DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I’m delighted to be back in India. I’m very grateful for the hospitality of my friend, Ambassador Nancy Powell, and grateful for the opportunity to meet with you at the start of my visit. I look forward very much to meeting later today with the Prime Minister, with the National Security Advisor, the Foreign Secretary and a number of other senior government and party leaders. I should add that I enjoyed very much the opportunity to meet with Minister Khurshid in Almaty a little more than a week ago at the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Meeting.
This is I think my tenth visit to India in the last five years, during which I served both as Under Secretary for Political Affairs and now as Deputy Secretary. I’m proud to have worked over two American administrations with some very capable Indian colleagues to strengthen the strategic partnership between the United States and India, which, as you know, President Obama has called “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st Century.” The success of both of our countries in the coming decades depends significantly on the success of our relationship
With strong support across political party lines in both of our countries, we have come a long way together in a relatively short time. I remember well the completion of our historic Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008, and I remember the similarly historical visits of Prime Minister Singh to the United States in 2009 and President Obama to India in 2010.
Despite inevitable challenges, we continue to make significant advances in key areas of our relationship, and much more is possible in the years ahead. In economic cooperation, our bilateral trade will likely exceed $100 billion in 2013. We each have done a considerable amount to remove impediments to increased growth in trade and investment, including in high technology and defense trade. Restarting and concluding negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty, it seems to me, should be a top priority over the coming year. And our CEO Forum meets again this summer to explore other steps that we could take.
In defense cooperation, we continue an active program of military exercises and exchanges, and U.S. defense sales to India already total some $8 billion. There’s more we can do together in co-development and co-production.
In climate and energy cooperation, we’ve built a strong collaborative relationship, and much more is possible on clean energy and renewables as well as in natural gas.
In educational cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, we’re making valuable strides and we’ll have another round of our Higher Education Dialogue shortly.
In counter-terrorism cooperation, we’ve made important progress since the terrible attack in Mumbai in 2008. There will be another round of our Homeland Security Dialogue later this month in Washington.
And on regional and global cooperation, we’re continuing to broaden and deepen our work together. I reaffirmed to Minister Khurshid when we met in Almaty late last month that we see India as an essential partner in Afghanistan. We greatly appreciate the leading role India continues to play in fostering regional economic cooperation and private sector investment in Afghanistan. We also welcome the progress made with Pakistan in building trade and investment ties, and hope this will continue as a new administration comes to office after elections in Pakistan tomorrow.
And as both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have emphasized, the United States welcomes India’s role across the Asia Pacific region, especially in light of our shared interest in promoting maritime security and greater connectivity between India and Southeast Asia. We support India and China working together to settle boundary issues peacefully, and to build a strong and healthy relationship.
I know Secretary Kerry looks forward very much to discussing all of these areas of cooperation when he comes to India this summer for the Strategic Dialogue, and I know that he attaches very high priority to U.S.-Indian partnership.
Now I’d be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: You said you’d be meeting a lot of party leaders. Will you be meeting some other political party leaders?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Without going into the details of my agenda, as I said, it’s a full schedule today of senior government and party leaders. As I’ve always tried to do on my visits to India, it’s a good opportunity to meet party leaders, especially given the support for our partnership that cuts across party lines in both of our countries.
QUESTION: One of the big ideas which turned the U.S.-India relationship was the civ nuke deal. And often, you must have heard this several times.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I have.
QUESTION: But at the same time, the progress on it has been, has had its own obstacles, particularly in India with the (nuclear) liability legislation. At the same time now we hear that the Westinghouse talks have actually moved forward.
So where are we exactly in terms of having the first U.S. reactor installed in India? And have we actually crossed the hurdle of the liability issues, which the Americans had?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: First, I’d stress again that the United States remains fully committed to the implementation of the Civil Nuclear Agreement, of the 123 Agreement, that came into force in 2008. The process of moving ahead has been a complicated one, not surprisingly, but it was significant as you mentioned that Westinghouse entered into a Memorandum of Understanding last June to negotiate an early works agreement, and my impression is that there’s been steady progress on that. We obviously continue to support very much the contributions that American firms can make in working with India to develop an important part of the energy sector here, civilian nuclear energy, and we hope for continued progress in that direction.
We’ve had concerns, we continue to have concerns about liability legislation, but, as I said, we’re continuing to work those through with our Indian counterparts.
QUESTION: Do we see any kind of technical commercial agreement happening soon?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I hope very much that in the case of Westinghouse that they’ll be able to continue to make progress and to follow through on the promise of the MOU that was agreed last June, and certainly we’ll continue to strongly support that effort because we believe it’s very much in the interests of both of our countries, and certainly in India’s long-term interest, developing that important part of the energy sector here and taking advantage of what American firms have to contribute to it.
QUESTION: As far as the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue is concerned, which are the main areas you are looking at, the U.S. is looking at to explore as far as the India-U.S. relationship is concerned?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I mentioned some of them in my opening remarks, but I think there remains significant potential in our economic relationship. There are more steps that we can take as governments to ease barriers and obstacles in the path of greater trade and investment in a whole variety of sectors. I look forward to discussing with the Prime Minister and others later today some of the steps that India has already taken to open up foreign direct investment opportunities. We think it’s very much in India’s self-interest to continue down that path as it seeks to increase growth levels and create jobs in this country.
I mentioned earlier that a Bilateral Investment Treaty would be a significant contribution to those goals. In defense cooperation, there’s a good deal more that we can do in co-production and co-development. People-to-people exchanges, given the ties between our two societies, are extremely important. That’s particularly true in education. We talked a little bit about the energy sector already: clean and renewable energy are important areas of cooperation and there’s potential in gas. There are some decisions that need to be made in the United States about LNG exports, but I think there’s considerable potential in that area as well.
As I said also in my opening comments, we have developed a pattern of consultation on a range of regional issues, not only in India’s imQUESTION:te neighborhood but across the Asia Pacific, in the Middle East and elsewhere, which reflect the fact that we’re developing a stronger and more mature partnership.
QUESTION: You mentioned about the Bilateral Investment promotion, Investment Treaty. We have been talking about, both of the countries are talking about this treaty for long. Where it is? What is the present status of this treaty and how soon we can expect this treaty to --
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: We’ve had discussions on this before. Each of us has been looking at what the framework should be for bilateral investment treaties. I think there’s an opportunity now, looking ahead not just to the Strategic Dialogue, but to the relationship over the next few years, to renew those negotiations and seek to complete them as soon as possible.
So, it seems to me that that’s an area in which our two governments could give a real boost to the prospects for growth in trade and investment between us.
QUESTION: There’s a lot of internal thinking happening on the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs). I think. We also have a situation in Bilateral Investment Agreements with everybody.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: But on the defense thing, the Defense Initiative, which is being talked about, the Defense Technology Initiative. It seems that those functional agreements are not exactly on the front burner, the old one. With this initiative, how much work has to be done in the United States in terms of getting laws or exemptions in place, something like that? What’s the mechanics of it? If you can explain to us in terms of having co-development and co-production, make it possible to --
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: The challenge is to find some practical projects, some practical opportunities that make sense to both of our governments and both of our militaries. I think we’ve had a very intensive set of exchanges on these issues. We’ve had senior delegations from our Defense Department in Delhi recently. We have a steady series of exchanges including the regular defense policy consultation coming up in the next few weeks.
We’ve made some concrete suggestions about areas in which we think co-production and co-development would make sense for both countries, and we just need to sort through the practicalities of that with our Indian counterparts. But there’s a strong commitment on the U.S. side to taking the defense cooperation relationship to the next level, and we understand very well that that means moving ahead in co-production and co-development.
QUESTION: If you can just --
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: I don’t want to get into the specific cases, but there are several that we’ve suggested recently. We look forward in the coming weeks and months to seeing if we can identify one that makes sense for both of us and we’ll move ahead on it.
But we’ve already cut through on our side at least some of the red tape and the obstacles that have existed in the past.
QUESTION: Does the FDI limit in defense bother you over here?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Certainly we think it’s very much in India’s own self-interest and the interest of economic growth in India to look at ways in which, building on steps already taken in recent months, further measures can be taken to raise caps to allow for greater investment in that sector as well as in other sectors.
QUESTION: You’ve been also raising pension insurance in all of these sectors as well.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: There are a number of other sectors where I think there would be real benefit to the Indian economy to taking those steps. I recognize they’re complicated issues. They’re India’s sovereign choice. But I think looked at in terms of India’s self-interest, there’s real benefit there.
QUESTION: In India we are hearing a term called policy paralysis. Being the largest trading partner of India, how much U.S. experience is policy paralysis kind of thing in the recent past, and especially in the case of the defense deals? We see more of the deals are through the FMS route. So, and the tenders and the competitive bidding process has taken a back seat in the recent past. So how do you look at these things?
And we came to know that this time you won’t be meeting the Defense Minister. Is it right?
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: There have been senior delegations from our Defense Department who have been here, so I think there’s been a very active dialogue between our Defense Ministries on a range of issues.
I mentioned earlier that we have something like $8 billion in defense sales from the United States to India already in the pipeline. I think a great deal more is possible.
And, just to reemphasize, we want to try to take this to the next level so that we’re working in the spheres of co-production and co-development as well.
So I think the defense relationship is one where there’s considerable potential for growth across a wide range of cooperative possibilities.
QUESTION: You’ve seen the recent China incursion incident over here. How do you react to that? Because China is a global issue.
And second, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Are you going to travel to any of those places? And there have been issues the Indians have had about whether the peace in Kabul has to go through Islamabad as well as Washington. So these two issues --
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Two nice, easy questions.
First on China. As I said in my opening remarks, we hope very much that China and India will be able to work together on longstanding boundary disputes in a peaceful manner and it’s encouraging, I think, that Minister Khurshid, as I understand it, is in China today. We support the healthiest and strongest possible relationship between India and China.
We very much support and welcome India’s contributions to successful transitions in Afghanistan as we look at the end of 2014, including in governance and in the transition in Afghanistan’s economy. I think India can play a very important role as a democratic model in working to help strengthen democratic institutions and governance in Afghanistan. It obviously plays an important role in encouraging private investment in Afghanistan and in encouraging Afghanistan’s neighbors to see their stake in not only a stable Afghanistan but also a more prosperous Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: It’s nice to see you again.