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Foreign Secretary's Remarks at the Virtual Interaction with the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (November 19, 2020)

November 19, 2020

Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO, US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF);
Members of the USISPF Global Board;
Members of the USISPF’s India Advisory Board; and
Participants from the industry

I thank the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum for inviting me to this virtual interaction with its Board of Directors. Since its establishment three years ago, USISPF has made a significant contribution to bolstering the India-US bilateral partnership, particularly in advancing our economic and commercial ties.

2. As two mature, pluralistic and vibrant democracies with shared values, India and the US are natural partners of choice in forging a stable, peaceful and prosperous 21st century. The India-US partnership is anchored in mutual trust and friendship, a shared commitment to democracy, converging strategic interests and the robust engagement of our citizens. I have personally witnessed the growing convergence in the strategic perspectives of India and the US over recent years. We have made significant progress in promoting mutually beneficial cooperation across sectors, especially in the areas of strategic and defence cooperation, energy, economic and people-to-people ties. The elevation of our bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership in February this year illustrates this effectively.

3. India and the US have collectively affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, with firm support for ASEAN centrality. Our objective remains advancing the security and economic interests of all countries having a legitimate stake in the Indo-Pacific region. At the Quad Ministerial meeting held in Tokyo last month, the Quad partners also emphasised the need to share best practices to combat COVID-19 and enhance the resilience of global supply chains.

4. The third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue took place last month against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing efforts to revitalize economies and regional and global developments of interest to both countries. There was substantive discussion on a coordinated COVID-19 response and efforts towards economic recovery. Both sides strengthened their resolve in developing vaccines, therapeutics, ventilators and other essential medical equipment and to jointly promote access to a high quality, safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine. Both sides also resolved to enhance supply chain resilience and seek alternatives to the current paradigm, which has come under severe strain during the pandemic and exposed critical vulnerabilities. Our two countries sought to support the global economic recovery and to emerge from the pandemic more resilient than ever. In this regard, they welcomed efforts to rejuvenate and expand bilateral India-US trade in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. As India assumes membership of the UN Security Council in January next year, it will be our endeavour to work together with our partners, including the US, towards seeking collective solutions to global challenges. In the re-imagined post-COVID world, reformed multilateralism shall be critical in addressing unprecedented challenges and delivering effective results.

6. Another such global challenge is that of tackling climate change. India is on track not only to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, but is going well beyond these commitments in its fight against climate change. Despite our huge developmental challenges and limited availability of energy, we are taking ambitious action on renewable power, non-fossil fuel energy and increasing the green cover. As our Prime Minister said at the inauguration of India Energy Forum last month, "India will always work keeping in mind global good.” And, in keeping with this, we are aiming to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and further increase this to 450 GW by 2030. We are also committed to achieve 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources and restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Taking the lead globally, the Prime Minister has also taken the initiative to launch multilateral partnerships such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

7. To face the challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, India has made a tremendous whole-of-Government and whole-of-society effort. More than 17,000 dedicated COVID facilities have been set up with 1.6 million isolation beds. Over a million people are being tested daily. Our fatality rate has remained low at 1.5%. Some 9 of every 10 infected persons have recovered. The daily case load has reduced to below 50,000 from around a 100,000 few weeks ago. We remain vigilant though and continue to devise and re-devise strategies based on our experiences across the country. Digital tools are being used for extensive contact tracing. The crisis has resulted in a high-order national response marked by cohesion, purpose and resilience. In the space of only six months, we have added enormous production capacity in PPEs, testing kits, medicines, etc. that we are also sharing with others. At the beginning of the pandemic we did not have a single PPE manufacturer; today, we have more than 100. N-95 masks were being made by two companies; today, we are making enough masks to be able to send them to other countries and add to global supplies. The Prime Minister recently pointed out in an interview that since independence till the pandemic started, we had just 15-16 thousand ventilators in working condition in government hospitals across India, whereas, now, we are moving rapidly towards adding another 50000 ventilators to these hospitals. The crisis has stimulated innovation and enterprise in India and we are now able to manufacture cost-effective but high-quality critical health items for India and for the world.

8. We are on track on the development and trial of COVID vaccines, and are exploring the possibility of conducting phase III trials in a few of our partner countries. We are also looking forward to research collaboration in the field of vaccine development. Based on willingness, we may also go for joint production of vaccines in some countries. We have already conducted online training sessions for nearly 90 participants from 8 neighbouring countries to develop capacity in clinical trials and clinical practices. Based on demand, we can conduct more such training courses. Several countries have been approaching us for receiving vaccine supply. I reiterate our Prime Minister’s commitment that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis. India will also help interested countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of vaccines.


9. To tackle the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, the Government has announced a series of reforms with an aim to boost the investment climate in India, and position the country as a low-cost manufacturing destination in the region. Combined with the ease of doing business, simplified labour laws and easily accessible capital, India is a promising alternate manufacturing destination.

10. Record high FDI inflows indicate India’s growing image as an investor friendly country. This year, despite the pandemic, we received the highest ever FDI of US $ 35.73 billion for April-August. This is 13% higher than the same period last year, which was also a record year.

11. The Government has announced a PLI scheme for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing in India, which seeks to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally. Last week, the Government further introduced the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme in 10 key sectors for Enhancing India’s Manufacturing Capabilities and Enhancing Exports, including - Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery, Electronic/Technology Products, Automobiles & Auto Components, Pharmaceuticals, Telecom & Networking Products, Textile Products: MMF segment and technical textiles, Food Products, High Efficiency Solar PV Modules, White Goods (ACs & LED) & Specialty Steel.

12. To promote investments in the MSME sector, which forms the backbone of Indian economy, the Government has brought about several ground-breaking policy changes. In order to attract greater FDI in the sector, the definition of MSME has been changed to the effect that the investment limit in MSMEs has been increased from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore for micro enterprises, from Rs 5 crore to Rs 10 crore for small enterprises, and from Rs 10 crore to Rs 20 crore for medium enterprises. The distinction between manufacturing and services MSMEs has also been removed. In view of the pandemic’s impact, all businesses, including MSMEs, will be provided with collateral-free automatic loans of up to three lakh crore rupees. In addition to this, a corpus fund has been set up to provide additional funds to MSMEs.

13. Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum earlier this week, the Prime Minister highlighted the opportunities in urbanization in India and the several initiatives launched for rejuvenating our urban centres and making them resilient through sustainable mobility, technology, affordable housing and regulatory reforms.

14. We believe that the US is a natural partner for India in our quest for building a resilient economy. We are meeting today at an interesting time when the US is transitioning towards a new Administration. One of the remarkable features of our bilateral ties is the strong bi-partisan support in the US to strengthen its strategic partnership with India and work together on addressing global challenges. We look forward to working with the new US Administration for further strengthening and consolidating this multifaceted relationship for our mutual benefit and economic prosperity.

15. It is my firm conviction that India-US ties are only going to get stronger; I am sure all of you present here today share my optimism. I would like to thank the USISPF once again for its efforts in advancing the India-US partnership and wish them every success in their future endeavours.

Thank you.

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