Secretary of Defense
Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi)
Director Joshi, thank you. I also want to thank Prime Minister Modi, National Security Adviser Doval, Minister Swaraj, and especially my host over the last two days here in India, Minister Jaitley, for productive meetings yesterday. We had the opportunity to speak on the phone a couple of months ago, and during that telephone conversation framed up some of the agenda of what we would discuss on this trip to India. And I particularly appreciate his leadership at this particularly important time, as has been noted by Director Joshi. And I'll reflect further on Director Joshi's comments here in my remarks.
I want to also thank the Observer Research Foundation for hosting this event, and congratulate ORF on its upcoming 25th anniversary. I think as you articulated clearly, the importance of ORF to India, to relationship-building, to constructing platforms, where we have more opportunities to approach each other, understand each other: Those always lead not just to productive dialogue, but eventually to actions and tangible results. So to ORF, thank you.
The work of the scholars here at ORF -- from defense to development to climate change -- speaks to the vibrancy, the vibrancy of Indian civil society. ORF's contributions also embody the deep, democratic commitments shared by India and the United States: to open societies; free-wheeling political debate; and freedom, dignity, and opportunity for all our citizens.
Our thoughts today are with Jaswant Singh -- as we all know, one of India's most distinguished solider-statesmen -- who helped transform U.S.-India relations and I know is a friend to many of you here in the audience.
As some of you know, I had the privilege of visiting India as a United States Senator on more than one occasion, and I am proud to have been a consistent advocate for a strong U.S.-India relationship over the years I served in the United States Senate. The last of my Senate visits was here in India, was with a couple of friends and former Senate colleagues, that have done fairly well in their careers, Biden and Kerry. Just shows you, if you work hard, pay attention, things work out.
Today, I'd like to reflect on America's relationship with India. My remarks will be focused on this special relationship. And as the director noted, as we look forward to President Obama and Prime Minister Modi's summit in Washington next month, there will be a particular focus, as there should be, on this relationship.
I know President Obama is very much looking forward to this meeting. I was with him the day before I left for India, and he noted again how much he was looking forward to this opportunity that will happen next month to visit with your new leader and talk about the specific areas where we can advance and deepen and strengthen this partnership.
America's future -- our future -- is clearly tied to its sustained global engagement, and a stronger strategic partnership with India is an integral part of that future. The President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and I all believe that a stronger U.S.-India partnership is critical for continued peace and prosperity, not just in the Asia-Pacific, but around the globe.
So with all that's going on in the world, I very much appreciate the opportunity to be back here in India, discussing this relationship.
In few places in the world other than in India and America could the child of a small-town tea salesman rise to become Prime Minister...or a child raised in Indonesia, born to a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, rise to become President.
It's no coincidence that millions of Indian-Americans have thrived in the United States, that one of the world's mainlines of innovation courses through Silicon Valley and Bangalore, and that M.I.T. and I.I.T. are the envy of the world. It's also no coincidence that Mahatma Gandhi drew inspiration from [Henry] David Thoreau, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was moved by Gandhi, or that the father of India's constitution, B.R. Ambedkar, liked to quote Jefferson and Lincoln.
India's recent national elections -- the world's largest organized human activity -- saw more than 550 million citizens, about 8 percent of the world's population, turn out to vote. They were spirited, but overwhelmingly peaceful. The loyal opposition graciously conceded. India's elections this year were a reminder for both our nations that democracy is not just how we vote; it is who we are.
That heritage is something Indians will rightly celebrate on their Independence Day, six days from now. Like the United States, India's rise has also been grounded not only in power, but principle. As an accountable democracy, India is lending its support to an open and inclusive rules-based global order, an order that promotes peace and prosperity for Indians, and for all people around the world.
The fundamentals of the U.S.-India partnership are strong. The question -- and what I focused on yesterday in my talks with Indian leaders -- is whether India and the United States can achieve the enormous potential for this partnership...whether we can transform our potential into results. Following my conversations yesterday, I'm more confident than ever that we can.
We will not agree on every issue, on every proposal. Nor do the closest of friends. Each of our nations will move forward on our own terms, at our own pace. But today, as India "looks east" and the United States "rebalances," our interests across the full span of the Indo-Pacific region are aligning more closely than ever.
As many of you know, that wasn't always the case. For decades, it seemed as though there was great potential for the U.S.-India partnership, and that there always would be...
When my old friend and Senate colleague Daniel Patrick Moynihan was serving as U.S. Ambassador to India 40 years ago, he was asked what the Secretary of State should say on a scheduled visit to India. Moynihan's message back to Washington was succinct and revealing. He cabled back to Washington, "The Secretary should come to Delhi" and offer "praise for India...praise for its leaders...praise for its great future...and nothing more."
We've come a long way since that cable. At the turn of the century, under the government of Prime Minister Vajpayee, India "crossed the rubicon," as ORF's Raja Mohan put it, and welcomed -- and the Prime Minister welcomed deeper ties with the United States. Together, our nations ushered in a new era of partnership. Building on our shared traditions of professionalism and civilian control, our defense establishments have worked and operated more closely than ever before.
We have become accustomed to speaking candidly and directly with each other -- because that is what friends do. At a time of divided government in Washington, when the White House and Congress often don't see eye-to-eye, there continues to be overwhelming bipartisan support for stronger U.S.-India ties. Here in India, there is also consistent, cross-party support for a stronger partnership.
This evolution unfolded not because our security interests have fundamentally changed, but because they have converged.
Here in India, long-term investments in education and innovation began paying enormous dividends in a liberalized economy -- dividends that will be sustained over the long-term by India's young demography.
Over the last two decades, India has doubled its share of global GDP and joined the United States as a major stakeholder in a stable global order. Both our nations also became more deeply invested in the Asia-Pacific, especially the Asian-Pacific future, because over the next two decades nearly half the world's economic growth will be generated in this broader region. There will be almost 1 billion new members of a middle class in India, China, and across Southeast Asia.
To pursue prosperity at home, both our nations must uphold a just, inclusive, and secure order. This requires continued cooperation that guards against regional instability. It requires countering terrorism and violent extremism. We also have a shared stake in the security of global energy and natural resource supplies, and the free flow of commerce.
We seek to protect freedom of navigation in the air and sea, and ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes. We have a shared interest in maritime security across the region, including at the global crossroads of the South China Sea. For all these reasons, India continues to "look east," and the United States is pursuing its strategic rebalance. These complementary efforts headline our nations' converging interests.
Prime Minister Modi said in May, "The oldest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the world are natural allies, and we must work together towards global peace and prosperity."
I agree. President Obama agrees. Our partnership could help shape the course of this young century.
That's why the United States is working with India to expand our ties in sectors all across our commercial scope, from energy to trade to education and innovation, which is what Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker focused on in the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue held here last week.
The United States is also committed to exercising its leadership to support India's rise as a global power. We have worked to expand the role of the G-20 and called for India, in the years ahead, to become a permanent member of a reformed U.N. Security Council.
We also led international efforts to open India's global access to civil nuclear technology under the government of Prime Minister Singh. I am proud to have been a strong supporter of this landmark initiative as a United States Senator, and that was, in fact, the focus of my 2008 visit to India with then-Senators Biden and Kerry.
The United States strongly supports India's growing global influence and military capabilities, including its potential as a security provider from the Indian Ocean to the greater Pacific.
Helping fulfill that potential is a deepening U.S.-India defense partnership, a partnership that must be cooperative, cutting-edge, consequential, and based on common interests...strengthening our military-to-military relations, re-energizing our defense industrial cooperation, and expanding our regional cooperation.
Regular and frequent engagement between our militaries helps forge a common and cooperative strategic culture. It helps instill trust and resilience in our broader partnership. And it ensures our forces are operationally prepared to deter conflict.
Over the last several years, our militaries have done more joint exercises than ever before. This year's MALABAR -- our oldest joint exercise -- concluded last week, and included Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces. Last month, India participated in the Rim of the Pacific exercise for the first time. This week, India joined the United States -- and nearly 17 other nations -- in FORTUNE GUARD, a maritime exercise focused on interdicting weapons of mass destruction.
After a hiatus of nearly 40 years, our armies began exercising together a decade ago. Today, exercise YUDH ABHYAS has expanded dramatically. The last exercise convened the Indian army's hardened 9th Mountain Brigade, 5th Gurkha Rifles, and the U.S. Army's 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This year's exercise -- next month -- will include a special operations component and transport U.S. soldiers based in Alaska to India's rolling central highlands.
Going forward, we should continue building up the scale and complexity of all our joint military exercises.
We are also pursuing other, innovative avenues of military-to-military cooperation. Our navies could pioneer new cooperation in the area of operational energy, finding ways to increase the efficiency, and thereby the capability and safety, of maritime operations. This collaboration would have financial and technological benefits, and it could be expanded across all our military services.
Together, we can also learn from India's leadership in international peacekeeping, particularly in Africa. There is room to grow the partnership between our peacekeeping centers of excellence.
Yesterday, there was a common theme in my discussions with the Indian leadership. We agreed that, in pursuing next steps in our partnership, we have to be result-oriented and build momentum with concrete achievements. As our interests align, so should our armed forces and defense systems. Bureaucratic red tape -- within either of our governments -- must not bound the limits of our partnership and or our initiatives. That is especially true for our defense industrial cooperation, which lays the foundation for deeper operational collaboration.
Because of our progress to date, Indian P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft are patrolling the shores of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indian C-130s have flown humanitarian rescue missions from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. And Minister Jaitley greeted the arrival of India's sixth and newest C-17 at Palam Air Base last week.
Since 2008, over $9 billion in defense contracts have been signed between the United States and India, compared with less than $500 million for all the years prior.
But we can do more to forge a defense industrial partnership -- one that would transform our nations' defense cooperation from simply buying and selling to co-production, co-development, and freer exchange of technology. And we have no better opportunity than the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, or DTTI.
Announced by Secretary Panetta here in Delhi two years ago, and shepherded by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, DTTI was based on a simple premise: The top leadership here in India and in the United States decided to raise our strategic partnership to a new level, and we needed a new way of doing business. We agreed that, to help ensure that India's military becomes as capable as it could be, we needed deeper and broader defense trade and technology cooperation.
DTTI is about much more than defense deals. It is designed to support the development of a strong and self-sufficient Indian defense industrial base -- one that develops mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships with top American defense companies, and helps create jobs in both our nations. The United States has made no similar effort with any other nation; it is unique to our relationship with India.
This initiative was not designed to replace either of our nations' basic procedures for buying, selling, developing, or producing defense systems. Nor was it designed to change the basic principles that govern our two nations' complex defense industrial ecosystems. Instead, it was crafted to ensure that our defense development and production activities reflect our shared strategic imperative: the imperative of closer partnership.
The DTTI now has on the table over a dozen specific cooperative proposals, proposals that would transfer significant qualitative capability, technology, and production know-how.
To build a broad foundation for co-development, and because both our nations hone the leading edge of scientific and technological innovation, we are also working together to advance our joint Cooperative Science and Technology Priorities. This includes areas ranging from big data to cognitive sciences to chemical and biological defense, and material sciences.
Going forward, the United States welcomes new proposals from India, especially in areas we can most productively partner in co-production and co-development.
But the challenge today is not a shortage -- not a shortage of proposals. Instead, for both our nations, the challenge is to seize the opportunities...those opportunities that are before us today.
On some, we are nearing agreement. The Indian government's recently proposed reforms on foreign direct investment (FDI) caps will help move us forward. Further progress and clarity on FDI caps and offsets would help push our defense relationship toward its full potential.
Last September, President Obama and Prime Minister Singh agreed to identify and pursue specific opportunities for cooperation in advanced defense technologies and systems within a year. Because we need to build success upon success, we should take up this challenge.
A clear candidate to build momentum on the DTTI is the proposal -- familiar to many of you -- to not only co-produce, but also co-develop the next generation of the Javelin anti-tank missile. This is an unprecedented offer that we have made only to India and no one else. To ensure our defense industrial cooperation receives the attention it demands, in May I announced that I was directing the Pentagon's Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall -- who is here today along with Ambassador Stephens -- to lead and advance the DTTI.
Later this afternoon, along with Assistant Secretary of State Puneet Talwar and Undersecretary Kendall, I will host a roundtable with leaders of India's defense industry. Undersecretary Kendall also plans to return to Delhi later this year. And I will play an active and committed and personal role in expanding the DTTI, because it is -- it is a centerpiece of our defense partnership.
The DTTI and enhanced military-to-military cooperation will enable our nations to expand our regional security cooperation. And as India expands its own security role in South Asia and throughout the Pacific, the United States will continue to support and encourage India's peaceful ambition.
By inviting South Asia's leaders to his inauguration, Prime Minister Modi signaled a commitment to better relations with Pakistan and India's other neighbors. By providing assistance to Afghanistan's security forces, and significant humanitarian and development support, India has invested in long-term regional stability. As Minister Jaitley and I discussed yesterday, the United States remains committed to supporting Afghanistan's security forces over the next two years of transition, including beyond 2016. Recognizing India's stake in Afghanistan's progress and stability, the United States will expand its regional security consultations with India. This will ensure that, over the coming years of transition, assistance to Afghanistan's security forces is supported and coordinated by the international community. We will also continue to build on years of counterterrorism cooperation.
India is also assuming significant security responsibilities beyond South Asia -- through its participation in humanitarian assistance and relief efforts, peacekeeping, counter-piracy, and other maritime security operations.
In the Indian Ocean, our navies have cooperated for more than a decade, in efforts ranging from tsunami relief to the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. India is strengthening Asia's regional order by playing a more active role in its multilateral institutions. It has also deepened its bilateral relationships across the region -- with, among others, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and Australia, where I am headed later today.
Just as America need not choose between its Asian alliances and a constructive relationship with China, India need not choose between closer partnership with America and improved ties with China. In our relations with Beijing, both Delhi and Washington seek to manage competition, but avoid the traps of rivalry. We will continue to seek a stable and peaceful order in which China is a fellow trustee, working cooperatively with both our nations.
As U.S. and Indian security interests continue to converge, so should our partnerships with other nations. The United States and India should consider expanding our trilateral security cooperation with Japan, building on our combined naval participation in MALABAR. We should elevate our trilateral defense cooperation by consulting at the ministerial level.
To ensure that the United States and India's broader defense cooperation is sustained and strengthened -- all of this well into the next decade -- we look forward to the next meeting of the U.S.-India Defense Policy Group.
Yesterday, I invited Minister Jaitley to attend a meeting that I would host with Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Pritzker, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marty Dempsey when the Minister is in Washington this fall. This consultation could begin discussions on a renewed and expanded defense framework with the current one expiring next year, and it would include the U.S. agencies -- Defense, State, and Commerce -- that hold the keys to deeper defense cooperation. Because U.S.-India defense cooperation is a top priority for President Obama and me, it deserves the attention of the U.S. government's most senior leaders.
To advance all of our shared priorities, I have also invited Prime Minister Modi to visit the Pentagon when he visits Washington next month.
In his inaugural address in May, the Prime Minister said that "an era of responsibility has begun." India seeks to meet the needs of 1 million new job seekers every month, provide electricity and sanitation for hundreds of millions every day, and retool its business sector for renewed growth for years to come.
The Indian government has made clear that these are its top priorities.
The responsibility that the Prime Minister has called for also applies to our strategic partnership, because our partnership will help enable India -- and the United States -- to accelerate domestic growth in both of our countries.
A strong strategic partnership between the United States and India is a responsibility, not a slogan. It is a responsibility that our governments owe not only to our own citizens, but to all nations and all peoples who seek a more peaceful and prosperous future.
Our values are shared. Our interests are aligned. Our focus and energy are surging.
I leave India today confident that, together, our two nations will achieve the historic potential of this special partnership.
And I look forward to further discussions, and especially our discussion this afternoon.
And, again, to all of you, thank you for what you do for this partnership, and thank you for an opportunity to share some thoughts this afternoon. Thank you very much.