Nisha Desai Biswal
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Conference Hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Confederation of Indian Industry
July 13, 2015
Thank you – and good morning everyone. This is an impressive turnout for a gray Monday morning and a credit to our host and the all-star lineup that we have such a strong showing. Carnegie continuously has been putting forward an impressive array of insights and analysis to move forward the policy conversation across the full spectrum of global issues. And I am not just saying that because my former boss is the head of this institution!
Bill, you are dearly missed by all of us and whenever we hit upon a difficult or delicate situation, I often hear people say – “What would Bill do?” With Bill Burns, Ashley Tellis, Raja Mohan and Milan Vaishnav, Carnegie has amassed an impressive array of South Asia expertise. You can pretty much do the whole conference in house – so thank you for including Arun and me in your line up!
Finally, let me just say a word of thanks to Chandrajit Banerjee and his colleagues at CII. I have been working with CII in different iterations for nearly 15 years, and they are always at the forefront of policy conversations.
And I am particularly pleased to be here with my good friend Ambassador Arun Singh, who we are so pleased to welcome back to Washington and who is quickly making himself as indispensable as his predecessor.
Today, as we reflect on U.S.-India ties – this “defining partnership for the century ahead” as President Obama called it – and how we have progressed so much over the past decade, it clearly starts with the civil-nuclear deal. From the beginning, the deal was about more than just megawatts and reactors. For over thirty years, the nuclear issue had been the “elephant in the room,” casting a shadow over the U.S.-India relationship. But in 2005, our two countries decided it was time to tackle the elephant and advance progress the relationship– and I must say we have succeeded beyond expectations.
Nothing speaks more to the essence of good diplomacy than taking an obstacle and turning it into a mutual advantage. With the civil nuclear deal, we did just that. It gave us each confidence in the other and brought our governments and businesses closer together.
And while I was watching this process from Capitol Hill, I know the extraordinary amount of effort that this entailed by people in both countries over a sustained period of weeks, months and even years by an extraordinary group of committed individuals –many of whom are present today. Even after the deal was signed and ratified, implementation of civil-nuclear cooperation itself encountered delays both political and technical. It has required patient and continuous engagement. But the Republic Day understanding reached in January between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi moves the ball further down the field and makes clear our conviction that American energy companies will be there helping India light its smart cities and power its modern factories.
Looking back over the last ten years, I’m reminded of the old African proverb, “If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.” When President Bush made his Rose Garden announcement in 2005, a marathon effort was launched that would include seven leader-level summits in Washington and Delhi, as well as countless meetings, dialogues, and some very late nights.
The public servants and patriots who helped forge this partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies understood it wouldn’t be easy – but they also understood that it would be worth it. It took courage on both sides to do something big – but to do otherwise would have been a disservice to our citizens, present and future.
Ten years ago, access to nuclear, space, and other forms of high technology were among the most contentious issues between India and the United States. Today those issues are part of the foundations on which we’re building a lasting partnership.
To bring India into the nonproliferation mainstream, we are supporting India’s phased membership in the four export control regimes, starting with the Missile Technology Control Regime.
In defense, the United States is now India’s largest supplier, and we are launching new co-development and co-production projects that will expand our defense ties and advance Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India initiative. And our defense ties have paid off: India used U.S.-sourced C-17s in Nepal to lead the global relief effort after the horrific earthquake and, in Yemen, to evacuate thousands of civilians from all over the world. Last month, Secretary Ash Carter – a true champion of the U.S.-India relationship – announced a new aircraft carrier working group to support India’s indigenous carrier program. Ten years ago, even Ashley Tellis and Raja Mohan wouldn’t have made that prediction out loud!
In space, NASA and ISRO collaborated to explore the surface of the Moon in the Chandrayan mission, and last fall our Mars orbiters tweeted at each other while circling the red planet. In cyberspace, India and the United States are working together to shape internet governance and expand cybersecurity cooperation. It’s somewhat cliché to talk about the U.S-India relationship encompassing nearly every field of human endeavor, but that’s just the fact: from outer space to cyberspace, we’re in it together.
Our first Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which Secretary Kerry and Secretary Pritzker will co-host in Washington this September, will showcase these efforts and give us a new platform to build on past results and work toward future progress.
Over the next ten years, we will work toward greater convergence on trade. In 2005, bilateral trade was less than $30 billion – today it is over $100 billion, and we want to get that to $500 billion. But we first must reduce investment barriers and streamline commercial regulations to open new markets and facilitate new technologies. We must invest in each other’s economic successes just as we are invested in each other’s strategic successes.
Over the next ten years, we will continue to bring international pressure on terrorist groups around the world who target Indians and Americans alike. Fourteen years after the Indian parliament was attacked by terrorists, the Indian government will help to inaugurate the new Afghan Parliament building – a gift from India to the people of Afghanistan, and a testament to the resilience of freedom and democracy in the face of terror and brutality.
Over the next ten years, we will build upon our Joint Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region to promote regional development, a rules-based order, and trade that is free and fair. In September, our first U.S.-Japan-India ministerial will move us closer to this goal as we strengthen our cooperation on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and economic connectivity.
And over the next ten years, India will need to provide 400 million of its citizens with reliable energy, so that parents can work through the day and their children can study at night – this is the key to India’s prosperous future. To secure that future, the United States and India – through our clean energy partnerships – have mobilized nearly $3 billion dollars in renewable energy investments since 2009. Our nuclear cooperation with India is a vital component of India’s energy future, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, leaving cleaner air, and providing reliable electricity that can help increase investment, stabilize food prices, and power India’s economic rise.
I’m convinced the United States and India can and will deliver a better life for future generations. I believe will we will see a day when businesses in the United States and India can reap the benefits of a high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty. I believe we will see the day when India will be accepted into APEC, and meet the standards of the world’s most progressive trade pacts.
Innovation and technology will enable our economies to be powered by clean energy, and help transform India’s energy mix, tap new markets, and limit the effects of climate change. Greater partnership in the Indo-Pacific will ensure economic growth, secure commercial sea lanes, and reduce the impact of natural disasters.
In fact, I think the convergence and cooperation between our two countries will be so strong and so self-evident, that we will no longer be asking ourselves about the next civil-nuclear moment in U.S.-India ties.
Having come this far together, I am confident both nations are up to the challenge of the decades to come. We know that courageous action can create tremendous outcomes. The path we have set for the next decade is an ambitious one, but the progress of the past decade, forged in the crucible of the civil-nuclear deal, shows that it can be done.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak and for all that you do to bring our two countries ever closer in partnership.