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Personally, I’ve seen that friendship come a long way in the last 20 years. When I first visited India nearly two decades ago, I led the first U.S. Congressional trade delegation as an historic step at the moment that the first financial reforms were taking place, interestingly then under the Finance Minister Singh. And I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to your beautiful country on a number of occasions since that visit. I’ve been there during times of both great joy and also sadness.
Both of our countries have learned too well the pain of terrorism. After the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, I met with Prime Minister Singh, and that’s a meeting that I’ll never forget. And when President Obama recognized the Prime Minister as a guest of honor and talked about the depth and personal nature of our nations’ friendship at his first state dinner, I was also privileged to be there.
I remember fondly the intense work that we did together to get the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement approved in Congress, and I was proud to lead that effort in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was a very important vote, one that symbolized the broad bipartisan support for our relationship, the transformation of our ties, and our confidence in each other as strategic partners. Now, as we look forward to its full implementation as soon as possible, we’re going to have to continue to cooperate together.
Today, the U.S. and India collaborate closely in almost every field of human endeavor. Together, we are tackling shared challenges and making the most of new opportunities. From higher education to clean energy, from counterterrorism to space science, we are seizing new opportunities to work together, and in doing so, we’re increasing the prosperity and security of both of our peoples. The U.S. and India share a strong and enduring commitment to Afghanistan’s peace and prosperity, and India is making important contributions through its reconstruction and development work. And we also welcome India’s leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.
Over the last decade, our bilateral trade has, believe it or not, grown five-fold. Our students and educational institutions are collaborating in record numbers. U.S. businesses are investing in India’s booming markets. And Indian innovations are powering Silicon Valley.
So I’m looking forward to discussing these and other issues with External Affairs Minister Khurshid at the Strategic Dialogue. We’re going to talk about our shared interest in enhancing economic integration in the region; our commitment to a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan; and our support for India’s regional leadership.
This is a critical ongoing conversation between the United States and India. It’s one that demonstrates our firm belief that a strong India is in America’s national interest. The United States not only welcomes India as a rising power; we fervently support it. And that’s why President Obama and I support India’s inclusion as a member, a permanent member, of a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
Of course, that is not all that we’re going to be doing in Delhi. I look forward to visiting some of your extraordinary historic sites, and I’m very excited to meet with the next generation of Indian leaders. We’re all counting on them to help us solve some of our biggest global challenges, like the health of our planet and our people.
Our strong people-to-people ties, especially the energy and creativity of our youth and all that they share, are really the greatest assets in the vibrant U.S.-India friendship. They will ensure our countries continue to share core values, strong democratic traditions, and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is the time for both the United States and India to challenge ourselves in order to reach higher, in order to strengthen the bonds that we share, and to realize the full potential of our partnership.
It is a particularly exciting time in India, and I am excited to be there with you.