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EAM's interaction on 3rd USISPF Annual Leadership Summit (August 31, 2020)

September 02, 2020

Mr Tim Roemer: The question is about your pending new book "India Way" and you talk about all the transformation and change in the world, you talk about how this requires a bolder (Inaudible) relationship with your neighbours and a bigger footprint for India in the world. This sounds like a strategy. How are you getting on this strategy?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, look first of all Tim, great to see you and like you I want to thank, recognize John and Mukesh, I think they've done a fantastic job in USISPF and you know, I miss the period when I was part of the board, so it's great to have the opportunity to join this event. In terms of how we look, you know at the world, obviously today India's growth has to be a lifting tide for the entire region. We need to invest in the neighbourhood. We need to build more connectivity projects, and we already doing that, I mean if you look at it, in the last five years India is a supplier of electricity to most of its neighbours, fuel to many of them, you were saying, you know, more waterways, ports, railways. So, there is a lot of regional investment which India is making today and our sense is you're going to get a much better, integrated region, a much more connected region. But, one needs to go beyond that. I think today there is a very ambitious India-Africa policy out there, we are trying to, you know, we are opening missions and embassies in almost all the countries, expanding our projects, doing more business out there, and of course, with the more developed world, with the established markets, again, we've been very supportive of greater business activity. So, when I speak of a larger Indian Global footprint, I just don't mean a diplomatic footprint, you know, we also are looking at an economic footprint, a technology footprint, in some way a security footprint, that's the kind of relationship we think we should be heading for.

Mr Tim Roemer: So along these lines and I want to get to about seven or eight questions following this one for our listeners and followers, especially in the business community. We have about a 149 billion now, currently going on in two-way trade between the United States and India, Jai, as you know, and many people on this call are interested in building a mutually beneficial relationship. What are some of the things people on this call can do to help get over some of the hurdles and obstacles that are currently in the path of a more conducive economic relationship for both sides?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well, I think from the Indian side, obviously we see the path of economic recovery after Corona as very much focused on improving ease of doing business, of actually looking at the specific problems which companies have, so you're going to see a much stronger (Inaudible) to be sort of approach to that particular domain. You have already, you're already seeing policies which are promotional of greater business energies, and you’ve seen on the electronic hardware side, you know, production linked incentive policies. You've seen on the agriculture side, you know, freeing up the market for farmers in a much better way. I think you're going to get many more policies which would attract, which would incentivize investment and working together. But, shifting gears I would say, you know, there are two big lessons out of the Corona period. One, it's actually made us all very much more digital, including the fact that I'm talking to you in the way in which I am, in our daily habits in different ways. It's also brought out the importance of resilient and trusted supply change. You know, we need in the world today partners, who can be depended on even in difficulties. So, I think those are, you know, very important drivers of future business between us. Today, we have I think a level of political trust between India and the United States, which we didn't in the past. It's expanded to different domains, which you know, we've seen the defence landscape transform, we've seen an energy business come out of nowhere. My senses today all of that how do we use that to really build more comfort and confidence on the business side. I see that happening in the next year or two.

Mr Tim Roemer: That's great to hear and I agree with you that that defence relationship can pave the way for maybe some breakthroughs on the commercial side as well too. So, as we talk about this defence relationship, Mr Minister, and the US are growing closer and closer all the time, when officials meet hopefully in person for the third Indo-US TwoplusTwo meeting late October, these talks are going to cover many important things, probably tensions with China, air and missile defence systems, anti-submarine warfare, the Indo-Pacific broader cooperation could consist of you know, talking about the quads and expanding the quads, we also could have a breakthrough on one more of the foundation agreement, something I worked on a few years ago, try to get all three of those done, we could get to the last one. How do you think this is going to go in October between India and the United States? Do you think we're going to have a series of continued deepening of the ties and where specifically do you see that?

Dr S Jaishankar: You know Tim, listening to you, I felt that for a few moments that you almost had the agenda of the meeting. At least, you're trying to set it. I'd say this is what we have seen, you know, over the last many years is a much stronger sort of convergence of interest, a much greater ability to work together. So, we've seen that initially begin with policy, then it moved on to exercises, then the way, you know, some of those defence trade. Today, there are American platforms which are in the Indian military inventory. So when you have policy, exercises, equipment all coming together, then obviously the convergence is certainly in this defence and security side deepen. Now, you know, we look upon it not as something which is tailored to a particular situation or necessarily focused on some country, this is not a short-term issue. It is a larger ability of India and the United States coming together looking at the world and saying, you know, what do we do, we think alike in so many ways, we have interests are so similar in so many domains. So, what do we do to actually secure the world, make it a better place? So, I'm not sure I would put it quite in the terms in which you put it. I mean to me this is a very important and integral part of a larger India-US, and in a sense a larger world situation that is coming into being. I think the United States is looking at, you know, a country like India, which is outside, you know, which has never been in any alliance situation, with a much more open mind then it used to in the past. And, India too on its part, is actually looking at you know countries with whom clearly there are strong identity of interests. So, it will become much more pragmatic perhaps than we have in the past, I think, it reflects our understanding of this changed landscape that we are living in.

Mr Tim Roemer: So along those lines, I agree with you completely that we've had so many breakthroughs with defence platforms, with agreements on the Indo-Pacific, with our sharing convergent views of an aggressive China. However, usual, you know, there's usually something that pops up, that causes, Jai, the diplomatic community, the gifted people like you, sleepless nights to work through. India's recently had an embargo, on a 101 defence and arms imports to be implemented progressively over the next few years and this creates some issues. How would you give advice to people on the perspective of, you know, getting through, navigating through these kinds of issues and back toward the agenda that you and I just discussed for the Two plus Two meeting?

Dr S Jaishankar: You know, I'm not even sure I'd use the word you used "embargo". I think, my understanding is that these are items where we hope that products would be made in India and if they're going to be made in India and frankly when I looked at that list, I mean these products should be made in India. I mean, given the fact that we have this manufacturing capability and you know, we are today among the top five economies of the world. So, I see no reason why they necessarily need to be bought from abroad. So, I actually think that there's a great opportunity here for countries to invest in defence manufacturing and actually the terms of investment have become much more liberal. So, I'd say very frankly to everybody through you, it's good for business, it's good for your business.

Mr Tim Roemer: Well, we certainly see a lot of challenges in China these days and a lot of US businesses are frustrated and aggravated there. They're looking is not to move from China when they establish new supply lines, new manufacturing partnerships, to look at the possibility of India and coming back home to America. So whatever India can do to, you know, put this into consideration and try to make sure we're local content we choose, you know, set aside requirements for, you know, for buying on the defence side, you know, let's try to make through we can navigate those issues for our perspective business. Let me jump back Jai to immigration and education. There are very strong people-to-people ties that we have between the United States and India, the vibrant diaspora here in the United States, the Indian community is becoming more and more powerful. Immigration is a key issue and Indians are a large and beneficial part of the recipient of H-1B work visas, where they get about 69.9% of those work visas. We think this is a very important to bring Indians here to the United States. How do we continue to strengthen these people-to-people ties and explain why this immigration policy is good for both countries?

Dr S Jaishankar: Did you know Tim, if I can just close out the previous question with one additional remark, which is that, how the direction that we are going in India, the policy that we are going to adopt is what we call, it's called "Atmanirbhar Bharat", which is like a more self-reliant India. But, what that means is try to, you know, it's a program to increase our national capacities, and obviously manufacturing capacity is very much at the heart of it. So, I would actually tell American business that look if India is growing, if India is seeking to expand its capacities, there's a real, you know, there's a whole lot of new business opportunities, which have opened up for you out there. And, if particularly India makes it easier to do business, it's also, you know been much more liberal in terms of ownership by foreign investment. So I just want to kind of stress that and also the fact that we are much more interested in sort of global value chains actually now including passing through India, you know, using Indian production capacities as part of a chain, and the fact that we would be seen as trusted and seen as resilient is something which should be helpful. Regarding the immigration issue, look again, you know, we are talking of a more digital world, we are talking of a more technology driven world, which really puts a premium on talent. Okay. Now, if there's one thing which India, I think can offer to the world, it is trusted talent. You, I mean, you see Indians working across companies in the world, I think they've always done well, they've always done what is the right thing in that particular environment. So, there is a great deal of regard and trust for Indians and people of Indian origin. The point I would make there is a more knowledge-driven global economy will require more trusted talent. I think that's an opportunity for India. It's an opportunity which would should be reflected to some degree in American immigration policies. I think immigration certainly is a win-win if you look you know, you had views on it, even in India in the last 15-20 years I don't think people think like that anymore, people recognize the enormous sort of role which actually Indian talent has made in the American economy, the global economy and cut back in India, you know, the catalytic role that they've had. So, I would certainly urge that this is an area where the United States should recognize what's in American interest and that believe me happens to be in Indian interest as well.

Mr Tim Roemer: Well said Jai and I agree there's intense, vibrant competition for talent and capital and supply chains and the more of the United States and India can work through some of these issues and have breakthroughs so that we are closer and closer on those fronts, the better our economic systems will be, the better recovery from covid and the stronger our democracy will be. Jai, you have spent a lot of time in China as Indian ambassador there. I want to ask a China question. But frame it in terms of pocket pod. Last week, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan said, quote "Pakistan's future is tied to China. We should be clear that our countries development has now been intertwined with China." Now, he walked back some of those remarks later, you know, he attributed some of that to the US signing the agreement with the Taliban and then Chinese investment in Pakistan. How do you see, you know, this aggressive China around the world, the South China Sea, to Huawei and technology and how does that play with your delicate relationship and important relationship with Pakistan?

Dr S Jaishankar: Well Tim, I think obviously like every other country in the world, we are very cognizant of the rise of China. We are an immediate neighbour of China. So obviously if you are a neighbour, you are very directly impacted by the rise of, you know, what is that I say in my book is a potential global power. Now, a lot of our attention obviously is - how do we find? I mean, India has also been rising in this period okay, maybe not to the same degree, at the same pace as China, but, if you look at the last 30 years, I mean clearly, India's rise has also been one of the major global stories. So, if you have two countries, two societies, a billion people each, you know with the history and culture that they have, it's very important that they reach some kind of understanding or equilibrium between them and, you know, this is a practical world, I mean if a country is going to get more powerful, we're going to see its influence in areas, in geographies we have not seen before. We're going to see activities and capabilities that we have not seen before. Now, we will see that from China and I dare say in some areas they will see it of us. So how do we, you know, this modus vivendi between India and China, I actually say in my book that this is extremely consequential for both countries and actually for the rest of the world. Now as regards, you know, China's relationship with Pakistan, it is not something that is new, and it goes back actually to the early 60s. Aspects of it have been of concern to us before even that is not new. And, obviously that is something which we factor in a relationship with both countries.

Mr Tim Roemer: Let me sum up here Jai and ask you one final question. You can spend a minute on it or as long as you'd like. How do you see America today from a military power, soft power and prestige perspective? Are they able to execute and achieve things from a strategic view point in the world today? How do you view America from that perspective?

Dr S Jaishankar: Tim, I would say, obviously the United States is going through its own debates, its own changes, its own conversations, and you know as a foreign country, we are very respectful of it, but we obviously follow it like the rest of the world with very great interest. The point I would make, which I do make with people in India is look, to a large extent these are your conversations, even if they impact the world. But, we Indians should be comforted by the fact that over many administrations of both Democratic and Republican, our relationship has steadily grown. And not just about many administrations, I mean if I come to Washington, I mean, I would have friends in both political parties and sometimes in different, you know, a wide diversity of opinions, not me necessarily personally, but even as a country. So, I think while we will, you know, obviously follow all these developments with deep interest, we look at the ramifications of your policy in different regions, I mean, right now for example, what's going on vis-à-vis Afghanistan, is a very deep interest to us. So, all of that would happen, but I have with every confidence that you know, the United States is the United States and in many ways you have a remarkable sort of sense of resilience and sort of, I would say, in many ways your footprint, your linkages you have with the world are really very unique and as an Indian Foreign Minister I am very assured by the fact that my relationship with the United States is in a very strong position.

Mr Tim Roemer: That's great to hear. Well you as always Jai have been succinct and brilliant in your answers. It's so good to see you. I hope we can get together soon. I want to say thank you on behalf of John Chambers and MukeshAghi and all the businesses with our partnership trying to work on deepening and improving US-India relations, I think it's the most important relationship, specially (Inaudible) democracy is going forward and I also at a personal record, Jai, want to just say, how fortunate the people of India are to have somebody of your talent and dedication of public service, from somebody who served in the United States and in China and around the world and now is External Affairs Minister, I was hopeful that your son would follow in your path and go into public service, but he's going to be doing well in the private sector, where I work at APCO worldwide, we work on technology all the time. So I wish him well and my friend I hope to see you in person soon. Thank you for your time this evening and this morning and I look forward to your success coming up with the Two plusTwo.

Dr S Jaishankar: Thank you. It's a pleasure. Take care. Good to see you.

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