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(As prepared)

Director General Pradhan, Ambassador Sandhu, esteemed members of the Indian delegation, Acting Assistant Secretary Johnson, Ambassador Garcetti, Dr. Gupta, and our interagency colleagues, good morning.  I am honored to join you for the fourth annual U.S.-India Counternarcotics Working Group Meeting – also known as the CNWG – on the heels of my very productive trip to New Delhi last week.

Prime Minister Modi’s Official State Visit reaffirmed that the U.S.-India relationship is one of the most consequential of the 21st century.  Together, our two leaders publicly affirmed their vision of the United States and India as among the closest partners in the world, celebrating in their joint statement: “a partnership of democracies looking into the 21st century with hope, ambition, and confidence,” a partnership that is “grounded in respect for human rights, and shared principles of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.”

This historic visit underscored the importance of our partnership on global challenges such as counternarcotics.  Synthetic drugs significantly and directly impact the populations of both of our countries, and of countries around the world, claiming countless lives and perpetuating harmful stigma for those who live with addiction.  The scourge of synthetic drugs is a shared challenge faced by many of us that requires a global solution.  India is a global leader in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, and consequently is a critical, global leader in combating the spread of synthetic drugs.

Together, with the foundation of a resilient bilateral relationship, we must work to prevent the spread of fentanyl and other synthetics in our countries and abroad.   We must also come together to find effective ways to help those struggling with addiction and reduce the demand for these harmful substances.  Here are two specific ways we can work together to accomplish this.

First, we can continue to work together in multilateral spaces to address these threats.  Our recent collaboration at the launch of the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats on July 7 is a prime example.  Thank you to Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar for demonstrating steadfast support for these priorities and for highlighting, in his remarks, that we stand united in our collective resolve to combat illicit synthetic drugs.  The United States welcomes India’s continued leadership through participation in the Coalition’s working groups, as a co-chair, or through expert input.  Additionally, we will continue to raise synthetic drugs at the UN and hope we can count on you to do the same.  For instance, we are hosting a high-level side event to advance the work of the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats on the margins of the upcoming 78th UN General Assembly High-Level Week and welcome India’s participation.

The G20 is another multilateral forum where our continued collaboration will pay dividends.  Our partnership within the G20 continues to be fruitful, and India’s clear-eyed work to raise the profile of counternarcotics and synthetic drugs in this important forum for the first time is laudable.  We are pleased to have proposed language for the draft Leaders’ Declaration, calling for the creation of a dedicated counternarcotics workstream within the G20, which we believe will be an important step forward in addressing this critical issue.

Second, we can continue to leverage our partnership within the CNWG to make a difference.  Since 2020, this bilateral working group continues to grow to meet the global narcotics challenges that both our nations face.  In the last year alone, the United States and India met three times to identify specific actions we can pursue together across law enforcement, regulatory, multilateral, and public health spectrums.  These working sessions underscore our substantive cooperation throughout the year, not just during our annual CNWG meeting.

I would like to highlight how the CNWG’s Sub-Working Groups are taking action and producing results.  The work we do in these groups provides an invaluable platform to deepen our collaboration on regulatory issues, strengthen law enforcement cooperation, coordinate our multilateral engagement, and support drug demand reduction.

Under the Law Enforcement Sub-Working Group, our governments cooperated in June 2023 to combat the transit of illicit drugs through Operation Broader Sword.  Together, we stopped the shipment of over 500 packages to the United States from India containing illicit prescription drugs, medical devices, and synthetic precursors.  The more we work together, the more we can accomplish.  This operation is a prime example of what we can achieve together.

Through the Multilateral and Regulatory Sub-Working Group, we coordinated ahead of the 66th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (or CND) in March 2023, resulting in several productive exchanges.  For example, India joined a dinner on the margins of the UN CND to preview the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats, laying the groundwork for its successful launch this month.  Additionally, our coordination through this sub-working group resulted in the United States participating as a panelist in India’s UN CND side event on drug demand reduction, and India participating as a panelist in the U.S.-sponsored side event on Intersectoral Collaboration to Combat Illicit Synthetic Drugs – thereby demonstrating the strength of our partnership to other UN member states.

Finally, under the Drug Demand Reduction Sub-Working Group, the United States and India developed a plan to provide exchanges and trainings between and for professionals of both countries, connecting Indian and American youth to build a global youth prevention network.  This plan has borne fruit: an Asia-Pacific Youth Forum bringing together Indian, American and other Asian and Pacific youth is now scheduled to be hosted in Kochi, India in 2024. By combining our expertise, we can share our hard learned lessons with other nations suffering from substance use disorders.

As highlighted by the examples I provided, together we are taking important steps to address the scourge of synthetic drugs.  We must continue to be resolute in our efforts as we are reminded daily of the devastating toll that fentanyl and other synthetic drugs are having on our communities.

Through this CNWG, we are shoring up our bilateral counternarcotics relationship, developing practical policies, delivering concrete results, diminishing the public health and public security threats posed by synthetic drugs, and, most importantly, improving and saving peoples’ lives.  Thank you all.

U.S. Department of State

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