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Address by Ambassador Nirupama Rao at the Emory University on India-US Strategic Relations (2 March 2012)

            It is a great honor for me to have this opportunity to address the India Summit organized by the Emory University. In the last three years since its inception, the Summit has already become an important event in the annual calendars of events related to India, and has helped to promote a greater understanding about India not just in the greater Atlanta region but across the entire South Eastern board of the United States.

         I am also really happy to see the initiatives that Emory has taken to strengthen its ties with India, through its various programs whose numbers continue to rise, and also by its linkages with Indian institutions.  The impact of these initiatives is not limited to the immediate academic field but more importantly they help foster a better understanding and create bonds of friendship between the Indian and American peoples. 

        While there are several factors which make our relationship enduring, including the values that both our countries cherish, and the convergence of interests that we have as we both work towards greater peace and prosperity for our peoples, in my view it is these bonds, or people-to-people linkages, in diplo-speak, that create the rich mosaic of our multi-faceted relationship, add to its vibrancy and resilience and provide an anchor which goes beyond any immediate political expediency.

        Therefore, I would like to thank the leadership of Emory University and all the faculty members here for their commitment and untiring efforts to expand connections with India and the Indian people.

          Ours is a partnership that seeks to meet common aspirations for mutual prosperity and for peace and security. Today, India and the US are true partners—in strategic terms, in economic terms,  and in the development context.  As India continues on its path of inclusive social and economic development, mobilizing the immense creativity and energy of its people,  we see the US as an important partner in this journey. It is with this objective in mind that we are working to expand our relations across the entire spectrum of our bilateral agenda. The India-US Strategic Dialogue initiated in 2009, and whose third meeting will be held in Washington in a few months, had therefore identified the following principal areas for expanding cooperation for mutual benefit: strategic cooperation, energy and climate change; education and development, economy, trade and agriculture, science and technology, health and innovation. And, as an important part of these efforts, just as the US is partnering in India’s development, Indian businesses have been investing in the US economy. 

         It is in this overall context that I would like to share my thoughts with you this evening specifically on how I see our partnership evolving at a  time when technology and innovation have emerged as a driving force for growth. I am happy to note that the India Summit this year focuses on some of these aspects.

         When I talk of innovation it is not just high technology that I am thinking of, though that too is important, but innovation in its broadest sense, innovation that encompasses energy, food security, higher education, vocational training, research and development (R&D), and entrepreneurship.

          In India we have placed a particular emphasis on innovation. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared in 2010 that for India, the present decade is to be the “Decade of Innovation”. India has established a National Innovation Council to provide recommendations on how we could bridge unmet needs and access gaps in vital sectors such as agriculture, education, energy, health, skills, urban and rural development, and others; and to drive growth, competitiveness, employment, and opportunity for the country. In India, we are determined to use innovation not only as an engine of economic growth but also as a tool to address national development challenges.

         Already, India’s economic transformation is utilizing innovation in its broadest sense.  India has become the hub for developments in design, processes and systems to create products that suit the Indian circumstances and context.  Information Technology and Communications have been the catalysts as well as beneficiaries of this unprecedented growth. Our industry is setting new standards in cost effective manufacturing and service delivery.  The once protected manufacturing sector has today become modern and is able to hold its own in the world. In India, in developing the innovation economy the key focus has been on its relevance and scalability. The result has been grass roots acceptability and easy commercialization of new technologies.

         In pursuing our desire to be a major global hub for innovation and creativity, the Indian corporate sector has played an important role. From indigenous designing and manufacturing of the Nano to effective e-governance models; from inclusive banking to accessible public health care, Indian industry has contributed in the development of need based and cost effective innovative solutions that have scalability and global relevance.  I recall what my friend and  the distinguished USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah said a few months ago, “India is now a pioneer of game-changing innovations that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in development”.

        The US has led the world when it comes to innovation. Both our governments realize the critical importance of innovation to address new challenges and generate economic growth. As both India and the US work towards becoming truly knowledge societies they are also working together to translate these immense opportunities into practical cooperation: forging new links, creating ecosystems together to foster creativity -that would lead to solutions for the problems that we face both immediate and in the long term. Let me enumerate some of these.

         Energy security and the supply of clean and sustainable sources of energy are a common challenge for both our countries. In order to continue on our high growth path, India will need to invest in building a world class infrastructure that could cater to the demands of a billion plus population and ensure the availability of abundant supplies of clean sources of energy to fuel such growth. In both these areas we are working to build mutually beneficial ties. With the US, we are now engaged in a broad array of clean energy solutions. Through our Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) and the Joint Clean Energy Research & Development Center (JCERDC) we are working on Public-Private partnership for Joint R&D in three areas – solar energy; second generation bio-fuels; and energy efficient buildings. The Centre will mobilize up to $100 million in public and private sector funds to facilitate research and development in breakthrough technologies over five years. Several proposals have been received by the Centre, and the first awards are likely to be announced within this month. 

         When it comes to energy, while we import a large part of our crude requirements, one source where we are not short of supply is solar energy. Most of you, who have had the opportunity to travel to India, would testify to that I am sure. We are therefore working on an ambitious plan to  tap the potential of available solar energy and launched a national solar mission a few years ago, to increase its share in our energy mix. And the US Export-Import Bank, OPIC and the US Trade and Development Agency have joined together in this endeavor. In the US, the tapping of shale gas, has dramatically altered your energy supply scenario. We in India, also hope to benefit from your expertise in this area. The US is helping us map our shale gas reserves. We hope to have the results of the survey soon.

         There is a much better appreciation today of the strides that India has made in the technological and services sectors. And while these sectors contribute an increasing share of our GDP, it is also true that a large proportion of our population – about 70% - still seeks its sustenance and livelihood from agriculture. Therefore,  we have placed high importance on improving our agricultural productivity to benefit our rural population. Several decades ago, it was in partnership with the US agricultural universities, that we achieved the first Green Revolution. Today, we are working on a second Evergreen Revolution partnering with the US across the entire range of issues related to agriculture – from using space technology for better monsoon prediction and crop productivity to improving the linkages from farm to market.  Last year for instance, several of our leading agricultural universities joined hands with US counterparts to launch the Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP), aimed at increasing farm productivity through better cropping practices and access to improved technologies and markets. A ‘Monsoon Desk’ has been established in NOAA for enhancing monsoon forecasting. Going beyond the bilateral framework we are now leveraging our complementary strengths to help build capacities in African countries and in Afghanistan.

         To prepare the next generation of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs, we do need to have a good educational infrastructure. Even as India is undertaking a massive effort to augment and expand its network of universities and research institutions, there are opportunities for increasing our bilateral cooperation. India is one of the leading nations of origin of International students in the USA since 2001-02. In 2010-11, nearly 104,000 students came from India to the USA representing 14 percent of all international students in U.S. higher education. Indian students currently contribute $3.1 billion to the US economy through a combination of their educational and living expenses. And many such students study here at Emory.

          Our two Governments have launched the “Singh-Obama 21st Century Knowledge Initiative” in November 2009 with funding of US$ 5 million from both the sides to increase university linkages and junior faculty development exchanges between US and Indian universities. In October last year, we hosted the first ever India-US Higher Education Summit in Washington DC which has defined a strategic vision for the future of the US-India higher education partnership.

           Health is yet another critical area where there are exciting opportunities for collaboration. Our scientists are already working with the US institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control capitalizing on each other’s comparative advantages and skills.  A Global Disease Detection Centre for India was established in 2010. In Biotechnology, our companies are working to find innovative means for providing access to affordable and safe healthcare in both countries by using mutual synergies. India, which has long been recognized as a leading producer of high quality generic drugs, is well on the way to establishing itself as a hub for clinical research and trial, which could significantly reduce the lab-to-market time for US companies. India offers huge opportunities for research collaboration to provide solutions through cost competitiveness and innovative drug discovery capabilities. Indeed today big US firms such as Pfizer and Abbott are working with Indian drug companies to expand their footprint, while  Indian companies are looking to move up the value chain by investing in research and development utilizing the large pool of skilled manpower that is available in India. The innovative approaches that India has taken in the field of tele-medicine are yet another area where our two countries can further strengthen collaboration to provide more cost effective and affordable solutions.

            India’s supply base offers leverages in product design and development for not just the Indian market but for the world market. The concept of frugal engineering of "indovation" as some call it,  offering capital use efficiency, value chain optimization and product development efficiency is becoming a useful model for cooperation. Clearly, across different sectors including Aerospace; Automotive; Construction; Energy; Monitoring and Surveillance, there exist opportunities for bilateral commercial cooperation in engineering, research and innovation. And increasingly,  US firms are working with their Indian partners to realize these opportunities. For example, the affordable, mobile ECG machine developed by engineers working in India at the GE Medical Systems is available for $2,500, as compared to large machines that sells in the US for over $10,000.

             India and the US have established a Science and Technology Endowment Fund to help foster such mutually beneficial collaboration.  I believe in co-development of a vibrant S&T eco-system as the new foundation of expanding Indo-US cooperation, where we harness synergies to produce global public goods. We envision that in the India-US Technology Partnership there would be a dynamic network of technological collaborations across the globe, stretching from labs to factories as Indian and American scientists and technology experts research and work together to find novel technologies that revolutionize the way we address global issues like climate change, security, energy availability and public health. 

            And we are making progress in implementing this vision. Just late last year, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) announced a new partnership with USAID to establish a "India-U.S. Innovation Partnership for Global Development" (IPGD) which will seek to leverage Indian creativity, expertise, and resources to source and scale innovations being developed and tested in India with the potential to benefit vulnerable populations across India and the world. Many of these innovations will be transferable to other developing countries and many of these innovations will have a commercial model to ensure scale and sustainability.

             The two governments are thus engaged intensively to increase collaboration and unleash the full potential of U.S.-India innovation. With a strong foundation in place, the two nations are uniquely positioned to pool their talent to address what President Obama‘s innovation strategy called the ¯Grand Challenges of the 21st Century. In this context, it would be beneficial if we could work also on a framework that would help increase the mobility of high skilled workers across the two countries. In these difficult economic times, sometimes we do hear the voices of protectionism. We all have stakes in ensuring that such sentiments do not affect the positive trajectory of our engagement keeping the long-term perspective in mind. What we need to promote is a dynamic network of partnerships and underpin them through bilateral investments as well as through technology cooperation. 

              The oldest democracy and the largest democracy in the world are now also natural allies. Our relationship is in a state of constant evolution in a rapidly changing world. Today, the US partnership with India is set to become, in President Obama’s words, one of the defining relationships of the 21st century. We will move forward and deepen our strategic partnership guided by our long-term objectives and shared ideals of democratic functioning to meet the important challenges of our times and to advance peace and prosperity in our increasingly interdependent and interconnected world.