U.S. Chamber of Commerce Washington, D.C.: – SECRETARY POMPEO, Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for having me here. I certainly want to thank the India Ideas Summit, U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue, as well as the USIBC President Nisha Biswal for inviting me to address this esteemed group. I want to also acknowledge Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin – where are you at? Right there.
You know it’s bilateral; I saw on the program today not only Matt but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, so we got a bipartisan agenda. It’s fantastic.
I was asked if I would come speak here. It turns out to be perfect timing as I’m going to be traveling to India before too long, and I get the opportunity to be here with a real group of leaders from both the United States and India. And I know you’ve had a great visit so far, it’s been good progress. I understand that you’ve been having deep, important conversations among you about one of the most important global events of our day, something with major potential to change the world, deep international events that capture the attention of billions and billions of people.
Of course, that’s the Cricket World Cup. (Laughter.)
It’s a serious matter today, so all jokes aside, it’s great to see so many Indian and American businesspeople coming together to talk about how to draw our two nations closer together, and to talk about big ideas. That project has been in the forefront of my mind too, after the election in preparation for my upcoming trip.
It was great. We planned the trip, and then the Indian news broke the story, so that was great – exactly as we had planned it. I’ll have the incredible privilege to meet again with Prime Minister Modi and my new counterpart, too, Minister for External Affairs Jaishankar, and heads of industry and other people. I’ll be in India for a bit.
And I want to give you a little bit of a preview, a sneak preview of my mission, and tell you why I truly believe that our two nations have an incredibly unique opportunity to move forward together, for the good of both of our peoples, the Indo-Pacific region, and indeed the entire world.
The idea of a U.S.-India partnership frankly stretches back a long way. It’s not a new idea; you all know that. When the Indian people first courageously won their independence over 70 years ago, a strong relationship between our countries was something people talked about. Our two democracies and a close relationship seemed inevitable, a matter of “when” not “if.”
But for too long – indeed, for decades – we found ourselves on different trajectories. The United States was fighting the Cold War.
And India was asserting itself, its newfound, cherished independence through its non-aligned movement, trying not to take sides. We cooperated when we could, but frankly I think most would agree that we mostly fell short of our potential.
We couldn’t trade much because India had a closed economy. The License Raj kept businesses and innovators out of the black and covered in red tape.
Five-year plans became the received wisdom, something like our 2 percent growth here in the last administration became sort of a new normal. We focused our attention on other Asian trading partners, and what were once cubs grew up to be true tigers in the region.
But all that changed in 1991, when India opened its doors to the world. Prime Minister Rao said that at the time his government would, quote, “sweep the cobwebs of the past and usher in change.”
India’s free-market reforms unleashed the innovation, the entrepreneurship, the sheer drive of its own people to do remarkable things. Meg talked about some of the things that happened; they’re worth recounting.
First, we’ve had 7 percent growth in India from 1997 to 2017, year-on-year. Millions of Indians have been lifted out of poverty. India became a world leader in IT – IT services, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and so many more things that you all know so well.
U.S.-India bilateral trade reached $142 billion just last year, a seven-fold increase since 2001.
Additionally, more than 500 American companies now successfully operate in India. And of course, the U.S. is a market for roughly 20 percent of India’s exports in both goods and services.
That prosperity, that prosperity that began to be ushered in back in 1991, has helped propel Indians to every corner of the Earth. So many of you in the audience today are first or second-generation beneficiaries of this remarkable Indian prosperity and growth.
Indian-Americans too have contributed mightily to things that happened here in the United States. We’ve watched Indians reach the heights of industry, and academia, and government. People like Microsoft’s CEO, and the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a great Kansan, have done remarkable things all around the world.
U.S. Presidents of both parties have seized the opportunity to seize closer ties. President Clinton’s visit in 2000 set a real marker, he set the table for closer cooperation between the two countries, and then President Bush inked a historic civil nuclear deal.
More recently, President Obama granted India “Major Defense Partner” status, and supported India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – a position that the United States continues to support.
And under President Trump, we’ve taken our defense cooperation to new heights, solidified our common vision for the Indo-Pacific, and taken a far tougher stand on Pakistan’s unacceptable support for terrorism in the region.
When Prime Minister Modi visited the White House back in 2017, he and President Trump exchanged a lot of good will and a couple of hugs.
Prime Minster Modi, too, said – he said it’s in India’s interests that they – that “India’s interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America. In the same way [that] India’s development and its growing role at the international level are in the” United States of America’s interest as well. And I certainly couldn’t agree more.
We’ve come a long way. And now the Trump administration and the Modi administrations have an incredibly unique opportunity to take advantage of this special partnership. We can move further.
And I want to talk about why I believe that.
Meg got this right. Just a few weeks ago, a truly historic election – 600 million Indians voted in the largest exercise of the franchise in history. And they gave Mr. Modi a huge mandate.
Not since 1971 has an Indian Prime Minister been returned to office with a single-party majority, and – to borrow a phrase – he enjoyed an awful lot of winning.
Many observers were surprised by the result, but, frankly, I wasn’t. I’ve been watching closely. My team at the State Department is watching closely. And we knew – we knew that the prime minister was a new kind of leader for the world’s most populous democracy. He is the son of a tea seller who worked his way up to governing a state for 13 years and now leads one of the world’s truly emerging powers.
He’s made economic development for the poorest Indians a priority. And indeed, millions who once went without light bulbs now have electricity. And millions who lacked cookstoves now have them.
It’s interesting – it’s interesting that young Indians constituted one of the prime minister’s largest voting blocks, one of his biggest groups of support in this most recent election. I think that tells you something. I think it tells you something that Indian voters think Prime Minister Modi can and will open up a new, more prosperous future for each of them.
For my part, as the Secretary of State, I know I have a strong partner, a new, great counterpart in Minister Jaishankar – a former Ambassador to the United States that most in this room know so well.
He said back in April in remarks – he said he’s ready to cultivate a warmer relationship with America – and he knows that the feeling is mutual. We want to move ahead.
Here’s how we’re thinking about it.
First, we have to build ever-stronger relationships. One of the great things about this gathering – indeed, in the diplomatic world – we have a long bond with India. In fact, we’ve sent some of our finest minds to New Delhi, thinkers like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and our current ambassador, Ken Juster.
But forging stronger ties is more than that. It means formalizing these individual friendships, building out a diplomatic framework for our two countries. I think we’ve done that, but there’s more to do. Last year we kicked off a 2+2 dialogue and I went to attend it alongside the Secretary of Defense.
We also reinvigorated the Quad Dialogue among the United States, Japan, and Australia – all like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific. I’m looking forward to my meetings in Delhi next week – and of course, to the tea.
But I want to talk about a couple other things I believe we can do together. We must embrace that strategic framework that I – that works for both of our nations. We respect India as a truly sovereign, important country, with its own unique politics and its own unique strategic challenges.
We get it. We realize it’s different to deal with the likes of China and Pakistan from across the ocean than it is when they are on your borders.
That’s why in this room, not so many months ago, I elaborated on President Trump’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. It starts from the premise that we share a common set of values – the values of democracy and freedom and a core belief in the ingenuity of the human spirit.
And it’s only natural – it’s only natural that the world’s most populous democracy should partner with the world’s oldest democracy to maintain our shared vision throughout the Indo-Pacific.
We also have to make sure that we have economic openness. We have to have a central theme being the idea that we have liberty and sovereignty in each of our two nations, and build on those ideas. These need to be places in which economic growth reinforces our democratic values, and not dictatorship. It needs to be a place where our partnership is one of true equals, not of domination. Based on my conversations in New Delhi last year, and in subsequent phone calls and meetings, I believe this is a deeply shared vision.
Third, we have to deliver. We have to execute.
The Trump administration has already enabled American companies to export more high-tech items to India. This includes cutting-edge defense platforms like armed UAVs and ballistic missile defense systems. We’ve already launched the Asia-EDGE program, to which Meg referred, to help India raise private capital to meet its energy and security needs for years to come.
These are solid achievements, but we want to do so much more.
We clearly have overlapping interests: defense, energy, space. The list goes on.
On defense, the first patch – or excuse me, the first batch of Apache helicopters are coming off Boeing’s production line in Arizona even as we speak.
Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and Boeing’s F/A-18 are state-of-the-art fighters that could give India the capabilities it needs to become a full-fledged security provider throughout the Indo-Pacific.
On energy, we want to complete the Westinghouse civil nuclear project, and deliver more LNG and crude. These steps will give Indians reliable, affordable, diversified energy independence so they will no longer have to rely on difficult regimes like those in Venezuela and in Iran.
On space, NASA is already working with the Indian Space Research Organization on the world’s most advanced earth-observation satellite and India’s second lunar mission. I mean, how cool is that?
Now, I’m sure we’ll broach some tough topics too. But as we democracies have come to know, that we work out our disagreements. We bring them to the table honestly and fairly. And we’ll probably discuss the recent decision on the GSP program.
I do hope, and remain open – and we remain open to dialogue, and hope that our friends in India will drop their trade barriers and trust in the competitiveness of their own companies, their own businesses, their own people, and private sector companies.
We’ll also push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy.
And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well.
Look, those are just a few things that sit on the tip of our tongue, at the top of our mind. I can’t go into everything we’ll discuss here because I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But suffice it to say this is a deeply important relationship, and I know that these conversations that we will continue with the new government in India that has so much promise for its people, for our relationship, and for the world – I hope together, we will finally fulfill the great promise of cooperation that was present at India’s birth and which remains evident today.
These are big ideas. It’s what you all came here for. And there are big opportunities too. And I’m very much looking forward to my trip next week and meeting with Prime Minister Modi and my new counterpart face to face.
As Prime Minister Modi said in his latest campaign – he said, “Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai,” “Modi makes it possible.” I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible between our two peoples and I’m looking forward to our conversation today, Meg.
Thank you all.
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