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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to the U.S.-India World Affairs Institute


Remarks
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
June 4, 2012

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Thank you Vinod [Jain] for bringing together this great group tonight and my thanks, as well, to the India-U.S. World Affairs Institute, the Asia Society, and the East West Center for hosting us and giving me the opportunity to preview the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue which will take place here in Washington next week. The SD, as our governments call it, is an annual, high-level series of bilateral meetings chaired by Secretary Clinton and the Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna.

Before I get to some of the details, I would like to say a few words about the essential role of Indian Americans in what we’ve accomplished in partnership with India, and where we see ourselves in the future. As I look out at so many familiar faces, people who share our vision of Americans and Indians working together, learning together, promoting peace and security together, and prospering together, I am reminded that all of you play an invaluable role in helping take this relationship to the next level.

There is perhaps no country in the world with whom we have traveled faster and farther than India over the last ten years. While the extensive consultations we have on a government-to-government level are an essential part of our ever-expanding bilateral relationship, its heart, its core, is all of you – the incredible citizens of both countries.

We share with India a vibrant two-way exchange of entrepreneurs, executives, students, professors, and scientists that has come to serve as a model for others around the world. Our business ties have prospered. Our education and research partnerships have set the standard for innovation. And the common thread -- from the classrooms of Chennai and Charlottesville to the boardrooms in Mumbai and Minneapolis -- is the passionate and committed Indian American community. All of you are helping shape and guide one of the defining bilateral relationships of the 21st century.

Indian Americans have also helped write the story of this nation. President Obama reminded us just a few weeks ago at a gala celebrating our Asian Pacific American heritage of “the trailblazer” Dalip Singh Saund. As a young man in 1920 he came to the U.S.to study agriculture, stayed to become a farmer, and took on the cause of citizenship for all people of South Asian descent.

And once Mr. Saund earned his own citizenship, he stepped up to serve the country he loved -- and became the first Asian American elected to the Congress. Even the youngest Indian Americans are making their mark. Nine of the past 13 national spelling bee champions have been Indian American children whose abilities are surely the envy of all of us who must rely on our computers and smartphones to catch our spelling errors.

From Congress to the National Spelling Bee, the Indian American community is one of the most energetic and successful diaspora groups in the United States. You have one of the highest per capita incomes of any diaspora group, and Indian Americans are increasingly active in American politics as the success of Governors Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley and so many others shows.

Indian Americans who work tirelessly to improve ties between the United States and India and the lives of their fellow citizens in both countries are a powerful symbol of the best of America: our commitment to community service, our idealism, and our optimism.

To support that unwavering commitment to philanthropy and service, one of my objectives as Assistant Secretary has been to facilitate American generosity towards India. India is home to about 1.5 million NGOs, but much of their work is not fully known here in the United States. In addition, it is not easy to identify the NGOs credible enough to receive a donor’s money.

We are helping to change this. We will soon launch, in partnership with the Indian non-profit – GuideStar India, an online searchable database of Indian NGOs. It will include organizations that have been vetted to ensure they are accountable and transparent so the maximum can go to the intended beneficiaries.

This site will also list all the intermediary institutions that can facilitate tax-deductible donations. We have signed on prominent participants including leaders in the India philanthropy space like GiveIndia, Global Giving, and Give2Asia. By matching a list of certified Indian NGOs with potential American donors, we hope to create an efficient philanthropy marketplace that will grow the overall sector, making it a win-win proposition for all. In today’s budget-constrained environment, such public-private strategies strengthen not only our international economic development efforts, but also the crucial people-to-people ties that bind our two great countries and form a network of partnership that undergirds everything we do.

Secretary Clinton calls it smart power. It’s impossible for any government, no matter how well-meaning, to meet all of the challenges we face, from natural disasters, to economic stagnation, to poverty or civil unrest. While we have a very strong force in our organized government efforts, fostering people-to-people exchanges is the core of smart power. It is also smart to prepare our rising leadership and workforce to know and understand India.

Our new Passport to India initiative is one way that the South and Central Asia Affairs Bureau is promoting smart power. The goal of Passport to India is to significantly increase the number of Americans who visit India for a study and learning experience abroad. The most recent data showed that while nearly 104,000 Indians study here in the United States, fewer than 4,000 Americans study in India. That number is far too low. Indian students in American communities and American students in Indian communities create the friendships and linkages we are working to build. Secretary Clinton and I see expanding opportunities for American students in India as a major investment in three key areas.

It’s an investment in U.S.- India relations, it’s an investment in the American and global economies, and it is an investment in our young people so they have the skills and experience they need to succeed in their professional lives. For our rising generation to be globally competitive, they must know and understand India. The Passport to India initiative is a public-private partnership. To date, we have pledges from both U.S. and Indian private entities to support 225 internship opportunities for American students over the next 3 years in India-based organizations, and we are working hard to generate more. Interns will work side by side with their Indian peers to work on software development in IT companies, on innovation and management practices in manufacturing firms, and on the needs of the marginalized and underserved with local NGOs.

It all comes down to one thing: By building the next generation of leaders who are well versed in each other’s culture, language and business, we will be better prepared to work together and resolve common challenges for the benefit of not only our two countries, but for the international community as well. All of you have already done so much to support the collaborations between Americans and Indians from which ideas come to life. You know the United States and you know India and you know the limitless potential that exists when we get together. Last month in New Delhi, Secretary Clinton re-emphasized that the United States and India are “two great democracies with common values and increasingly convergent interests.”

It is those common values and convergent interests that guide our strategic ties, and serve as our compass as we develop bilateral ties uniquely suited to the challenges of the century ahead. The U.S-India Strategic Dialogue helps us to build that consensus. Over the last three years, our two exceptional nations have expanded our areas of cooperation to reflect 21st century needs, partnering across areas as diverse as education, clean energy and defense. It’s not an exaggeration to say that even the sky is not the limit – we discuss cooperation in space, too!

Our regional and homeland security cooperation has never been stronger. On Afghanistan, the United States and India share a commitment to that country’s stable and prosperous future and have each signed Strategic Partnership Agreements with the Afghan government. The SD will give us a chance to together build on the momentum from the NATO Summit in Chicago, while preparing for the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in July. Our nations share a distinct vision for economic integration in the South and Central Asian region. This will be a theme that plays prominently in discussions between Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna that are likely to include India’s Look East policy, integration opportunities between India, Bangladesh, and increasingly Burma; and developments in Afghanistan. Our partnership has paved the way for real-time information sharing of terrorist threats and sharing of best practices that keep our nations and our neighbors safe. We continue to support an unprecedented number of exchanges between city and high-level federal officials alike, which focus on port, border, and transportation security, illicit finance, and cyber crime issues.

On Friday, May 25, we held the 13th annual Counterterrorism Joint Working Group meeting in Washington. Ambassador Dan Benjamin, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator, and his Indian counterpart, Special Secretary Asoke Mukerji, along with representatives from across the interagency, met to discuss issues related to counterterrorism and homeland security. This dialogue has been the cornerstone of our counterterrorism relationship with the Indians since 2000. This year, the sides discussed efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism finance, as well as to see the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks brought to justice.

Our two national security councils will also host a second round of U.S.-India Cyber Consultations early next week to further advance our bilateral coordination on key cyber policy issues and to enhance information sharing between our governments in support of counterterrorism and cybercrime mitigation. Following these consultations, the U.S. and India will re-convene their longstanding Information and Communication Technology Working Group, which has a history of bringing government and private sector participants together to resolve challenges and identify opportunities for greater growth and collaboration in the ICT space.

On the margins of the Strategic Dialogue, we will have a day-long Higher Education Dialogue which is a follow on to last fall’s Higher Education Summit and will focus on two key areas identified there: advanced research and innovation and workforce development, specifically, community colleges.

With respect to higher education collaboration, I am delighted that we will announce during the Dialogue the first eight partnership projects to be funded jointly by the United States and India through the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. These three-year, approximately quarter-million dollar grants will be used for joint projects between American and Indian universities in the areas of food security, energy, climate change and public health, among others.

Representatives from across our science and technology communities will participate in a Joint Committees Meeting to review progress in advancing S&T cooperation, including retention and advancement of women in science and engineering, and STEM education. This is an area with unlimited potential.

Secretary Clinton and Indian Minister of External Affairs Krishna – the two co-chairs of the Strategic Dialogue – will highlight a series of grants for entrepreneurial projects that seek to improve health and empower citizens through innovation. These aren’t government handouts with strings attached; they are meant to spur legitimate economic growth and encourage the invention and scaling of disruptive technologies.

We are also hosting the Child Survival Call to Action, about which I’ll let Assistant Administrator Biswal say more. On the health and innovation side, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will brief on her trip to India earlier in the year, and ways that our two countries can address the most public health challenges of the 21st century. We have a great opportunity to work with India globally, to address chronic disease and strengthen health systems, a testament to both our countries’ global reach, which is only multiplied when we do so in tandem.

But, governments can only provide part of the solution. Our two countries – indeed, the world – need all of you to leverage their unique on-the-ground insights and expertise to help facilitate the collaboration that leads to the big ideas that yield real results. I applaud everyone here tonight for your efforts in helping to bring our two great nations – two great democracies – ever closer together. Because of you, the bond between the United States and India is stronger every day.

You do business with India, you conduct research in India, you teach Indian students. You know what the impact of a policy decision in Washington or New Delhi really is and how it matters to the work you do and the people with whom you collaborate. Thank you for having me here this evening and thank you for all you do to make the partnership between the United States and India successful, globally relevant, and enduring.



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