Thank you for your warm words of welcome. I am very happy to meet you for this inaugural round of the Strategic Dialogue. You are a champion of a strong and vibrant India-US partnership and your dynamism and unflinching support have substantively contributed to this process. I am joined here by my esteemed colleagues from various Ministries, which underscores the importance that we attach to this dialogue and vividly expresses the wide-ranging nature of our relationship.
The relationship with the US is one of the most important bilateral relationships for India. Since the visit of President Clinton a decade ago, our two countries have been able to transform the relationship fundamentally. As India moves ahead to achieve our priority tasks of economic and social transformation to allow our people to realize their full potential, we have an increasing and well-justified stake in a stable international order. We are committed to working with the international community to find solutions to the pressing global challenges of the day. Today, our two countries share an increasing convergence of interests on a whole range of global issues. Our two nations have been shaped by enduring foundation values of openness, pluralism and tolerance. These inspirational values and interests provide us the opportunity to work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century. I truly believe that ours is a relationship of limitless opportunities for mutual benefit. This confidence comes from not just the improvement in the relations between our two governments, but also from the vibrant cross-cutting and dynamic linkages between our energetic and dynamic peoples. Indeed the creativity, the imagination and the enterprise of our two peoples has contributed immensely to the improvement of our relations. I believe that our discussions today will build upon these successes and strengthen our multifaceted relationship.
The institution of our Strategic Dialogue is a reflection of the deepening and broadening of our relations. I am particularly satisfied to note that we have, together since your visit to India last year, made tangible progress on every aspect of our expanded agenda of dialogue and cooperation that includes not just bilateral issues but also global challenges.
We both have an abiding interest in a stable international order and in the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia and beyond, and a tremendous opportunity is now before us to work together to achieve this objective. The global nature of the security challenges that we face today, particularly the threat posed by transnational terrorism, requires us to cooperate more closely than ever before. Though the epicentre of this threat lies in India’s neighbourhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world as we have seen time and again and most recently a few weeks back in Times Square. Given the fact that the groups who preach the ideology of hatred and violence are increasingly coalescing, sharing resources and operating as one, it is incumbent upon all of us, to focus our efforts laser-like on every one of them. Targeting only one or other of such groups would only provide false comfort in the short term and will not usher in long term stability.
I am happy to note the tremendous progress that we have made in strengthening our counter-terrorism cooperation particularly since the Mumbai terror attack. We value the support we have received from the U.S. Government in our investigations. In this regard, access for our authorities to persons who have been apprehended by your Government in connection with Mumbai terror attack is the logical next step. We are confident that our continued cooperation will lead to realisation of this objective.
The conclusion of the negotiations on arrangements and procedures for reprocessing has taken us closer to realizing our objective of commencing commercial collaboration in nuclear energy with US companies. Another key area of our bilateral dialogue is cooperation in high technology. I am glad that we are working together to pave the way for liberalising export control restrictions that apply to India. Given the strategic nature of our partnership and particularly the conclusion of the Civil Nuclear Initiative, these control are not only anomalous but also a hindrance to furthering trade and investment in this particularly significant sector of our economies. We look forward to early steps in this direction.
Our two countries have enormous opportunities to deepen cooperation in trade and investment and in creating jobs and opportunities. I am happy therefore that we have launched a new ‘Financial and Economic Partnership’ as well as a ‘Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment’ that should help us to reach new heights in bilateral trade and investment.
There is tremendous potential for scientific and commercial collaboration in green technologies. The Clean Energy MoU that you and I signed last November enables us to move forward in creating a strong bilateral partnership in this area. I look forward to an early implementation of the Joint Research Centre envisaged in the MoU. This is where our partnership to promote balanced and sustainable economic development for the benefit of every man, women and child in each of our countries can have great significance.
Agriculture is another key sector of our cooperation and we look forward to an increase in cooperation in agricultural research, human resources capacity building, natural resource management, agri-business and food processing, weather forecasting for agriculture production and collaborative research for increasing food productivity. Given India’s experience and expertise there is also an opportunity for both our countries to pool our resources and work together for global food security.
Educational exchanges have since long contributed to strengthening our people to people linkages and also fostering greater S&T collaboration. Our two peoples through their innovation and entrepreneurship have cooperated in the past especially in the Information Technology. As we in India move on higher gear with our educational reforms, there is an opportunity for us to enhance such
academic exchanges and collaboration. The spirit of innovation and intellectual quest should define our exchanges in these field and chart new frontiers in our relationship.
In addition, we have also identified new areas of cooperation including in Health and Women’s empowerment. I am happy that the first meeting of Women’s Empowerment Dialogue took place last week here in Washington. The empowerment of women and the recognition of their potential for immense contribution to the national cause as we look to the future is a core policy priority of the Government of India and I know that this is also a key policy priority for the US Administration.
We have a truly broad-based agenda with wide ranging opportunities. I look forward to our discussions this morning, reviewing the achievements of the last one year while charting our course for the year ahead.