India an Indispensable Partner, U.S. Officials Say
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington - President Obama has called India an "indispensable" partner for the United States in the 21st century, a senior American diplomat says.
"India matters to the United States because it's the world's largest democracy, but has the world's second-fastest growing economy and an economy that is a very important source of exports for the United States ... and also because it is an increasingly important partner for the United States in addressing common global concerns," says Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs.
India's growing role is why President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decided early in 2009 to elevate relations by establishing a strategic dialogue, Blake said at a May 28 press briefing.
The comprehensive U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue meets June 1-4 in Washington. It will be chaired by Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna at the State Department. The dialogue provides high-level participation; briefings by the co-chairs to members of both administrations; and an opportunity for firsthand talks.
Blake said the purpose of this dialogue is to think strategically and to get the key people who work on these issues together to think ahead and also to plan for Obama's visit to India.
The strategic dialogue will meet annually, alternating between New Delhi and Washington, and will continue to be chaired by Clinton and Krishna. It was first announcedat a meeting in Washington July 20, 2009.
It will cover a range of issues, from common security interests and defense cooperation to nuclear nonproliferation, education, climate change and energy security. The dialogue is not limited to the two governments; it will include the private sector and academia.
Establishing a strategic dialogue between the United States and India represents a significant step in their bilateral relations and an important acknowledgement of India's increasing role in global affairs, Blake said in his briefing.
Obama spoke with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on May 28 to discuss the upcoming U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, the White House said in a statement. "President Obama and Prime Minister Singh also expressed their hope that the dialogue will initiate a regular exchange of ideas and discussion between their governments and both pledged their support toward that end," the statement said.
As a result of the global Nuclear Security Summit hosted by Obama in April, Singh pledged to build a center for nuclear security that will provide training for countries from a number of regions, Blake said. Singh also played an important role at Copenhagen climate change talks in December 2009 during a critical phase of the negotiations, he added.
Food security is also a new area of cooperation, Blake said. India will become a strong partner in efforts to enhance global food security initiatives.
"On health, we have established or are in the process of establishing a global disease-detection center that has the potential to be one of the flagship science and technology ventures between the United States and India in which our joint researchers will be able to study and hopefully find cures for some of the major global pandemic diseases," Blake said.
Blake said that on June 2 there will be both private-sector and government meetings, including the U.S.-India Business Council, which will be holding its 35th annual meeting. At the government level, Under Secretary of State William Burns and Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will oversee a wide-ranging foreign policy dialogue that will include Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East, probably China, and a number of other regional concerns.
The main strategic dialogue will be held June 3, with Clinton and Krishna leading the talks.
"It will be the first time that our two governments are going to have ... a whole-of-government conversation, about not so much what we've accomplished but to look ahead about what we can accomplish and particularly look ahead to the president's visit sometime this fall to India," Blake said.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)