Remarks by the Vice President on the U.S.-India Partnership at the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai, India
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Kaku. I appreciate it.
Thank you all for giving me this opportunity. It's an honor to be back in India and to be here in Mumbai. Off script for a second here, I was reminded -- I was elected to the United States Senate when I was a 29-year-old kid back in 1972, and one of the first letters I received and I regret I never followed up on it. Maybe some genealogist in audience can follow up for me, but I received a letter from a gentleman named Biden -- Biden, my name -- from Mumbai, asserting that we were related. (Laughter.) Seriously. Suggesting that our mutual, great, great, great, something or other worked for the East India Trading Company back in the 1700s and came to Mumbai.
And so I was thinking about it, if that's true, I might run here in India for office. (Laughter.) I might be qualified. But I've never followed up on it. But now that I'm back for the multiple times, I'm going to follow up to find out whether there is a Biden and whether we're related. I hope he's in good standing if we are. (Laughter.)
I want to thank you for the kind welcome, Kaku, and the nice introduction. I'm delighted to be in Mumbai, a city full of history and dreams and incredible energy. I bring with me the admiration of the American people and the good wishes of President Obama.
We admire the way you've melded ethnicities, faiths and tongues into a single, proud nation; the way entrepreneurship seems almost hard-wired into Indian society, from rickshaw wallas to web programmers; and maybe most of all, we admire your democracy and the message that your democracy sends to people everywhere in the world. And that message is: No nation need choose between development and freedom. They are not inconsistent.
America is a land of immigrants, as we tell ourselves all the time and are reminded in every generation. And America has been strengthened by the diverse cultures of India woven into the fabric of most of our communities, including those of you who are Americans my own the small community in the state of Delaware that I represented in the United States Senate.
Any weekend in Delaware -- we have a very significant and tight Indian-American community -- any weekend in Delaware, you can find the Delaware United Cricket Club competing. And now I have bragging rights. I will be able to go back and tell my friends who belong to that club that I visited the home of the best cricket team in the world. It will give me some reason to -- (applause). You won the International Cricket Council Championship.
And as an Irish American, it pleased my heart to see you beat Britain, England. (Laughter.) That's a joke, by the way, for the press. (Laughter.) I don't want to hear a headline: Biden at Odds with British Empire, you know? (Laughter.) But it does make me feel good. (Laughter.)
India has made a very impressive journey to state the obvious. Twenty-two years ago, you took bold steps to start opening your economy. And the results were almost immediate, and they were remarkable. Over the past decade, you have lifted 160 million people into the middle class. In 1991, India had 5 million total phone lines; now you have 900 million. In 1991, you exported $20 billion in goods each year. Now that's over $300 billion. India is no longer an economic island -- and a rising, rising economic power.
Of course, obstacles remain as in our country and every country. But here in India growth has slowed. Poverty persists. And there are significant challenges in the region and the world in which you reside.
But we're confident, presumptuous of us to say this, but we Americans are confident that India will continue to rise because we believe you will make the -- take the additional steps necessary to spur further growth and enhance your economic influence around the world, and in the process lift the whole world. We want to be your partner in that venture, in lifting the economy of the world.
And since we're at a former stock exchange, let me humbly suggest that America is back, and it's has never been a good bet to bet against America –- never been a good bet to bet against America.
We've had the biggest increase in domestic manufacturing in the past 20 years; 40 months of private sector job growth -- we need more and more rapidly, but constant growth. We are now the recipients and we have access to and know how to safely extract over 100 years of natural gas reserves, driving the price of energy down to the -- in the United States to make us among the most competitive nations in the world for manufacturing.
In addition to that, we will be a net energy exporter. We will be energy independent during the '20s -- the decade of the '20s, 2020.
The foundations of our economy are stronger than ever. The best research universities in the world –- you have great ones, we have the most -- and the most vibrant startups; a culture of innovation and openness.
For all the problems of our education system, and every country has it, and we have our own, particularly in elementary education, the one thing that is constant in America from the time a child steps into any classroom from kindergarten to first grade, they are taught that it is okay to question orthodoxy, to challenge the status quo.
So I believe that each of our economies will continue to grow and in the process help shape the course of the century ahead, the 21st century.
If you excuse me quoting an Irishman, but a fellow named William Butler Yeats, my favorite poet, writing a poem about his Ireland in the year 1916, called Easter Sunday 1916, something Indians and Irishmen hold in common, trying to rise with the British. It was the first rebellion in Ireland in the 20th century. And he wrote that poem called Easter Sunday 1916. And in that poem there's a line that he attempted to describe his Ireland at the time, but I would argue it better describes the state of the world as we find it today.
He said, all's changed; changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born. All's changed, changed utterly. The world has changed utterly just since I entered public life, and matter of fact, in the last 20 years. And there's a need for new rules of the road -- both strategically and economically.
But I would ask you -– I would ask you, as we continue to grow separately -- I would ask you to consider the historic opportunity that is in front of us. Imagine what our two countries can achieve together in this 21st century -- not only for one another but for economic stability of the region, as well as the world.
It seems to me there are certain basic principles in the way forward that are clear: a trade and investment partnership that is open and fair; that grows both our economies as India builds the largest middle class in human history; a security partnership of first resort where we look instinctively to each other to help the Asia-Pacific region to rise -- continue to peacefully; closer ties than ever between our citizens, universities, civil societies and businesses; a partnership defined not by what it promises, but defined by what it delivers.
We've made headway. We've launched an annual dialogue between our governments that covers everything from counterterrorism to higher education. As a matter of fact at a dinner hosted by the Vice President last night, very generous of him, we were talking in great detail granularly about community colleges and what future they hold for here in India. My wife is full-time community college professor, has been teaching -- I can't say the number of years now because it reveals her age, but for some time.
In the Biden family there's a strange thing, there is no woman as old as any man. I don't know how that happened, but that's the way it works in my family. (Laughter.)
But as we say in America, the best-kept secret in American education is the community college system. And it's a bold and I think wise move India is taking to try to create hundreds and hundreds of community colleges.
We've also made progress on clean energy, defense cooperation, the partnerships between our universities and community colleges. But there remains a gap between what we are doing and what we are capable of without in any way impacting on either of our countries' sovereign decisions, without in any way compromising either of our countries' ability to independently decide what course of action we should take on individual issues and the future generally.
And the reasons are understandable why they're still -- we haven't made more progress. In your country as well as mine, there are still those -- some who have lingering doubts of a Cold War era long gone by. It's time to put those doubts behind us and seize the opportunities ahead of us. Leaders -— not bureaucracies -— should set the level of our ambition.
So let me state it plainly: There is no contradiction between strategic autonomy and a strategic partnership. I'll say it again: There is no contradiction between strategic autonomy and a strategic partnership. Global powers are capable of both.
And it's time we take this relationship to a new level for each of our own well-being. The question is how do we bridge the gap between this vision and the present reality? You are all practical businesswomen and men. You know ultimately it's how do you operationalize a vision.
I'd respectfully suggest that we begin by deepening our economic relationship to help accomplish our overarching individual domestic goals. They are similar. They are common.
And our vision and our interest as you look down five, 10 and 20 years, I can see no logical impediment to the development of this relationship in terms of our individual self-interest.
Today, as I speak –- well, not as I speak, but shortly, President Obama is going to be giving a major speech outlining the top priority for the Obama-Biden administration And it's straightforward and simple, how do we continue to shore up America's future and the foundations of the middle class life in America with good-paying jobs, affordable health care, housing, education and the dignity in retirement.
India's top priority is to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty to join the middle class -- totally consistent goals. Together, in our view, we can help each other achieve our core goals. And we've made a good start.
In the last 13 years, we've increased fivefold our bilateral trade, reaching nearly $100 billion. There's not a one of you sitting out there that knows there is any logical impediment as to why that could not be fivefold that number.
There's no reason, if our countries make the right choices, that we can't grow together and more rapidly.
The United States is negotiating major new trade agreements across both the Atlantic and the Pacific -- so called TTIP in the Pacific (sic) -- and here in the Pacific, an agreement that would encompass not only the Pacific Basin all the way to the Indian Ocean, but also America and the entire hemisphere. I recently went on a journey to Latin America and South America. Chile, other countries are looking forward to this Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not only to expand, but to enhance economic stability and in turn domestic stability.
Expanding trade between India and the United States can and should be a central part of this story. But that requires us to be candid with each other about the obstacles that exist when it comes to a business environment: protection of intellectual property; requirements that companies buy local content; limits on foreign direct investment; inconsistent tax treatment; barriers to market access. These are tough problems. But we all know they have to be negotiated and worked through in order to meet the potential of this relationship. Not just with us, but with other countries as well. This instinct to protect your industries is fully comprehensible and easy to understand.
India has 600 million people under the age of 25 with unlimited capabilities, but in some cases limited horizons. Your businesses are seeking any competitive edge they find, and why shouldn't they?
But I believe recent history of other developing countries and developed countries shows there is a better way to grow and strengthen your economy, although it takes some bold decisions.
A young Indian woman graduating from IIT Bombay who wants to start the next Tata Motors should be able to buy the best technology and parts, wherever in the world they come from -— as her competitors around the world are able to do.
An Indian medical student with a brilliant idea for a life-saving medical device should know that his intellectual property will be protected and rewarded because that gives him the financial incentive and the intellectual motivation to continue to move forward.
Hundreds of millions of Indian consumers deserve access to the most affordable and reliable products to better their standard of living. Now, look, I understand -– believe me –- how making even the most modest of changes of opening your markets impacts on interest groups. It happens in my country, and it clearly happens in yours.
But you have an extraordinary opportunity to unleash the immense talents of the people of India in the global economy -— and power India's growth for decades to come. It is not easy. I am not -- I am a public official. I've been doing this my entire adult life. These are difficult decisions to make. It's a little bit like, as my mother used to say, you got to take your medicine in order to be healthy -- a homely metaphor, but the truth of the matter is, they're difficult.
But the choices are not ours to make, they're India's to make. We could both do fine without one another. We are not here -- I am not here, the President didn't ask me to come here to lecture, to suggest what is India's interest. That's for India to decide. We know what is in our interest. We believe what is in our interest, and a powerful, growing, vibrant Indian economy we believe is in our interest. We know is in our interest. And there are certain basic rules of the road of the 21st century that have to be met as a practical matter -- not dictated by us, but by the marketplace in order to be able to get there.
So America does not claim to be a disinterested party. We see tremendous opportunities for American companies in technology and infrastructure, and in creating more efficient supply chains here in India.
One place to start is would be with the Bilateral Investment Treaty. It would give investors in both countries more certainty and predictability; fair treatment under a single, consistent set of rules for companies small and large, foreign and domestic.
I'm pleased that our countries are reengaging in talks toward a Bilateral Investment Treaty. Both our governments have instructed our negotiators to see what progress can be made by the time Prime Minister Singh visits Washington this fall.
In the United States, we welcome Indian businesses investing in the United States. We've already benefit from the investment of human capital. Indians receive more skilled-worker visas to the United States than any other country in the world. And the legislation our Congress is considering increases the number of temporary visas and Green Cards availability for highly skilled Indians to come work in the United States. I know that causes, as my Italian friends say, some agita with some individual companies. But the bottom line is there's a net expansion.
At the same time, businesses and workers in both our countries benefit when there is a strong, predictable, and fair global trading system.
In December, members of the World Trade Organization will meet in Bali. We need to find a way forward to address India's -- and I'll be criticized for saying this -- India's legitimate concerns about food security without distorting global trade. It's a difficult problem, but it must be addressed.
And also -- it also addresses many countries' desire to reduce barriers at borders that harm their companies and set back development.
Success in Bali can help reinvigorate world trade, the World Trade Organization and show that it remains a vital forum to resolve these issues.
In this and many other areas, India has an essential role to play -- both to take its rightful place in international rule-setting and to accept the responsibilities that come with it. Because ultimately, the two go hand in hand.
The second thing we can do is have our brilliant scientists on both sides of the Pacific -– our brilliant scientists work together on a common, common interest: clean energy and climate change to ensure that both countries can grow responsibly and sustainably.
In India -- I come from a part of America that -- where we're only about seven feet above sea level. Sea levels are rising. They are rising. It will affect tens of millions of people in India.
At home, America is working to lower carbon pollution that causes climate change. In fact, we have brought it down to its lowest level in two decades. We have much more to do, and we plan to do more.
India, too, needs to take concerted action –- all the more as your economy and your energy needs continue to grow. I realize it's a conundrum. I have heard the debate with developing economies over the past 30 years. You clear-cut your forest 200 years ago. You did such and such. You had an advantage. True. But it does not undercut the reality that we both have an overwhelming stake in seeing to it that we address the issue of climate change.
Of course India's first priority is and must be lifting its citizens out of poverty. But unless we can develop a sustainable path on a low-carbon path, the consequences of climate change will seriously undermine the development and growth, as well as harm the very health of the people of India.
You've all observed what's happening in China now. Allegedly a million people a year dying as a consequence o atmospheric pollution. Reality ultimately intrudes. And the reality is we have a worldwide problem.
This is not a favor to other nations. It matters to India -- to the productivity of your farmlands, the availability of water, the risks you face from floods and rising seas.
India is already taking steps. But like us, India can do more. And we are anxious and willing to work with you.
One thing we can do together right now is address pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs. The reason I'm very familiar with this is I come from a little state that has an outfit called the DuPont Company. They had a great interest in refrigeration and HFCs when I talked about they should be eliminated. We talk about stakeholders and interests. Well, HFCs found in air conditioners and other products make an outsized contribution to climate change.
I hope that India will join the United States, China and more than 100 other countries to work within the Montreal Protocols to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs.
Your leaders fully understand that in order to sustain your development India needs access to low-carbon technologies and other sources of clean energy. And that's why when I was a United States Senator and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee I fought so hard in the United States Senate to champion the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. It's part of the path to sustainable energy in a growing, powerful country. But part of that agreement was India committed to work with American companies as well as you build out those nuclear plants.
And it's important that we complete the first agreement between American companies and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.
The reactors that India has authorized its nuclear company to purchase in -- I hope I pronounce it right -- Gujarat would generate as much as 6,000 megawatts of power. To put that number in perspective: that would be enough energy to power two cities the size of Mumbai.
Third, although we are already helping India meet its military needs –- we can significantly increase our defense cooperation by what it already is, without in any way compromising each other's sovereignty.
Cargo aircraft called C-130s that were sold to India are now saving the lives of flood victims in the mountains of northern India. We're ready to go forward. Rather than just India purchasing from us, together we can graduate to have a true partnership or co-production and co-development agreements so that together we can design and co-produce the systems and technologies of the future.
But it's not just military-to-military where we have increased our cooperation. Our cooperation has grown dramatically in our shared fight against terrorism. India has suffered grievous attacks against your parliament and here n Mumbai. We suffered 9/11.
Together we are working hand-in-hand, sharing intelligence on terrorist groups so there will never be another 9/11; there will never another 26/11.
Fourth, we want to deepen our strategic partnership on regional as well as global issues. The United States is elevating our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. We refer to it as rebalance.
Twenty, even 10 years ago, some might have suggested that not have included India in these discussions. Today, India is an indispensable part of our rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific. Indians have looked east through travel and trade for a millennia. These ties are reemerging. India is negotiating a trade deal with ASEAN. It is becoming more involved in regional institutions. And that is good news for the region and for us.
Stronger connections between India and Southeast Asia will be a good business -- good for business I should say and good for stability. And both of us have a strong interest in maintaining the security of the sea lanes, freedom of navigation from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. And each have to get our relationship right with China.
I've heard people talk about the U.S.-China relationship as everything from the next Cold War to the next G2. None -- neither of those characterizations is accurate.
Like India, and I've had discussions on this issue while I've been here, but I knew it already, like India, we have a complex relationship with China. It has important elements of cooperation and also competition. And we want it to be constructive. There are three big nations -- we are three big nations -- China, India and the United States -- with our own perspectives. We have significant common interests. All three of us and the entire region would benefit if we coordinated more closely.
America and India have already built strong trilateral dialogue with Japan. It is past time we launch one with China. America and India are cooperating closely in Afghanistan. It's been the subject of many of my discussions thus far with your leadership.
I know there are questions about the U.S. position on reconciliation with the Taliban. I want to be clear: We have always been committed to an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process that meets three outcomes. The Taliban must, one, break with Al Qaeda permanently; stop the violence; accept the Afghan constitution and guarantee free and equal treatment for women.
India has exercised responsible leadership in Afghanistan through assistance, investment and strategic agreements with the Afghan government.
The United States is committed to supporting Afghanistan through our Strategic Partnership after the transition is complete at the end of 2014. We are not leaving the region –- even as Afghanis step up and take responsibility.
On Pakistan, we support the early outreach between Prime Ministers Singh and Sharif. It's not our place to lecture. It's not our place to dictate. Our relationship will not be defined by India's relationship to Pakistan. But America and the world have a deep stake in closer ties between India and Pakistan -- an incredibly difficult nut to crack, but it's yours to crack.
We have no illusions that it will be easy. But as you know better than we do, progress would benefit everyone and make all of us, particularly this region, more secure.
So there's a great deal we hope India will contribute to. We believe, discussions I've had thus far, the peace and prosperity in the 21st century will be impacted upon by the outcomes of that relationship. That's why President Obama has called our relationship with India "a defining partnership for the century ahead."
He is not engaging in hyperbole. He means it literally. And so do I. It's the defining partnership in the century ahead. That's why he stood in the Indian Parliament and declared to the world, that "we look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member." (Appaluse.) That's why yesterday, on behalf of the President Obama, I invited Prime Minister Singh to make a visit to Washington at the end of September.
We have an incredibly full agenda, but nothing gives me more hope for the prospects of that agenda, as we approach it, nothing gives me more hope that we can accomplish it together than our people 720,000 visas per year that are issued here in India to go to the United States, the 100,000 talented Indian students studying at American Universities -– with the aim at doubling that number by 2020, and tripling the number of Americans studying in India.
But the foundation of my hope and expectations is built upon the certain knowledge that our people share a common set of values and peaceful vision for the world.
As I said, be critical, look down the road. Where is there an intersection in the future of the 21st century where we are likely to be at odds with one another on the big issues?
For those who doubt the vision that the President and I share, I would refer them to the founder of the modern state of India, Mahatma Gandhi. I had the honor of visiting the place where he literally spent his last days, as probably all of you have as well. And as I stood there, remembering him as a young child who -- being involved in the Civil Rights Movement and how Dr. King looked to Gandhi, I was reminded once again, which is not very -- how can I say it -- sophisticated to say to a sophisticated audience, but I was reminded once again that dreams matter. Dreams matter. A nation without a vision to where it wants to go will be buffeted by the swirling winds of the world and not have the ability to grab the reins to try to determine its own future. Vision matters.
But they are only realized, as all of you know, by hard work and incredible persistence. So as you look to the horizon, it's very important we keep our feet on the ground, and continue the day-to-day painstaking effort of building this great partnership even if it means in the beginning we only make incremental small changes. But every day must be forward. No matter how small -- no matter how small the measure of progress is.
I am absolutely confident -- absolutely confident in the future of this relationship. Not because I'm naïve. I've been around longer than most of you. I've been doing this kind of business my entire adult life. My confidence is based on the history of the journey of both our countries. But I am confident.
May God bless you all, may God bless India and may God protect our troops. Thank you so very much. (Applause.)
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President on the U.S.-India Partnership at the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai, India Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321002