U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks on U.S.-India Diplomatic Leadership

Under Secretary Political Affairs Tom Shannon in New Delhi
Indian Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi
(As Delivered)

Thank you for that introduction.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Dean Khatua for hosting me here at the Indian Foreign Service Institute (FSI).  I am humbled by the opportunity to engage the next generation of diplomatic leaders – you are not just the best and brightest of India, but also leaders who will shape the world in which we all live.  I understand that nearly a million young Indians take the exam for government jobs every year.  And from that number a class of just 30 diplomats emerges into the Indian Foreign Service.  Your families must be very proud.

This is a momentous time of your life.  You are entering the diplomatic field at an important time, not only for India, but the world.  Today, we are in a period of transformational change, and you will be at the forefront, facing new challenges and new opportunities.  During my time as diplomat, we have seen hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty.  And the ideals and practice of democracy, which are so dear to both of our peoples, have spread around the world.  Think what you will see and what you will be part of as you embark on your new careers.

As diplomats, you have an important responsibility, not only to your country, but to those you serve, to expand your horizons and seek new experiences in order to better understand the nuances and beliefs of the people with whom you will interact.  Diplomacy is more than simply sharing information about your country with others, though this is vital to build mutual understanding among both governments and publics.  Diplomacy, when ambitious, is about effecting change.

Ambitious diplomacy can prevent or resolve conflicts.  I saw this in Central America in the mid-1980s.  Ambitious diplomacy, in support of local leaders and groups, can empower nations and give voice to the marginalized.  I saw this with Nelson Mandela in South Africa in the early 1990s when he inspired millions to stand up and speak against apartheid.  Ambitious diplomacy, together with the private sector and international economic institutions, can unlock trade and economic growth.  I saw this in Brazil in the late 2000s.

And through ambitious diplomacy, we have overcome what Prime Minister Modi called the hesitations of history and shaped a 21st century relationship between our two nations.  Prime Minister Modi was in Washington earlier this month for the third major bilateral summit between our leaders in two years.  President Obama and the Prime Minister have developed a strong bond.  More than that, they have built a habit of cooperation.  That means they look to each other, not just in summits, but in regular letters and phone calls, to demonstrate global leadership on climate change, on UN peacekeeping, on rules of cyber and internet governance.

We must build on these habits of diplomatic cooperation.

Secretary Kerry says that the United States may not have another partnership that is so wide-ranging.  A key factor has certainly been the connection between our two peoples.  The three million Indian Americans are some of the most successful people in the United States.  They have started 15 percent of Silicon Valley companies, become governors and Members of Congress, and won the Miss America pageant.  There are 130,000 Indians studying in the United States.  There were more than a million Americans who visited India last year.

Public diplomacy has played an important role in building people-to-people ties.  Nearly fifteen thousand Indians have visited the United States on exchange programs, including Narendra Modi before he became Prime Minister.  Nearly three hundred students and scholars travel in both directions on the Fulbright-Nehru exchange program to share ideas and best practices.  And the Indo-U.S. 21st Century Knowledge Initiative has created 40 education partnerships focused on energy, climate change, public health, and international relations.

Public opinion bears out evidence of our strong friendship.  When the Pew Research Center polled Indians last year, it found that 70 percent of Indians held favorable views of the United States, among the highest in the world.   The Gallup organization found similar results among Americans, with over 70 percent holding a favorable view of India, again among the highest in the world.

In my home state of Minnesota, a very cold place, we are very familiar with India’s warm and vibrant culture.  Indian Americans have been there since the 19th century, including studying in our universities since 1900.  When American immigration laws changed in the 1960s, their numbers greatly expanded.  Today we in Minnesota have over 40,000 Indian Americans, out of a population of five and a half million.  They have strengthened science and research, donated to charities, and started many new businesses.  They have demonstrated the traditional Indian respect for tolerance and religious diversity, founding Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, and Sikh gurdwaras.

U.S. and Indian business leaders and young entrepreneurs have shown their own ambitions to work together.  Annual trade between our countries is now over $107 billion a year, five times what it was a decade ago.  As your Prime Minister noted this month, we are now one of your largest trading partners.  And this trade supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the Indo-Pacific.

Economic diplomacy has greatly strengthened economic ties.  We hold multiple dialogues designed to increase flows of trade and investment.  Here is just one example:  The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) expects to provide over $170 million in financing to support low cost wireless broadband networks across India.  The project is expected to provide fixed wireless Internet access to at least 6.5 million Indians.

A very important symbol of our joint work is civil nuclear cooperation.  Where the nuclear question once divided us, today it brings us together.  Just a few weeks ago, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on a site in Andhra Pradesh for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by an American company.  This is expected to provide jobs in both countries and bring clean, reliable electricity that will help meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

We are just as united in strengthening global non-proliferation, where we believe India should play a leading role.  India actively contributed to the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington this year, and we welcomed India’s offer to host a Summit on Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism in 2018.  The United States has supported and warmly welcomed India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime.  We have similarly supported India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  And we support India’s early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.

Our diplomacy has reversed another symbol of our hesitant past:  aircraft carriers.  Today, American carriers sail through the Indian Ocean on the way to joint naval exercises with India.  Last year, for example the USS Theodore Roosevelt joined the Indian and Japanese navies in the MALABAR exercise in the Bay of Bengal.  And we have held several meetings of the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation, finalizing the text of an Information Exchange Annex this month.

Our defense cooperation is much broader, as we now look to each other as “priority partners” in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region.  In fact, we see India as an anchor of stability in this dynamic region, and were pleased to finalize the text of a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) this month.  We meet regularly to share threat assessments, including in May’s inaugural Maritime Security Dialogue in New Delhi.

Recently conducted military exercises on a U.S. carrier joined the Indian and Japanese navies in the Philippine Sea for MALABAR 2016.   Last September, 150 Indian soldiers traveled to Washington state for YUDH ABYAS with the U.S. 7th Infantry Division.   And this May, our air forces completed the four-week RED FLAG exercise in Alaska with 10 Indian aircraft and 170 personnel.

We have also strengthened defense trade, with sales growing from nearly zero a decade ago to over $13 billion today.  We have worked through the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) on co-development and co-production that expands India’s industrial base.  This has included projects such as mobile electric hybrid power sources and chem-bio protective suits.  Following these successes, the United States recognized India as a “major defense partner” this month, committing to work towards a level of technology sharing commensurate with our closest partners and allies.

We also stand united against terrorism and violent extremism.  We work together bilaterally and multilaterally to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism anywhere in the world, and dismantle infrastructure that supports them. Cities around the world, including Mumbai and New York, are connected through the Strong Cities Network, the first global network of municipal leaders, local government practitioners, and local communities involved in building resilience and social cohesion to counter violent extremism.  That means our diplomats are co-sponsoring designations of al-Qaeda and Daesh affiliates in the United Nations and breaking up terrorism financing in the Global Counterterrorism Forum.  We recently finalized a new arrangement to share terrorist screening information, and look forward to meetings of the U.S.-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group and Homeland Security Dialogue this summer.

Nor is terrorism the only global threat we are addressing together.  Climate change is a key challenge our leaders have committed to, including through the historic Paris Agreement.  Our leaders pledged to work towards full implementation of the Agreement and to seeing it enter into force as early as possible.  We have also resolved to work towards an HFC amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016 with increased financial support from donor countries.  Meetings goals of both economic development and climate can be complex, but I know that our diplomats and leaders can achieve both. The cost of inaction is high and we are beginning to see that the ‎economic opportunities of the clean energy economy are enormous. Last year, for the first time in history – despite the low price of oil, coal, and gas – more of the world’s money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than on new fossil fuel plants.

In 2015, investment in renewable energy was at an all-time high – nearly 330 billion dollars.

And make no mistake: This isn’t only happening in the industrialized countries.   In fact, emerging economies like China, India and Brazil invested even more in renewable technologies last year than the developed world.

Terrorism and climate change are just two of the areas of diplomatic cooperation between our countries.  In truth, we are global partners, as shown by the range of our dialogues between the State Department and the Ministry of External Affairs.  We hold dialogues or consultations on East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa, Afghanistan, and the United Nations.  We have a trilateral meeting with Japan, which we elevated to the ministerial level last fall.

Perhaps the most vital region is the one that we share: Asia.  It is no coincidence that the United States has a “rebalance” to Asia policy and India an “Act East” policy, as we recognize the indispensable role of our partnership for peace and prosperity in the region.  That is why President Obama and Prime Minister Modi signed a Joint Strategic Vision Statement for the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region last January.  We affirmed the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.

I want to emphasize that we see the Indian Ocean as a key part of the broader Indo-Pacific.  That is why I was pleased to represent the United States as a dialogue partner at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in Australia two years ago.  U.S.-India cooperation in the region is vital to protect the thirty percent of world trade and twenty percent of world energy supplies that passes through these waters.

The Prime Minister’s invitation to all of the neighboring leaders for his 2014 inauguration was an important symbol of the role India plays in bringing together the subcontinent.  I would argue that India could be even more ambitious, as this is one of the least economically connected regions of the world.  We want to support regional cooperation in South Asia and across Asia more broadly, including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor initiative and the U.S.-India-Japan trilateral working group on economic connectivity.  We support your leadership in SAARC, IORA, BIMSTEC and other gatherings of regional leaders; for example, we worked together to organize a study visit in February 2016 for members of parliament from Nepal to visit Bhutan and share best practices in hydropower development.

We should both be proud of the tangible examples of our diplomatic cooperation in third countries.  After the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, we worked together to bring relief supplies to rebuild the country and distribute them to people in need.  And your heroic actions during Operation Rahaat in Yemen last year, using American-manufactured C-17 aircraft, saved the lives of 5,600 Indian and foreign nationals.  We hope to build further on these successes, including through a humanitarian assistance/disaster response trilateral working group with the Japanese.  And we look forward to the first UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners in New Delhi this summer, led by Indian and American instructors.

Parallel to this diplomatic cooperation is development coordination.  In November 2014, we signed Guiding Principles on Triangular Cooperation for Global Development.  This helps us coordinate development assistance in Africa and Asia to strengthen health, food security, women’s empowerment, and clean energy.  We are cooperating with your government and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to train thousands of Afghan women in vocational skills.  And the wPOWER initiative brings together rural women in India who have business experience with clean energy products such as solar cook stoves with African women to share best practices.

At the heart of all these successes I have outlined are our diplomats.  Just as our militaries exercise together, it’s important for our diplomats to train together and learn about each other’s professional cultures.

For that reason we have been increasing cooperation between our respective FSIs under the Diplomacy Partnership.  Your diplomats in Washington meet with our FSI instructors, and deliver lectures to our diplomatic students.  Our FSI officials have come to visit here to share best practices in area studies and language studies, and were graciously hosted by Joint Secretaries Gangte and Bahadur.

An American diplomat attended, for the first time, the Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats here at your FSI this spring.  Our FSI officials have been sharing course syllabi to learn how the other teaches courses such as economic tradecraft and protocol.   I hope that this FSI collaboration will become institutionalized, taking into account limited resources of course, so that we are better prepared for the future.

This training will help because there is more we can do together.  If we are ambitious.  If we increase our diplomatic cooperation around the world.   More leadership is needed to deal with the world’s challenges.

India is the world’s largest democracy, and one of the fastest growing economies.  You are an entire civilization and a subcontinent.   You will shape institutions, expand trade, and affect individual lives.

But you can only do this if you are ambitious.  If you take a stand on difficult issues, such as human rights.  If you contribute in places far from your capital or where your self-interest in not immediately evident.  This is the responsibility of leadership.  It is not easy, as some will disagree with your choices, at home and abroad.

Remember that the United States will be with you.  It is not just what we diplomats see as in our interest, but what the American people and elected officials will insist that we do.  And this will not change.  So please look for American diplomats in your future postings.  Teach them about cricket, and learn a little about baseball.  As “natural allies,” you will more often than not have the same goals as them in third countries or multilateral settings.  Make those goals a reality by comparing notes on the local situation, planning joint demarches, sponsoring joint resolutions, inviting others to join, and building institutions together.  The peace and prosperity you spread through such leadership will benefit the world, and it will also benefit our citizens at home.

And with that, I look forward to answering your questions.  Thank you.