Noting that India and the United States have taken steps to strengthen their cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said there is scope to do a lot more and this would be an important element of their deliberations.
Stating that both India and the US want to take their expanding defence cooperation to the next stage of co-production and co-development, Swaraj said, "For this, we need to define the benefits associated with India's designation as a 'Major Defence Partner' of the US during the Prime Minister's visit in June. This would spur defence industry collaboration between India and the US and help India play the desired role as a net provider of security in the region."
Delivering opening remarks at the Opening Plenary during the Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD), the External Affairs Minister said it is heartening to note that "we have been able to conclude a framework for the India-US Cyber Relationship - the first of its kind both for India and the US, with any other country".
Pointing out that both countries share the same democratic ethos of freedom, equality, pluralism and rule of law, she said, "India's enhanced global role is in our mutual interest. It is in this context, we look forward to continue working closely with the US to secure our membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)."
"In view of the rapidly evolving regional and global situation," said Swaraj, "we look forward to resuming the meeting of the Trilateral with Afghanistan; consultations on Africa and on multilateral issues within this year."
"Recently, we successfully launched the first UN Peacekeeping Course for African partners in New Delhi. This is an apt symbol of our partnership for peace, security and development in the wider world," she added.
Observing that there has been frequent political-level interaction throughout the year, Swaraj said, "Even as we speak, our Minister of Defence is on his second visit to the US in less than a year, making this year the second in a row that both Defence Ministers have exchanged visits in a calendar year. This is unprecedented."
"Similarly, the Economic and Financial Partnership Initiative at the level of Finance Ministers met earlier this year. Our Home Minister is planning to visit the US shortly for the Homeland Security Dialogue," she added.
Reiterating India's firm commitment for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, she said, "We are taking steps domestically to compress the timeline for our ratification of the Agreement. We hope that the next US Administration will continue to support the Paris Agreement with the same seriousness and purpose as you have done, and that the goal of mobilising $100 billion per year from developed countries, will be met with firm support from the US government."
"Our partnership in clean energy has received fresh impetus through launch of several initiatives that are aimed at facilitating clean energy investments from the US into India," she said, adding: "We need to significantly strengthen our collaboration in this area on a scale that will make it viable for us to make quantum transition to renewable energy away from fossil fuel, and achieve our ambitious climate goals."
The minister also urged the US to join the International Solar Alliance as an active member, which will be critical to its success.
Pressing the US for early implementation of the US Global Entry Programme for Indian nationals, Swaraj said, "The issue of totalisation and recent fee hike for H1B and L1 visa has affected our people-to-people exchanges, which is a vital source of strength for our relationship.
"I am sure these issues will be deliberated in depth in the commercial track of our discussion. But I would urge you to find a just and non-discriminatory solution to these issues."
Taking about "exciting" opportunities science and technology cooperation, she said, "Today, Indian and American scientists are engaged in jointly funded research, from atoms to space, combining India's talent with American infrastructure, and transforming lives of millions around the world. I am happy that both sides have decided to explore scaling up of funds for the bilateral Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF). We would request your support in early conclusion of Engineers and Scientists Exchange Programme (ESEP) Agreement."
The External Affairs Minister said India will take part in the Arctic Science Ministerial being hosted by the White House as well as in Our Ocean Conference to be hosted next month.
She stressed to develop cooperation in the area of traditional medicine.
She said trade and investment has continued to grow, and more opportunities are opening after the additional reforms that the Government of India took recently.
"As India unveils transformative economic programmes at home — be it Smart cities, Make in India, Digital India or renewable energy — the potential for doing business has never looked more appealing. We see the US as an indispensable partner in achieving these goals," said Swaraj.
"It is with that vision that I hope that you will treat the issue of India's membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum positively. This has as much strategic significance as it has commercial potential," she added.