We’ll probably discuss the GSP. We remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own businesses, their own people
It’s great to see so many Indian and American business people coming together to talk about how to draw our two nations closer together, and to talk about big ideas. That project has been in the forefront of my mind too, in preparation for my upcoming trip. I want to give you a sneak preview of my mission, and tell you why I truly believe that our two nations have an incredibly unique opportunity to move forward together, for the good of both of our peoples, the Indo-Pacific region, and indeed the entire world.
The idea of a US-India partnership frankly stretches back a long way. When the Indian people first courageously won their independence over 70 years ago, a strong relationship between our countries was something people talked about. Our two democracies and a close relationship seemed inevitable, a matter of “when” not “if.” But for too long — indeed, for decades — we found ourselves on different trajectories. The US was fighting the Cold War. And India was asserting itself, its new-found, cherished independence through its non-aligned movement, trying not to take sides. We cooperated when we could, but frankly I think most would agree that we mostly fell short of our potential.
We couldn’t trade much because India had a closed economy. The Licence Raj kept businesses and innovators out of the black and covered in red tape. Five-year plans became the received wisdom, something like our 2 per cent growth here in the last administration became sort of a new normal. We focussed our attention on other Asian trading partners, and what were once cubs grew up to be true tigers in the region. But all that changed in 1991, when India opened its doors to the world. Prime Minister Rao said that at the time his government would “sweep the cobwebs of the past and usher in change.” India’s free-market reforms unleashed the innovation, the entrepreneurship, the sheer drive of its own people to do remarkable things. First, we’ve had a seven per cent growth in India from 1997 to 2017, year-on-year. Millions of Indians have been lifted out of poverty. India became a world leader in IT — IT services, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and so many more things that you all know so well. The US-India bilateral trade reached $142 billion just last year, a seven-fold increase since 2001. Additionally, more than 500 American companies now successfully operate in India. And of course, the US is a market for roughly 20 per cent of India’s exports in both goods and services. Indian-Americans, too, have contributed mightily to things that happened here in the US. We’ve watched Indians reach the heights of industry, and academia, and government. People like Microsoft’s CEO and the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a great Kansan, have done remarkable things all around the world.
US Presidents of both parties have seized the opportunity for closer ties. President Clinton’s visit in 2000 set a real marker, he set the table for closer cooperation between the two countries, and then President Bush inked a historic civil nuclear deal. More recently, President Obama granted India “Major Defence Partner” status and supported India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council — a position that the US continues to support. And under President Trump, we’ve taken our defence cooperation to new heights, solidified our common vision for the Indo-Pacific and taken a far tougher stand on Pakistan’s unacceptable support for terrorism in the region.
Just a few weeks ago, in a truly historic election, 600 million Indians voted in the largest exercise of the franchise in history. And they gave Mr Modi a huge mandate. Not since 1971 has an Indian Prime Minister been returned to office with a single-party majority, and — to borrow a phrase – he enjoyed an awful lot of winning. Many observers were surprised by the result, but, frankly, I wasn’t. I’ve been watching closely. And we knew that the Prime Minister was a new kind of leader for the world’s most populous democracy. He is the son of a tea seller who worked his way up to governing a state for 13 years and now leads one of the world’s truly emerging powers. He’s made economic development for the poorest Indians a priority. And indeed, millions who once went without light bulbs now have electricity. And millions who lacked cook stoves now have them. It’s interesting that young Indians constituted one of the Prime Minister’s largest voting blocks, one of his biggest groups of support in this most recent election. I think that tells you something.
For my part, as the Secretary of State, I know I have a strong partner, a new, great counterpart in Minister Jaishankar — a former Ambassador to the US. First, we have to build ever-stronger relationships. In fact, we’ve sent some of our finest minds to New Delhi, thinkers like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and our current ambassador, Ken Juster. But forging stronger ties is more than that. It means formalising these individual friendships, building out a diplomatic framework for our two countries. I think we’ve done that but there’s more to do. Last year we kicked off a 2+2 dialogue and I went to attend it alongside the Secretary of Defence. We also reinvigorated the Quad Dialogue among the United States, Japan, and Australia — all like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific.
But I want to talk about a couple other things I believe we can do together. We must embrace that strategic framework that works for both of our nations. We respect India as a truly sovereign, important country, with its own unique politics and its own unique strategic challenges. We get it. We realise it’s different to deal with the likes of China and Pakistan from across the ocean than it is when they are on your borders. That’s why in this room, not so many months ago, I elaborated on President Trump’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. It starts from the premise that we share a common set of values — the values of democracy and freedom and a core belief in the ingenuity of the human spirit.
We also have to make sure that we have economic openness. We have to have a central theme being the idea that we have liberty and sovereignty in each of our two nations, and build on those ideas. These need to be places in which economic growth reinforces our democratic values, and not dictatorship. It needs to be a place where our partnership is one of true equals, not of domination. Based on my conversations in New Delhi last year, and in subsequent phone calls and meetings, I believe this is a deeply shared vision.
Third, we have to deliver. We have to execute. The Trump administration has already enabled American companies to export more high-tech items to India. This includes cutting-edge defence platforms like armed UAVs and ballistic missile defence systems. We’ve already launched the Asia-EDGE programme to help India raise private capital to meet its energy and security needs for years to come. These are solid achievements but we want to do so much more.
We clearly have overlapping interests: defence, energy, space. The list goes on. The first batch of Apache helicopters is coming off Boeing’s production line in Arizona even as we speak. Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and Boeing’s F/A-18 are state-of-the-art fighters that could give India the capabilities it needs to become a full-fledged security provider throughout the Indo-Pacific.
On energy, we want to complete the Westinghouse civil nuclear project and deliver more LNG and crude. These steps will give Indians reliable, affordable, diversified energy independence. So they will no longer have to rely on difficult regimes like those in Venezuela and in Iran. On space, NASA is already working with the Indian Space Research Organisation on the world’s most advanced earth-observation satellite and India’s second lunar mission. I mean, how cool is that?
Now, I’m sure we’ll broach some tough topics too. But as we democracies have come to know, that we work out our disagreements. We bring them to the table honestly and fairly. And we’ll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP programme. I do hope, and remain open – and we remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies. We’ll also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy. And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well.
I know that these conversations that we will continue with the new government in India that has so much promise for its people, for our relationship, and for the world – I hope together, we will finally fulfill the great promise of cooperation that was present at India’s birth and which remains evident today.
I did business in India when I — before I lost my mind and ran for Congress — ran a small business that made machine parts for the aerospace industry. And I spent a fair amount of time in Bangalore and in Chennai working with HAL. I’ll tell you what. It was tough. India was still opening up, it was still figuring its way through, but there was a real value proposition there and we did well. When I think about that, when I think about what businesses need when they go to invest in each other’s countries, they need stability, they need a set of rules that they can understand, they need to make sure that the efforts that we put forward together from the US have sufficient bipartisanship, that they won’t be whipsawed as we have elections here. That is, when you invest, your ROI often extends beyond any particular congress or any particular administration.
It’s already happening in technology and engineers. I know all of the amazing, brilliant Indian students that come to study in our schools at Wichita State University in my hometown, lots of amazing people doing amazing things want to come work in places where they can go make money and be successful. They don’t care so much if it’s with an Indian company or an American company. They want to go out and use their skill set. If we can, at the State Department, lay the foundation for that, then I’m confident the folks in this room will knock it out of the park. They’ll take risk, they’ll invest capital, they’ll invest capital here and in India, and we’ll grow both sides of the relationship.
(Excerpted from the remarks of the US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at the India Ideas Summit and 44th Annual Meeting of the US-India Business Council)