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Remarks by Ambassador Meera Shankar at the Senate India Caucus Reception

Washington, DC
July 28, 2009

Senator Christopher Dodd, Senator John Cornyn, Honorable Senators

I am truly honoured to be here today at this meeting hosted by the Senate India Caucus. I know these are busy and difficult times in the Senate. Yet, you have chosen to be with us today in this magnificent setting, in this sanctum sanctorum of democracy. This is a tribute to India, to the Indian community in the United States, to the warm and strong ties between our two countries, and, above all, to the values that bind our two nations together. 

Our relationship is characterized as ties between the world’s two largest democracies. And, I believe in that description, not merely because our two countries are democracies, but because our relationship draws so much of its strength and character from the support it has among the elected representatives of the people in both countries. The Senate India Caucus is, therefore, not merely a forum to advance our partnership; it is to me an important symbol of the India-US relationship.

Senator Cornyn, I thank you for your vision, when, in partnership with the then Senator from New York and now Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, you laid the foundation of the Caucus in April 2004. Your support for India and this relationship has been steadfast and strong. I know how you rallied your colleagues in support of the landmark India-US civil nuclear initiative. 

Senator Dodd, we in India remember with gratitude your leadership in securing the passage of the civil nuclear agreement last Fall, at a time when you also had to lead efforts to deal with a major financial crisis in the country. And, who will forget your stirring speech on the floor of the Senate as you introduced the Bill for approval of the 123 Agreement. We thank you for taking on the co-chairmanship of this Caucus despite your many other leadership responsibilities. We know we have a great friend in you.

I want to thank other Senators for your years of support for India and to the Indian American community, especially for the historic civil nuclear agreement. To each of you, I extend an invitation to travel to India, where a warm welcome awaits you.

I want to especially thank the Indian American leaders, who have travelled from near and far in the United States to be here at the first meeting of the Senate India Caucus in the 111th Congress. I have seen with great admiration your extraordinary success and achievements; how effectively you have served as a window to India’s heritage and progress, to its enterprise and skills, and to its diversity and pluralism. But, I have been impressed, above all, with your role as responsible stakeholders in American society and its progress. Your success has as much to do with your talents and enterprise, as it has to do with the opportunities and rights that you enjoy in this great country. Individually, you have built many successful India-US partnerships, and time and again you have come together in great collective efforts, as you did last year, to open new doors in our relationship. You have been a great bridge of friendship and understanding between our countries.

Over the last decade, India and the United States have undertaken a truly remarkable journey and have gone into territories that neither had imagined possible a few years ago. This journey has transcended political transitions in both countries and has, indeed, been invigorated by the broad-based political support it enjoys in both nations. It has been nurtured by the vitality of private partnerships and the warmth of personal ties between our two peoples.

Senators, 2.7 million Indians live in the United States; 94,000 students from India are in US universities, the highest from any country; our bilateral trade has doubled in the past five years; US exports to India have grown three times during the period; just a few years ago, Air India gave Boeing a contract of 68 aircraft; till recently India barely sourced any defence equipment from the United States, last year alone we placed orders for at least USD 3.5 billion.

As the largest source of foreign direct and portfolio investments in India, the US is an indispensable partner in our development. Today, India, in its own modest way, is making a contribution to US jobs and prosperity. Indian direct investments into the US, on the basis of annual flows, exceed US foreign direct investment into India in recent years. In 2007-08 alone, an estimated US$ 10.25 billion was invested by Indian companies in the US, which, according to industry estimates, created around 65,000 jobs in the US. A recent study by Ernst & Young shows that there were 143 Indian investments in 2007 and 2008 across various sectors in the US, nearly half of the Indian acquisitions and new ventures were in the US IT and IT-enabled sectors. Similarly, India’s huge market, is an extraordinary opportunity, including in the infrastructure industry, where we need to invest at least USD 500 billion in the next five years.

India and the United States have, in many ways, shaped the evolution of the knowledge economy that has benefitted both countries enormously. I encourage Senators and the Indian American leaders to explore ways to leverage Indian and US trade and investment to create jobs and prosperity in both countries. 

We are now at the beginning of a new phase in our relationship. Secretary Clinton has just completed a very productive visit to India, during which we reiterated our commitment to further deepen our strategic partnership and outlined an architecture and a roadmap to take our relationship to a new level. We signed agreements that will enhance our cooperation in space, defence equipment and science and technology. We committed ourselves to completing the steps for implementing the civil nuclear agreement, which will open enormous business opportunities for US companies. In November 2009, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will come to Washington DC on the first state visit to be hosted by President Obama. 

We have an agenda that is broad-based and looks to the future. Our shared values and increasingly shared interests give us great comfort and purpose in our engagement. We will seek to increase security for our people by intensifying cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and non-proliferation. No two countries have greater stakes in and a better record on non-proliferation than India and the United States. We will work together to prevent nuclear terrorism and address the challenges of global nuclear proliferation.

We will expand and diversify our bilateral economic ties and work together with our partner countries for global economic recovery and to reduce the risk of recurrence of the kind of crisis we have just experienced. 

We will work together to develop clean and renewable sources of energy, improve energy efficiency and strengthen our ability to adapt to climate change. Protection of nature is rooted deeply in India’s civilisational and spiritual heritage; it is also an imperative for our economic, energy and environmental security. 

We will use the two nations’ capacity for enterprise, innovation and research to foster new solutions for food security, healthcare and education. 

India considers partnership with the US important for its national development goals. Similarly, democratic India’s progress will, in its own modest way, stand as an affirmation of the universal values of liberty, democracy, pluralism and freedom of enterprise. The economic growth of one-sixth of humanity, which is largely driven by domestic demand and savings, provides potentially a large market and an anchor for stability in the global economy. 

In each of these areas, Honourable Senators, we look to you for initiatives to deepen our relations; and, we count on the commitment and efforts of the Indian American leaders, as we take the relationship forward, so that working together we can not only seek a better life for our peoples, but also a stronger and safer future for the world. 

Thank you.