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The U.S.-India Friendship: Where We're Going

The U.S.-India Friendship: Where We Were and Where We're Going

Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Remarks at the Confederation of Indian Industries
New Delhi, India
April 7, 2006

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be with you this afternoon in New Delhi. I know that you've hosted our American ambassadors and many other distinguished guests frequently, and I appreciate you hosting me as well. This is my first solo visit to India as Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and as you know, this is a new job in the State Department. In addition to policy responsibility for South Asia, this bureau is also responsible for the five nations of Central Asia. While I look forward to delving into this expanded portfolio and the great opportunities that we have before us in building closer ties between South and Central Asia, there's absolutely no question that much of my focus in the coming months and years will remain on nurturing the bilateral relationship between our two great countries, India and the United States. This is an epic journey with historic implications and that's why my speech has the same form as an epic poem: starting in the past, joining with the present and then moving into the future. Do not be alarmed, however. My speech is somewhat shorter than the Ramayana.

How We Arrived Here

America has important and unique relationships with each country in the region, but perhaps none have attracted more attention than the U.S.-India relationship. Since India's independence, our interaction has been marked by cooperation, estrangement, and occasionally indifference. The potential of the relationship never seemed to become reality. Although that history certainly informs where we are today, I submit to you that our relationship has come very far from the Cold War differences that once defined us.

Indeed, I believe the U.S.-India relationship has entered an entirely different phase. Years from now, when people gather to discuss our relationship, they will remark upon the across the board transformation of U.S.-India relations that took place in the first decade of the 21st century.

Why do we see such a changed dynamic today? I believe it is the result of a changing world, changes taking place both in India and the United States, our increasingly shared values, and the efforts of Indians and Americans, particularly those in business, who decided not to wait for their respective governments to begin forging new links. This is not to say that our governments did not play an important role in bringing the relationship to its current high level. As a diplomat, would you expect me to say otherwise? Indeed, I believe it would be fair for any observer to recognize that we owe today's vibrant ties to the sustained efforts of governments in both countries, including those that preceded the Administrations of President Bush and Prime Minister Singh.

Profound changes certainly helped to bring about our new relationship. India is emerging as a major power, thanks to fundamentally sound decisions you have made about the kind of country India should be. This is a good thing not only for India but for us all economically, politically and in other vital areas.

This audience knows well that India's economic growth is booming, promoting domestic efficiency and entering markets globally. It is hard to open a magazine in the United States without finding a story about the opportunities for business in India, and the role that Indian businessmen and Indian Americans are playing internationally. Indeed, it's reasonable to think that your economy will have the most significant impact on the rest of the world for the foreseeable future. Much of this has been made possible by wise economic reforms undertaken since 1991. Continued economic reforms, changes in the bureaucratic functions of the state and increased efficiencies and growth are vital for the Indian economy to continue its high-paced growth. We believe the way ahead lies in an increasingly open Indian economy, one which opens up important business sectors like retail, insurance and banking to foreign investment. The international business community has been coming to India thanks, in part, to reforms in licensing and regulations that have made it easier to do business here. Still, I think you will agree with me that more needs to be done. Every excess regulation, form and process is a drag on economic achievement. And every excess step increases business uncertainty and becomes an opportunity for corruption. "Minimum credible deterrent" is a term with which you are all familiar in the security context. I think we should also try to bring about "minimum credible regulation" so that entrepreneurs from both our countries can create the industries and jobs of tomorrow to their fullest potential without devoting excessive effort to negotiating officialdom.

Due in no small part to businesses like those that are members of the Confederation of Indian Industries, India has rightfully received much attention for its dynamic economy. But our vision is broader than that. We look toward stronger economic ties, but also a deeper partnership and wider engagement on global issues that can benefit from India's capabilities and expertise. For example, India's ability to respond regionally to natural disasters, as demonstrated after the December 2004 tsunami and aid sent our way after Hurricane Katrina, was praised by the world community, including the United States. We also have welcomed your ability to deploy top-notch military personnel for peacekeeping duties around the globe.

I could list any number of areas in which India brings something important to the table. These combine to one conclusion: India's role in helping foster and maintain international stability is vital. We hear frequently that America must surely be promoting ties with India as a counterbalance to China. I reject this kind of zero-sum thinking as too simplistic. Good relations with India do not come at the expense of good relations with China. Both can be responsible stakeholders in the international system. Think of this another way. Are American businessmen pouring into Bangalore, Hyderabad and other Indian cities to "counter China?" Absolutely not. They are building a business relationship with India because India's attractiveness stands on its own merits. And that is the same approach that the United States Government takes. Both India and China are welcome and important partners of the United States, and of one another. So, rather than seeing India as counteracting a communist China, we see India as the essential engine of economic progress and democracy that enhances stable development from the Middle East to the Far East.

Where We Go From Here

Prime Minister Singh's visit to Washington in July 2005 established the promise of our relationship, and President Bush's visit to India in March 2006 began to transform promise into reality. These visits provided a big green light to our cooperation. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, beginning my job as Assistant Secretary just a week before President Bush's historic trip to India. I say without shame that I enjoyed the spoils of an immense amount of hard work by officials and like-minded partners on both sides, including by our fine ambassador, David Mulford.

With the hard work of preparing for the visit safely behind us, I believe that the work ahead of us is even more important. Realizing the promise of this partnership -- and making it benefit Americans and Indians, the region, and the rest of the world -- is the toughest work. The list of initiatives and agreements is expansive and covers nearly every conceivable area of cooperation. If we can come to an agreement on civil-nuclear cooperation -- and we did after struggling with the issue for 30 years -- we can do anything.

I am happy to report that since the announcement, both sides have worked hard towards fulfilling their commitments. Just this week, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, the chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, traveled to Vienna to begin discussions with the IAEA on a safeguards agreement, and Secretary Rice testified before both Houses of the U.S. Congress in support of this initiative, declaring it to be the key element of "a partnership that will become one of the most important we have with any country in the 21st century."

As Secretary Rice said, this initiative "is a strategic achievement: It will strengthen international security. It will enhance energy security and environmental protection. It will foster economic and technological development. And it will help further transform the partnership between the world's oldest and the world's largest democracy." Delivering on our many commitments will take work by both sides diplomatically, domestically and bureaucratically. As we transform our relationship, we must transform our attitudes and structures. America's growing stake in India's future means that we will continue to talk frankly with you as friends do with one another about economic reform. And we expect that you'll continue to offer us pointers on things we could do better, as all of our best friends in the world do.

As we move forward together, we have put special emphasis on the growth of business, science and technology cooperation. This week, Science and Technology Minister Sibal is in Washington to meet with Dr. Jack Marburger, President Bush's chief science advisor, and here in India our Assistant Secretary for Energy, Jeffrey Jarret, signed an agreement with Ministry of Power Secretary M.K. Shahi to join an international public-private research project that will develop the next generation of clean coal power plants and other energy technologies. These concrete steps should tell you how much value we place on the 19 initiatives we agreed to during the President's visit that put technology to work for our people. We look forward to energetic work on agriculture, clean energy and new technologies. We are hard at work forming commissions, and moving funding so that our money, both Indian and American, can do the most good. And we are taking seriously the recommendations the CEO Forum presented to the President and Prime Minister in New Delhi, including everything from looking at ways to increase high-tech trade, to facilitating business visas.

India is playing and will continue to play an invaluable role in helping to solve regional conflicts. During my visit today I had excellent discussions with your Foreign Ministry Officials about how we can work together to address shared areas of concern in the region. For example, we continue to coordinate on efforts to restore democracy in Nepal. As a friend, we are also encouraging the Indian Government to continue the progress we've seen recently in relations with Pakistan. As we have said many times, we would like to see a peaceful solution on Kashmir that is acceptable to both India and Pakistan, and can foster lasting peace and prosperity not only in Kashmir, but throughout South Asia and right into Central Asia. Recent statements by Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf have attracted considerable favorable international interest, and there is no dearth of ideas circulating for ways the two countries can establish greater trade, transport linkages, and people-to-people contacts. I think everyone believes now is the time for India and Pakistan to press for further progress and achieve the unlimited potential that occurs when two neighbors trade openly and freely with each other.

As in the past, we continue to look to India for leadership in stabilizing nuclear and defense relations with its neighbors. We, and previous American Administrations, have pushed for India to further define its "minimum credible deterrent," and we continue that today. We understand the complexity of this task having spent 40 years in discussions with the former Soviet Union over our nuclear weapons programs. We also understand that such discussions are complicated by China's intentions and by Iran's energetic pursuit of technologies that underlie nuclear weapons. But, nevertheless, we see this as an absolutely necessary step toward decreasing tensions in Asia. We look not only to India, but to Pakistan, to work out mutual understandings to build confidence in both conventional and nuclear areas.

In addition to working bilaterally with India, we see great promise in working together in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). We recently approached SAARC's Secretary General requesting observer status. South Asian Free Trade is an opportunity for all the countries of South Asia to help make free trade in the region a reality, and to establish links to Central Asian economic organizations.

>From my particular perch as Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, I see numerous opportunities for links that can bring power, roads, communications and trade all the way from Kazakhstan to Pakistan and India. The South Asian region will benefit from the positive development of the countries of Central Asia. As Central Asia develops, India and others stand to gain a great deal in opening up new markets and trade routes with Central Asia.

Last weekend I attended a conference in Kabul on "Partnership, Trade and Development in Greater Central Asia." One of the resounding themes was that providing Central Asia with options and opportunities from all directions will help those countries in the region to move ahead on a positive and prosperous path. They cannot link up with Russia alone, or China alone, or the United States, Pakistan or India alone. They need all of these opportunities to create strong economies and modern societies.

Bringing your experience in development, democracy, education and other fields is another important way for India to show regional leadership to the benefit of all. Imagine the day when one can travel and bring goods and services from India, through Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Central Asia. We would welcome India's participation in endeavors that reinforce Afghanistan's newfound status as an open corridor, rather than a barrier that separates South Asia from Central Asia.

India does and will continue to make a difference in the world. Its leadership will be crucial in a myriad of areas, from working to eradicate HIV/AIDS and avian flu, to promoting economic efficiency, to supporting a strong United Nations and leading in the World Trade Organization to open trade and services.

Perhaps most importantly, we believe that one of India's greatest contributions in the coming decades can be in its stand for democracy. Many countries around the world are deciding to act on their democratic aspirations, while some others are wary. We know that India will stand beside us and the world community in assisting those who choose freedom. We hope that India will work with others on education, judicial training, free media, technology, independent elections commissions, rule of law and other foundations of democratic societies.

As you can see, the possibilities for what we can do together are limitless. There's a big agenda in the U.S.-India relationship and a lot to do. When she offered me this job, Secretary Rice told me that it was the most exciting place to be working. It's not only an exciting place, but an exciting time that can change the lives of our children and grandchildren. I am happy to be here with you at this important moment.

Thank you for having me, and I'll be happy to take your questions.

Released on April 7, 2006


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