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Speech by Foreign Secretary at the concluding session of the FICCI-Brookings Dialogue on 'U.S.-India Strategic Partnership'

New Delhi

It is a great privilege to be with you at the concluding session of the Second FICCI-Brookings Dialogue on India-US Strategic Partnership. I believe you have had a long and productive day of discussions on a truly comprehensive range of subjects, with an impressive array of speakers from both countries.

I had the honour to be present at the birth of this dialogue in June 2010 in Washington DC, a day after the first India-US Strategic Dialogue at the ministerial level. I am glad that this dialogue is already acquiring the character of a regular institutional dialogue, anchored in two premier organizations of India and the United States. Indeed, one of the most important aspects of the transformed India US relations is the extraordinary level of discourse and debate through non-government channels on the strategic future of this relationship.

This welcome development in our relationship is clearly evident, as we prepare for the visit of President Barack Obama to India from 6-9 November 2010. There has been a plethora of news and leaks on the visit, the deliverables and the themes; and, many valuable editorials, seminars and think tank reports that take a long-term and comprehensive view of the relationship. This excellent dialogue, for one, is a great help for us in planning and preparing for this visit. This is a reflection not only of the obvious interest in the first visit of President Obama to India, but also, I think, a widely held view that this visit could be a milestone in shaping the next phase of the relationship.

While there has been much debate and speculation on whether the relationship has sustained its momentum, it is reassuring to see consensus on at least one fundamental point: a strong India-US strategic partnership is in the interest of both countries and is good for the world.

For us in the government, though, the state of the relationship has not been a subject of doubt or debate. Over the past two years, the relationship has made a seamless transition through the democratic cycles in the two countries. The intensity of our engagement and the momentum of our cooperation have not only been sustained, they have actually deepened and intensified.

Since April 2010, PM and President Obama have met six times. Besides the Prime Minister’s State visit to Washington DC in November 2009, the two leaders have met within the G-20 framework; in the context of discussions on climate change in Copenhagen; and for the first ever Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC. This reflects the growing global nature of our engagement.

During this period, the two governments have signed a Counter-terrorism Cooperation Initiative and a Framework for Cooperation in Trade and Investment; launched an India-US Financial and Economic Partnership; signed an MoU on Agriculture and Food Security Cooperation; continued to expand counter-terrorism cooperation, which included access to David Headley in the US; expanded our strategic dialogue; launched a dialogue on what is referred to as Global Commons; announced our intention to cooperate in the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership, which India is establishing.

The two governments have also completed the remaining steps for the implementation of their Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, including conclusion of the reprocessing arrangements and procedures and completion of Part 810 assurances. India has also enacted a Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act and has signed the CSC. We welcome the commencement of the commercial negotiations between the Indian operators and the US companies, and look forward to an early realisation of our shared goal of a robust India-US cooperation in the civil nuclear sector.

These are just a few examples of steps, small and big, that the two governments are taking to expand their cooperation across the full spectrum of our expanding bilateral agenda, not only in traditional strategic and security domain, but also in the areas of national development priorities for India and, I believe, of importance to the United States as well - areas such as trade and investment, science and technology, clean energy, health, higher education, and agriculture.

It is heartening that the frequency, quality and the range of our political dialogue on all regional and global issues have reached a new level. Our mutual understanding on critical issues, including on global economic situation, terrorism, Afghanistan, regional challenges and Asian stability has become stronger.

President Obama’s visit to India is, therefore, taking place at a time when our relationship has matured significantly. So, it is natural that this visit would be somewhat different from the visit of President Clinton, which took place 22 years after the visit of President Carter and, after a time of great strain in our relationship; or that of President Bush, when we were at an important build phase of the relationship.

President Obama’s visit will reflect this essential continuity in our relationship. It will be an opportunity to consolidate all that we have built in the past decade. We are not at a stage in our relationship for dramatic breakthroughs and big bang. But, we will see concrete and significant steps in a wide range of areas that will expand the long term strategic framework of the relationship in a way that we can create a productive partnership for the mutual benefit of our two countries and, equally important, to give substantive content and shape to our global strategic partnership.

This will be an opportunity to once again underscore that our shared values of democracy, openness, pluralism and fundamental freedoms.

This is a time to showcase the vibrant nature of our economic and technological partnership, which is balanced, growing rapidly in both directions, driven by innovation and knowledge, and which is creating jobs and prosperity in both India and the United States. People and services have been at the heart of our economic ties, and they have done more than just boost trade and investment between the two countries - they have played a vital role in bringing our two countries closer.

This visit comes at a time of significant global and regional challenges. Prime Minister looks forward to continuing the extremely productive dialogue on the global economic situation; the threat of terrorism that our two countries face continually; our convergent interests in Afghanistan; the challenges emanating from Pakistan, and our shared goals of sustained security, stability and prosperity in Asia.

We intend to expand and intensify our strategic consultations on regional and global issues. We will explore the possibility of sharing our experience, expertise and resources in promoting development, in partnership with interested countries, in other parts of the world including in regions like Africa. We will deepen our bilateral cooperation in a broad range of areas, including space, clean energy, healthcare, education and agriculture. We will further strengthen our partnership in non-proliferation and our cooperation in high technology.

This visit, therefore, could be an important milestone in our shared journey. There has been far too much focus on the transactional aspects of this visit. All relationships entail transactions, but sustained, long term partnerships are built on certain basic principles.

In the case of India and the United States, the relationship is not anchored on a single issue, idea or challenge. This is only natural in a complex world, characterized by pluralism of challenges and, rapid and unpredictable changes. I believe there can be three basic organising principles for a sustained and strong long term partnership.

Shared values will be the bedrock of our relationship. It creates comfort in our ties and minimizes the possibility of any fundamental disagreement between the two countries. But beyond that, success of the world’s two largest democracies and a strong relationship between them will remain the best advertisement for our shared values. Today, however, we are at a stage in our relationship where we can give concrete shape to our partnership based on shared democratic values - for example, in reforming the global institutions of governance to make them representative of contemporary realities and weighted in favour of democratic values; in working together to strengthen democratic institutions and capabilities in fellow democracies; and, advancing inclusive and broad-based social and economic development across the world.

Secondly, economic partnership will be another important pillar of this relationship. We are among the largest economies in the world anchored in democracy and diversity. We are blessed with enormous enterprise and skills. We are endowed with synergies drawn from India’s rapid growth and US’s global economic leadership. We have an impressive track record of partnership based on innovation. Our economic partnership has great promise and potential, not only to be an engine for global competitiveness of our companies and generating employment and prosperity in our two countries, but also in but, above all, to use technology and innovation to find solutions for economic and social challenges facing our people and the world.

The third important basis for our relationship is the security of our people and stability in the world. All of us are familiar with the challenges that our two countries face, both conventional and long term, and asymmetric and immediate. Our interests increasingly converge; our understanding of the nature and the source of problems that we face have also become increasingly similar. But, we face the challenge of reconciling our objectives and approaches in dealing with a complex range of challenges, which have sometimes been irritants in our relationship in the past and sometimes create lingering doubts in the minds of our people about the merit of this strategic partnership. So, as we deepen our strategic partnership, we must - I am confident that we will - be more sensitive to each other’s vital interests and always be guided by our long-term objectives and by the shared recognition the more secure we are individually the more we will be effective partners in promoting peace, stability and security.

Our relationship is in a state of constant evolution in a rapidly changing world. This is, therefore, an exciting time in our relationship, because we have a unique opportunity at this stage to work together to influence the course of this world. That is the hope and the promise of the India-US partnership in the 21st century

Thank you