- based international order to safeguard free, open, inclusive Indo Pacific through the Quad, and other mechanisms.

On global issues, the ministers discussed the tragic humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Ukraine and in the Middle East, reiterating their stance with Israel against terrorism, but also seeking to alleviate civilian suffering and adherence to international humanitarian law. We also made important steps forward in strengthening our major defense partnership, which continues to grow. Increasing acceleration that we’ve seen through initiatives like the Roadmap for U.S.- India Industrial Cooperation, U.S.- India Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, so INDUS-X and iDEX, and expanded collaboration and cooperation in emerging domains. And also, more importantly, because we sometimes just focus on weapons and what’s being sold, or potentially co-developed, but the operational level of our militaries, which I think is as critical as any equipment.  And our countries discussed ways to deepen our science and our technology partnerships to harness technology for the global good instead of technology that harms us and divides us, technology that can connect us and protect us. And these efforts are moving forward at a record-breaking speed under the U.S India Initiative on Critical Emerging Technology, or iCET. Over the past year we’ve seen so many advances, we’re looking forward to welcoming more visitors in December, January around iCET themes, but so many major investments in Indian technology by U.S. private sector companies, as well as government to government conversations, expanding around space, defense co-production and planetary defense as well. So, in short, it was a very successful meeting. Just I’ll give an editorial, I’ve witnessed many of these gatherings now in my lifetime, and just the warmth between the principles, and the depth of the substance is pretty unique for these. Often times people will fly around the world, have three to five things to talk about. They’re important, good to maintain relations. This is at a deeper level. It’s at a level in which people know each other over many years now and turn to each other, whether it’s U.S.- India relations or whether it’s talking about other parts of the world. Increasingly, the United States and India really see each other as collaborators in figuring out the global architecture and the global solutions to some of the toughest things that we face, and that work to promote peace, to promote more prosperity, to protect our planet and our people – those four P’s that I talk about – really shone through during the 2+2. So with that, happy to answer questions from you and from anyone else. Thank you.

Translation: Tamil (PDF: 183 KB) | Kannada (PDF: 152 KB) | Malayalam (PDF: 318 KB)