Speeches & Articles
Remarks of Consul General Beth A. Payne on the Future of Indo-U.S. Relations
March 13, 2009
Professor Partha Pratim Basu, Head, Department of International Relations,
Professor (Ms.) Sanjukta Bhattacharya, Professor of International Relations,
Faculty members, research scholars and students
In January, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the United States’ 44th President. Several million people gathered in Washington DC and millions of others throughout the globe came together to witness this historic event. Americans and their friends from various communities, religions, and cultures shared in the celebration of a new beginning for the United States. Our relationship with India will be a central part of this new beginning as we forge ever stronger partnerships and friendships with the government and the people of India in a wide range of areas including art, culture, education, economics, international diplomacy, and security.
United States-India relations have never been stronger and President Obama has made further strengthening of this relationship a priority. He would like to see across-the-board growth in our relationship that reflects our shared interests, shared values, shared sense of challenges, and ever-burgeoning ties between our two economies and societies. India and the United States have shared interests in a number of areas, including stabilizing the world economy, bringing peace to the Middle East and South Asia, protecting the environment by finding alternative forms of affordable and clean energy, and ensuring that terrorists cannot threaten any country’s peace and harmony.
In forging this strong partnership, you will find that President Obama has an excellent understanding of Indian culture and values. He has found inspiration in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, whose portrait hung prominently in his Senate office. He explains that Gandhi “embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things.”
A major area where I expect an increase in partnerships between the United States and India is with the economy. The United States is confronting a serious economic crisis, which as you all know has had a major impact on the global economy. President Obama recognizes that the major economies, including those of China and India, are tightly linked and views India as South Asia’s economic powerhouse. President Obama has already taken unprecedented steps to stabilize the United States' economy and will be seeking advice and assistance from India in efforts to ensure that our economic growth corresponds with, and leads, global growth.
President Obama will continue to support initiatives that will increase trade between the United States and India. An example of the types of programs President Obama supports is the new office that the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently opened in New Delhi and Mumbai. The opening of the office comes at a time when India is the fourth largest exporter of medicinal drugs to the United States and a significant exporter of food products.
This office will ensure safety, effectiveness, and quality of India’s imports into the United States and will enable our two countries on a day-to-day basis to enhance cooperation, which we hope will lead to an increase in India exports to the United States. The FDA will post 10 experienced officials in India to work closely with industries that ship food and medical products to the United States, to improve safety and quality, which will facilitate the smooth flow of trade.
You can expect to see a much more active role by the Obama Administration in protecting the environment and addressing the challenges of climate change. President Obama believes the climate change crisis must not be underestimated, nor should the science behind it or the facts on the ground be ignored or dismissed. Like India, he believes that the time for realism and action is now. This administration recognizes that the solutions to this crisis are both domestic and global, that all nations bear responsibility and all nations must work together to find solutions. Under President Obama, America will take the lead in addressing climate change, both by making commitments of our own and engaging other nations to do the same.
President Obama has already committed to reach agreement on a post-2012 international effort to combat climate change. We see the December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen as a critical milestone and will work hard with our global partners, including India, to reach an agreement by then. President Obama has appointed a Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, who will serve as his principal advisor on international climate policy and strategy. He will be the Administration’s chief climate negotiator, and will lead our efforts with United Nations negotiations and processes involving a smaller set of countries and bilateral sessions.
President Obama sees Pakistan and Afghanistan as “the central front in the fight against terrorism” and is committed to forging a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. Like India, we want to see Pakistan succeed as a moderate, modern, democratic country. The Obama administration will use diplomacy, development, and defence to root out al-Qaida, the Taliban and other violent extremists.
One of President Obama’s first actions was to appoint Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as his special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve coordination among United States agencies and to actively seek advice and assistance from countries such as India, who share our goal of rebuilding Afghanistan. During his visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India last month, Ambassador Holbrooke underscored the promotion of human rights and democracy including protecting civilians and developing institutions. These are essential to fostering greater stability and security in the region.
President Obama will continue unprecedented cooperation with Indian security officials in investigating terrorist attacks such as those in Mumbai on November 26, with the goal of identifying those responsible for these reprehensible attacks and bringing them to justice. He will seek an in increase in intelligence and law enforcement cooperation between the United States and India to protect against terrorist attacks. The chief of our Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, travelled to India recently to work on the next steps in counter-terrorism cooperation. By sharing information about terrorist plans and activities and taking joint action against terrorist cells and organizations, we can better ensure that terrorists are unable to operate on Indian and United States’ soil and against Indian and United States interests anywhere in the world.
In President Obama’s own words: “As we learned so painfully on 9/11, terror cannot be contained by borders, nor safety provided by oceans alone. We were reminded of this threat once again when terrorists took the lives of six American among nearly 200 victims in Mumbai. In the world we seek, there is no place for those who kill innocent civilians to advance hateful extremism. I told Prime Minister Singh that Americans stand with the people of India in this dark time. And I am confident that India's great democracy is more resilient than killers who would tear it down.”
In our efforts to combat terrorism, however, the Obama Administration will not sacrifice American values – democracy, rule of law, respect for our Constitution and international law – all values that India shares. On his first day in office, President Obama signed three executive orders, emblematic of the change that his new administration represents, to close Guantanamo within one year, apply military procedures to all interrogations and review the USG detention policy. He has, in no uncertain terms, reaffirmed that terrorism must be fought, without, however, sacrificing our core democratic values.
In our two nations there is openness and robust debate – our free and professional media is a pillar of our respective democracies. We are both committed to democracy as the best way to achieve our dreams, to address grievances and resolve differences. In both our nations, diversity is our strength and democracy a force of social unity.
President Obama could have been describing India when he said in his inaugural speech “for we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth ... We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.” With these shared values and common interests, India will be an important and valued partner as America plays its role in ushering in a new era of peace.