Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO, USISPF,
Ambassador Tim Roemer, USISPF Board Member
It is a pleasure to join all of you through the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum today. I always find interactions with USISPF enriching and valuable.
2. Since its establishment, the USISPF has made a significant contribution to bolstering the India-U.S. partnership, particularly on trade and economic ties. Its consistent support and contribution towards strengthening the India-U.S. partnership are commendable. We also deeply appreciate the proactive outreach and substantial assistance extended by USISPF during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India in May-June this year.
3. As the year 2021 concludes, it is a good opportunity to meet today and take stock of the progress made in the India-US relations in the past year.
4. The India-US dialogue and engagement across sectors has remained regular, vibrant and productive. Prime Minister Modi’s regular dialogue with President Biden, and his visit to the US in September was the highlight of our bilateral agenda this year. Prime Minister Modi also participated in important Summits hosted by President Biden, including the Leaders' Summit on Climate, Global Covid Summit, Global Summit on Supply Chain Resilience, Build Back Better for the World event and the Summit for Democracy. Prime Minister also met Vice President Kamala Harris. In the words of Prime Minister, India and the U.S. are entering a decade of transformation, in which trade, talent, technology and climate actions would play an important role. The most remarkable feature of these meetings was the mutual desire for broadening the scope of our bilateral partnership to global issues of mutual interest.
5. These meetings had a modern agenda centred around the defining challenges of our time, such as the situation in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific, COVID-19 pandemic, emerging and critical technologies, climate, space, and the healthcare sector. When they met on the sidelines of the G20 and COP26 Summits, Prime Minister Modi and President Biden discussed global economic recovery, climate actions and sustainable development.
6. Several important visits have taken place this year – at the Ministerial and official level. Many of our Joint Working Groups met inspite of the pandemic. These meetings were important for sustaining the pace of interaction across domains, and identifying roadmaps and opportunities.
7. I would like to share some thoughts on important aspects of our bilateral trade. As you are aware, there was a rebound in bilateral merchandise trade this year, with almost 50% growth over the same period last year. Bilateral merchandise trade in 2021 is set to surpass USD100 billion. The Trade Policy Forum met recently resulting in a mutual agreement on market access for some items. Our Commerce & Industry Minister and the US Trade Representative have agreed to work together to resolve outstanding trade issues to reach convergence in the near future. Both sides would be in regular contact to identify specific trade outcomes which can be finalised by mid-2022. We understand that the proposed restoration of GSP Scheme is pending approval of US Congress. The meetings of CEO Forum and Commercial Dialogue early next year would also be useful opportunities to take forward our bilateral trade agenda.
8. Two-way investments are also growing with the US now placed as the second largest investor in India in 2020-21. India’s economic reform process, such as the liberalisation of FDI in insurance, elimination of retrospective provision in income tax etc., are aimed at creating a conducive environment. Policy measures such as the Production Linked Incentives schemes in different sectors are providing a big push to manufacturing in India. We welcome US private sector capital to support India’s infrastructure needs, including through the National Infrastructure and Investment Fund. Our Finance Minister discussed and highlighted these opportunities during her visit to the US in October this year.
9. As both India and the US are taking steps to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent geoeconomic changes, there are opportunities for building resilient supply chains in several sectors. For instance, our strong history of collaboration in the field of public health can be leveraged for a global partnership. Given India’s credentials in the pharmaceutical sector and the presence of India’s pharma companies in USA, our respective industries and governments can join hands, with the objective of delivering affordable healthcare on a global basis. With new COVID variants we have to be agile and ensure development of cost effective and safe vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. To ramp up production of these healthcare goods we need open and reliable supply chains so that we are well prepared to combat such pandemics in the future.
10. In the defence sector, Secretary Austin’s visit early under the new Administration was very useful. The Defence Policy Group’s several other institutional mechanisms have met. We welcome the announcement about joint development for UAVs under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative. Given the fact that defence cooperation has consolidated significantly in recent years and India has the status of major defence partner, it is logical that there is further depth and diversity in the defence sector with expansion of interaction between the respective industry sectors. The Industrial Security Annexe Summit held this year was a good beginning.
11. As there is already extensive collaboration between our respective industries, if Government and private stakeholders build on the existing innovation ecosystem in defence industries for co-development and co-production, it would be of mutual benefit in the long term. At the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue early next year, we hope to discuss some of these themes.
12. In the run-up to the COP-26 Summit, climate and clean energy was another area where there was considerable engagement. Prime Minister and President Biden launched the Agenda 2030 partnership, which envisages closer collaboration in clean energy and climate actions. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry infused a new momentum in bilateral dialogue on climate issues. We welcome the US joining the International Solar Alliance recently.
13. As you are aware, our Prime Minister announced India’s climate ambitions and commitments at COP-26 in the form of five nectar elements or Panchamrit. These included: enhancing non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030; meeting 50% of our energy requirement from renewable energy by 2030; reducing India’s projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes and carbon intensity of our economy by less than 45 per cent by 2030; and achieving the target of net zero by 2070.
14. As India moves forward to fulfilling these goals, several opportunities will arise. B-to-B and G-to-G modes of cooperation can be explored by USISPF members under the bilateral Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP) and other platforms. Under SCEP, we are upscaling the renewable energy pillar and have set up Task Forces for Biofuels and Low Emission Gas. There are also opportunities for strengthening the electricity grid in India to support integration with renewables. Most importantly, we welcome engagement with the US on climate finance, and scaling innovative clean technologies so that our commitments under COP-26 can be fulfilled smoothly.
15. Recent developments have shown that critical technologies such as 5G, AI, Cyber security, Blockchain etc. are instrumental both for businesses and national security and efficient governance in our countries. There are growing concerns about issues of reliability and trust aspects of these technologies that need to be addressed. India and the US are two knowledge economies that are renowned for large IT and tech companies with global footprints. We are therefore natural partners for initiating and consolidating strategic corporate collaborations, which build on these strength and complementarities. Stronger bilateral linkages in these sectors will support resilient and secure global chains and help both sides become more competitive and regain the technological edge.
16. Education is one of the pillars of our bilateral agenda, which has been instrumental in the robust and vibrant people-to-people linkages and flow of talent and knowledge between our countries. The Indian diaspora in the US and several other stakeholders have built a solid foundation of education exchanges and R&D. This can be further strengthened by pursuing opportunities under the New Education Policy of India. Universities on both sides could look at offering online content and courses aimed at skilling not only our students but also our tech workers to keep up with the changing requirements and skill demands.
17. As we close the chapter on 2021 and usher in 2022, we are also looking at continuing our engagement under the Quad framework. With two leader level Summits this year and several working groups set up to address contemporary priorities, we have our task cut out to implement the vision of our leaders for a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific. Vaccine delivery under the Quad framework will commence in early 2022 to countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Other initiatives are also in the pipeline.
18. Business advocacy bodies and the corporate sector are important stakeholders in the India-US strategic partnership. As Governments, we have been in regular dialogue with the industry to seek feedback and suggestions, and to co-opt the industry in our efforts to further strengthen the India-US collaboration. We invite you to work together to adapt to the new challenges and opportunities arising with the evolving geopolitical and geo-economic landscape.