Deputy Secretary Sherman: Thank you, and good evening to everyone. I’m so glad that so many people could join us.
Let me begin by extending warm Navratri wishes to all of you. It is such a pleasure to be hosted by my good friend at the Ananta Centre on my first trip to India since being sworn in as Deputy Secretary of State.
We have a very long friendship, Jamshyd, and I’m very grateful for that very kind introduction. And thank you as well for serving as a moderator of today’s event. I’m looking forward to a lively and in-depth conversation.
I also want to thank my dear friend Kiran Pasricha, the Ananta Centre’s Executive Director and CEO, as well as her team for organizing today’s event.
We have lots to talk about and I’ve had the privilege of participating in many Ananta Centre programs over the years and their work promoting dialogue and understanding between India and the United States. It’s incredibly valuable to policymakers in both of our countries.
The partnership between the United States and India, as Jamshyd, you just said, is indispensable to the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific.
Ours is a partnership that is firmly rooted in shared values and ideals. We’re the world’s two largest democracies, home to thriving and spirited public debates. We’re also among the world’s most diverse countries and through our success we demonstrate how embracing our diversity makes us stronger.
We are each home to great innovators and entrepreneurs who are always pushing the leading edge in technology—as you do all of the time. Medicine, clean energy, engineering, space, culture and the arts.
Our citizens have deep personal bonds with each other. Nearly 200,000 Indian students are enrolled in American universities. As Prime Minister Modi said in Washington, the Indian-American community, some four million strong, is a bridge of friendship between our two countries.
We believe in the power of appropriately regulated free markets and commerce to increase the prosperity of our nations and our people. We create jobs in each other’s countries through billions of dollars in direct investment, and our bilateral trade is on track to break records this year. In fact, the United States is now India’s largest trading partner.
Above all, we share a vision for the future because we both understand that the way to build shared, sustainable prosperity for our people and for the people around the world is to uphold and to strengthen the rules-based international order. To put it plainly, we each have a serious stake in the other’s success.
As President Biden said when he met with Prime Minister Modi at the White House two weeks ago, “Our partnership is more than just what we do, it’s about who we are.”
With so much that unites us, I truly believe that there is no challenge so great that the United States and India cannot overcome it by working together.
Over the last two days I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with my colleagues in the Indian government and military including Foreign Secretary Shringla, National Security Advisor Doval, and Externa Affairs Minister Jaishankar. I also had an informative meeting with Vice Admiral Kumar and visited the impressive facilities at the Western Naval Command.
My colleague, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Don Lu; our Charge D’Affaires Pat Lacina; our Consul General here in Mumbai David Ranz, and I also had the opportunity to meet with a cross-section of Indian civil society—biomedical researchers, LGBTQI+ activists, young climate leaders, and business executives.
For my very first meeting in New Delhi, I sat down with several women, micro entrepreneurs, who are members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association or SEWA. Their energy, their talent, and their drive to build better lives not only for themselves and their families but for their entire communities was truly inspiring.
In nearly all my official engagements here in India I raised three issues that are critically important both to our bilateral relationship and quite frankly to the world today.
First, we are still facing a pandemic that has sickened millions of people in our two countries and claimed the lives of more than 700,000 Americans and at least 450,000 Indians. COVID-19 has upended lives and livelihoods in our two countries and in countries around the world. And it has laid bare some serious shortcomings in our societies—from gaping holes in our social safety net to structural problems in our global supply chains.
But throughout this difficult time India and the United States have stood together and helped each other.
Last year when the world was struggling to understand this new pathogen and medical supply chains were under enormous strain, India generously donated millions of pieces of personal protective equipment to places in the United States where cases were on the rise.
And then the Delta variant was surging here in India, the United States was ready to respond in kind, both through official government assistance and through grassroots efforts that spoke volumes about the friendship between our citizens.
Now we are entering a new phase. We welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the Global COVID-19 Summit which President Biden organized on the margins of the UN General Assembly in order to accelerate efforts worldwide to bring the pandemic to an end. We applaud India’s announcement ahead of that summit that you will resume vaccine exports. As the world’s largest vaccine producer, India is a crucial global leader in the fight against COVID-19.
Together with Australia and Japan, the other members of the Quad, we have pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion vaccine doses globally, in addition to financing even more doses through COVAX. Through the Quad vaccine partnership, we will support expanded manufacturing and Biological E Ltd. right here in India to produce at least one billion doses of vaccine by the end of next year.
To date, the United States has donated more than 40 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine across South and Central Asia, with millions more doses on the way. And we are making these donations with no strings attached—because protecting the world against this virus is simply the right thing to do.
But ending the pandemic is not enough. We need to build back better—to make the investments in clean energy, infrastructure, education, research and innovation that will create good jobs and brighter futures for our people for years to come.
COVID-19 has revealed a lot about our global economy, including how very vulnerable our global supply chains are to shocks. Businesses are having a harder time sourcing parts and materials. Container ships are waiting for weeks to unload their cargo. And middle-class families are paying the price. That’s why the United States is working actively with India, as well as with our other allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, to build more secure supply chains for essential goods like medicine and medical supplies, semiconductors and critical minerals. Building more resilient supply chains gives us an opportunity to create both good jobs in our countries and to make our economies stronger when we face futures moments of crisis, whether that’s another pandemic or an extreme weather event.
Which brings me to the second issue I raised in my meetings—and that is the climate crisis. We all know the science. If we have any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as set out in the Paris Agreement, we have about a decade to make decisive progress in curbing our greenhouse gas pollution. If we fall short, the extreme weather that is already causing harm in the United States and in India—the deeper droughts, more intense storms, the raging wildfires, the rising seas—will continue to get worse, and our economies, our security, and above all our people will suffer.
That’s why President Biden took steps to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. And it’s why he has set out ambitious goals for the United States as the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gas pollution to clean up our act, aiming to cut emissions at least in half by 2030 and to make our power sector carbon pollution free by 2035.
Prime Minister Modi has also made clean energy and climate change a priority, setting a goal of having 450 gigawatts of renewables installed by 2030.
Earlier this year, our two leaders created the Agenda 2030 Partnership to deepen our cooperation in addressing the climate crisis and working toward our national goals. As the second and third largest emitters of carbon pollution, it is crucial that our nations lead on climate change and that we do everything we can to urge other countries to set more ambitious goals for reducing their own emissions, especially now as we approach COP26 in Glasgow.
Finally, in all my bilateral meetings over the last few days— along with many other issues—my Indian colleagues and I spent time talking about security and about the rules-based international order.
The United States is a Pacific nation, which is a fact that I will admit few people in Washington may know, and people elsewhere in the world sometimes have forgotten. We’re a Pacific power not only because of our geography, but because of our economy, our culture, our history and our deep network of alliances and partnership across Asia and the Pacific.
We are proud to be Major Defense Partners with India. Our military-to-military cooperation is strong and growing. The United States and India concluded four major defense-enabling agreements in recent years, and we are looking forward to expanding cooperation in multiple areas, including through more information sharing, joint and multilateral exercises, and cooperation in the maritime space.
We also continue to coordinate closely on the situation in Afghanistan. While the United States’ military mission in Afghanistan has ended, our commitment to the Afghan people and to preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists has not. We’re going to continue to work with our allies and partners to provide humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people and to help tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees settle into new homes in their new lives. And to hold the Taliban accountable to the commitments they have made including around human rights, the rights of women and children, and counterterrorism.
From the earliest days after the fall of Kabul, my dear counterpart, Foreign Secretary Shringla, has joined regular video conferences of our partners and allies as we coordinate our response to the situation in Afghanistan. None of us have taken the Taliban at their word at any point in the last weeks and none of us will take the Taliban at their word going forward. Their words must be followed by action to prevent reprisal, build an inclusive government, allow women to work and girls to get their educations, and much more. To end any possible terrorism. And so far, they have fallen short of their commitments.
The United States profoundly appreciates India’s concern about the potential for terrorism to spill over from Afghanistan into the wider region. Our two countries have a long history of working together to prevent terrorism, and we will soon come together for a Counterterrorism Joint Working Group as well as a Homeland Security Dialogue.
And of course we will continue to regularly continue to coordinate with each other and with other like-minded countries as the situation in Afghanistan evolves. However, security is about more than defense and counterterrorism. For a nation to be truly secure requires confidence. Confidence that the middle class can grow and prosper. Confidence that human rights and humanity will be respected. Confidence that the same set of transparent, consistent, agreed-upon rules in trade and commerce on the internet and on the battlefield apply equally to everyone. Confidence, in other words, that we’re competing on a level playing field.
The rules-based international order established after the end of World War II has enabled peace and prosperity as no other system ever has or ever could. That’s not to say it’s perfect. It was built by people, and people make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean that it is fatally flawed. It simply means we need to face the shortcomings honestly and do the important work of fixing and updating the system together.
India’s incredible rise over the last decades has been enabled by the rules-based international order. So, too, has the People’s Republic of China’s. But the two countries have taken very different paths. Today Beijing is seeking to undermine the very system that’s benefited them for decades, to return to a system where a stronger nation can bully and coerce other nations, or try to, into acting against their own interests.
That’s why it’s so important for democracies like India and the United States to demonstrate how we deliver results for our people. To prove how freedom of enterprise and freedom of expression aren’t merely incidental to economic prosperity, they are essential to it. To work together in as many places and in as many ways as we can to strengthen and modernize the international system so no one is left behind as we confront the challenges of the 21st century.
The good news is we are well on our way. When President Biden and President Modi met in Washington two weeks ago for both their first face-to-face meetings since President Biden was inaugurated, and for the first in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit with Australia and Japan, the full range of our bilateral and multilateral cooperation was on display. From COVID-19 and health care, to climate change and clean energy, to trade and investment, to technology and outer space, it is hard to find an area where India and the United States are not working together.
When Secretary Blinken visited India earlier this year, he reflected on another American leader’s visit. In 2006, then-Senator Joe Biden said here in India, “My dream is that in 2020 the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States. If that occurs the world will be safer.”
It’s 2021 now. President Biden is in the White House. And the friendship and partnership between the United States and India has never been stronger. I know it will continue to deepen as we work together to build a better future for our nation and for the world.
Thank you again for joining us today. Jamshyd, I’m looking forward to our discussion and to taking questions from the audience on-line.
Thank you again, it’s a privilege to be here.