Ambassador Meera Shankar delivered an address on “Indo-US Relations: An Evolving Partnership” at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs on October 12, 2010 as part of the prestigious Distinguished Women in International Affairs and Ambassadors Forum Lecture series. (Full text is available on the website).
Ambassador Shankar pointed out that the timing of this event was particularly apt in view of the upcoming first ever State Visit of President Obama to India in November which promised to be a landmark visit in consolidating the achievements in the relationship in recent years and setting out a vision and direction for the future of the Indo-US strategic partnership. She added that India looked forward to President Obama’s visit with great hope and optimism.
She stressed the importance of shared values, increasingly convergent interests, growing economic ties and connections between peoples in the ongoing process of strengthening this partnership. She described specific forward-looking developments in various areas of bilateral cooperation, including counter-terrorism, defence, nuclear energy, energy security, space, science and technology, trade and investment, education, agriculture and other fields. She emphasized that the growing multifaceted cooperation had, over the years, acquired a deep strategic character, which is recognized by both governments.
Describing the Civil Nuclear Agreement as both a symbol and instrument of transformation in India-US relations Ambassador Shankar said that India hoped to commence commercial negotiations with US companies shortly. She also focused on the growing defence cooperation as an area that reflected deeper mutual trust, adding that bilateral defence trade had rapidly risen to over US$ 4 billion in the last few years with another $4 billion in the pipeline through the FMS route. She highlighted the common concerns about terrorism and the closer counter-terrorism cooperation, particularly after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. The focus now was on strengthening exchange of intelligence and information sharing best practices and capacity building.
In the backdrop of India’s impressive economic growth, Ambassador said that the growing economic partnership with the United States is defined by mutual benefit not mutual vulnerability, as these ties were developing in a balanced manner in both directions, underlining the enormous opportunities for high technology trade and shared endeavours in innovation. She said that a facilitative export control framework in the US would be crucial to realize the full potential and was optimistic about progress in this regard. She also explained how the governments were actively striving to build stronger collaboration in the areas of agriculture, energy and education, including through putting in place new institutional linkages.
Ambassador Shankar specifically acknowledged the important role played by the 2.7 million strong Indian American community as a bridge for strengthening bilateral ties, adding that the popular goodwill and broad political support for this relationship in both countries across changes in governments and administrations was a special asset.
Besides bilateral issues, Ambassador continued that India and the US held regular and candid dialogue on Afghanistan and Pakistan; exchanged views and coordinated approaches on other developments in South Asia, and that the two sides had commenced a dialogue on East Asia and the evolving Asian economic and security architecture. In the broader Asian and global context the two sides had also commenced exploratory discussions on how they could work together for the safety of the global commons -- including Maritime Security and the domains of Space and Cyber Space. She added that India and the US must also work together to reform the international architecture of global governance, including the U.N. Security Council in the interest of both greater legitimacy and effectiveness of these institutions.
Ambassador concluded her remarks with the assessment that this partnership was truly strategic in character and in the interest of not just the two countries themselves but for the wider world.