I thank the Co-Chairs of the Senate India Caucus and Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans - Senator Warner, Senator Cornyn, Congressman Sherman and Congressman Holding for the warm welcome.
As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the US Congress and the Indian Parliament express the will of our people. The strong bi-partisan support for the towards India amongst the American people.
You need only look around this room to see the enthusiasm of your constituents who have flown in from all parts of the United States to be with us here today. It is no co-incidence that the bi-partisan India Caucus is the largest country specific Caucus on the Hill.
In my first few weeks in DC, I have had the opportunity to meet with senior Members of Congress who recalled fondly that they were champions of the India-US relationship long before it became fashionable. In fact, in the House of Representatives, the Caucus was founded 25 years ago, in 1993 by Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Congressman Bill McCollum of Florida. In the Senate, the Caucus was founded by Senator Cornyn and Senator Hillary Clinton in 2004.
Since then, at every step of the way, we have counted on your understanding and support as we continue to steer our countries ever closer. All in this room would recall the sterling role played by the India Caucus in getting us past the finish line on the landmark Civil Nuclear Agreement. The designation of India as a Major Defense Partner was also codified into law by the US Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, thanks to the unstinting support of the Members of the India Caucus.
Prime Minister Modi in his address to the Joint Session of the US Congress on 8 June 2016 had said, “our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history. Comfort, candour and convergence define our conversations.” I will look to the same comfort, candour and convergence as we work closely with Members of Congress, particularly the India Caucus to build upon the tremendous progress already made. Our synergies and similarities are immense, our values and love of freedom identical. The spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and high regard to family and community defines the best of both of our peoples.
I would not like to belabor the point of the tremendous progress made in bilateral ties but just to give you a sense –
our defense cooperation is stronger than ever before. We held the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue in September last year. Since 2008, the US has bagged more than $18 billion in arms contracts with India including the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport planes, P-8 (I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, M777 light-weight howitzer, Harpoon missiles and Apache and Chinook helicopters.
We have started the import of US crude and natural gas worth $ 4.5 billion every year
Our private airlines have placed orders for around 300 Boeing aircrafts to be delivered over the next 5 to 7 years that are worth around $ 39 billion and will create 130,000 American jobs.
We are working closely in the Indo-Pacific including with our partners Japan and Australia. In Afghanistan, we have invested $3 billion for economic development and re-construction efforts that are essential to bringing lasting peace and stability to the country.
The bilateral trade has risen to about $140 billion in 2018 from $126 billion the previous year and it is growing exponentially even as global trade is shrinking. US exports to India are growing around two-and-a-half times faster than Indian exports to the US.
The people-to-people connects between India and US are one of natural affinity and mutual attraction. Almost every American I have met has told me how he loves Indian food and almost every Indian you meet would tell you how they love Netflix, shopping on Amazon and posting updates on Facebook!
I am confident that with your continued support, we will realize the immense potential of this relationship which promises to be a defining one for the 21st century. As already mentioned by the Hon’ble Caucus co-Chairs, we hope that more Members of Congress will join them in the India Caucus and contribute to further strengthening the India-US strategic partnership. I look forward to working closely with the US Congress, particularly the India Caucus in advancing the multifaceted India-US relationship.