The transformation of India-US relations is best symbolised by the civil nuclear energy cooperation that the two sides are pursuing. The bilateral 123 Agreement concluded in July 2007 and the September 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group decision for full international cooperation in this area were forward looking and momentous decisions. These decisions were not only long overdue recognition of India's standing as a country with advanced nuclear technology and our responsible behavior in this regard, but also opened up significant opportunities for technical collaboration.
The new US administration has, indeed, focused on continuity in the bilateral relationship. In this, is the inherent recognition of India's place in the world, our regional role, and our demonstrable economic strength and potential. There has been regular consultation on issues of mutual concern. In many ways, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said, this is an essay in mutual comprehension.
It is a partnership based both on principle and pragmatism that has become increasingly more durable and multi-faceted. There is a strong desire to work with each other on a number of issues of mutual concern and interest. During our prime minister's visit to Washington in November 2009, President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to provide added meaning and thrust to our relationship. Bipartisan support in the US Congress and Senate for a strong and durable relationship with India was evident throughout the visit.
The discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh on the regional situation, the problem and threat of terrorism in our region, Af-Pak issues, our respective relations with major regional players, the global financial situation, were all reflective of the trust, transparency and openness that increasingly marks our dialogue with each other.
An expanded, multi-faceted relationship between India and the US would naturally entail a focus on military cooperation including joint visits and exercises, cooperation in the protection of sea lanes and the control of piracy -- all areas which can work to our mutual advantage. We have been told by the US administration that they are engaged in efforts to bring significant reform to their export controls so as to free up opportunities for defense cooperation with India. We look forward to these outcomes.
In our view, the removal of export controls on the supply of high technology and dual use items would inspire an even greater degree of confidence in our bilateral relationship and understanding.
On the regional situation, we appreciate the commitment of the US to the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, to emphasize the need to grow Afghan capacity to deal with the problems in that country, to intensify efforts to eradicate terrorism so that the terrorist groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot have field days in the future. Our cooperation with the US in counter-terrorism is an important dimension of our bilateral relationship and it has come into sharper focus in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2008.
Let me elaborate on this theme. There are several other security related issues where greater cooperation and more frequent consultations between our two countries are necessary. These include the threat of international terrorism, the evolving security architecture in Asia, etc.
Terrorism in our immediate neighbourhood and cross-border terrorism faced by India is a pivotal security challenge. There is a growing consensus that the increase in terrorist activities in Afghanistan is linked to the support and sanctuaries available in the contiguous areas of Pakistan. Increased terrorist violence in our neighbourhood is a cause for grave concern. That these forces operate across boundaries with impunity was evident in the November 2008 terrorist attack on the city of Mumbai.
The phenomenon of cross-border terrorism has also illustrated the difficulties that we face in dealing with Pakistan. We face hostile forces across our border with Pakistan, although we have consistently stressed our support for the advancement of democracy, the growth of civil society, and economic development in an atmosphere of peace, in Pakistan -- goals that the US also identifies with. The groups, who direct such attacks against India, have received the patronage of powerful forces and institutions within that country. It is vital that this support must stop forthwith. Any viable process of normalization of our relations with Pakistan is essentially dependent on this requirement since it is unrealistic to think otherwise.
The initiation of a coordinated Af-Pak strategy by the new US administration in a sense highlights a situation that India has witnessed, and been affected by, for over two decades now. It is equally critical for the US and the international community to pay adequate attention to and realise that the situation both in Afghanistan-Pakistan and the cross-border terrorism that emanates from Pakistan against India are manifestations of the use of terrorist ideologies to promote unscrupulous political or institutional agendas.
Pakistan's concerns of the perceived threat in the East and on Indian activities in Afghanistan need to be unequivocally rebutted. It is also essential to ensure that the international aid that Pakistan receives including that from the US is not diverted for anti-India purposes as had happened in the past. We have reiterated a number of times that we harbour no aggressive designs on Pakistan.
With regard to Afghanistan, India is an important neighbour and our focus there is on development activity with the aim to build indigenous Afghan capacities and institutions for an effective state system to improve delivery of goods and services to Afghan people. We are clear in our determination to work with the world to devise strategies to control terrorism, and to sensitise our friends and partners to the challenges that we have faced in tackling terrorism.
On the Iranian nuclear issue, India's position has been consistent. India supports the right of all States to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the respective obligations that they have undertaken. As Iran is an NPT (nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty) member, it has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. At the same time, we also underline the importance of full and effective implementation of all safeguard obligations undertaken by Iran as member State of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
While India has voted in favour of the recent IAEA resolution in end-November 2009, we do not believe that the adoption of this resolution should divert the parties away from dialogue. This resolution should not be the basis for a renewed punitive approach or new sanctions. All concerned must expand the diplomatic space to satisfactorily address all outstanding issues.
Turning to Asia, it is clear that with the rapid rise of China and India, as two economic powerhouses in the region, there will be increasing opportunities for economic integration, as also a realignment of forces. With Japan we are developing the foundations of 'strategic global partnership' with a strong economic and strategic content. Similarly with China, we have established a strategic and cooperative partnership. We have a multi-faceted relationship with China -- it is now our largest trading partner, we consult with each other on global issues, and we share a common commitment to maintain peace and tranquility on our border.
We have good working relations with all major countries in Asia. The key to ensuring long-term security and equilibrium in Asia will be best ensured by building mutual economic stakes in which people, goods, services and even ideas can travel with ease across borders. I believe that India's economic growth offers fresh opportunities for development and prosperity of the region.
The rise of China is of course observed with close attention in our region. China's demonstrable economic strength and its growing military capabilities are a matter of fact and we must incorporate such factors into our calculus of the emerging 21st century scenario in the Asia Pacific. This is where a mature and evolving dialogue between India and the US will be of considerable relevance in clarifying approaches to the regional situation and the policy approaches of roles of our two countries in these new circumstances.
On the security architecture for the region, there is need for Asian countries and major non-Asian players in Asian security to interact and cooperate. The US has a major presence in the region. We need to work together to evolve a balanced, open and inclusive framework. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum has provided a useful model of such interaction and cooperation based on dialogue and consensus in such areas as counter-terrorism, transnational crime, maritime security, disaster relief, pandemics and non-proliferation and disarmament.
Our two countries are cooperating in myriad ways that directly contribute to our development agenda. For example, food and nutritional security is critical for our development. India has emerged as a surplus food producer, and our ability to manage food security both in terms of availability and price level is recognised. We, however, cannot afford to slacken our efforts on this front. We have agreed to bring our scientists to work together towards improving weather forecasting and risk management for agriculture production. Our ongoing cooperation also focuses on research to increase food productivity, prolong the shelf life of the agricultural produce, capacity building, etc.
Similarly, we are working together towards establishment of a regional Disease Detection Centre in India to deal with the problem of pandemics and provide an impetus to research, capacity building and connectivity in the region.
President Obama and Prime Minister Singh have launched the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative to tap innovation and ideas of the two knowledge-based societies. Similarly, the launch of the Women's Empowerment Forum will provide an opportunity to share ideas and best practices in promoting women's participation and equality in society.
On the issue of nuclear disarmament, we feel encouraged by some recent positive steps. President Obama's administration has signalled US willingness to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its nuclear strategy and to work towards a nuclear weapon-free world. The renewed debate underway on this issue is in line with our long held positions on achieving a universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament.
We are today also faced with the challenges of nuclear terrorism and nuclear security. India has been affected by the clandestine nuclear proliferation in its neighbourhood and given the challenges of terrorism in our region, we are naturally concerned about the possibility of nuclear terrorism.
We welcome the initiative taken by the President Obama to host a summit on nuclear security in April 2010. India is working together with its international partners to ensure that this summit would be an important milestone in our efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Our civil nuclear energy cooperation is equally critical from the perspective of the twin challenges of meeting energy requirements of our rapidly growing economy and imperatives of dealing with climate change. From the latter perspective, nuclear energy is green energy.
We have been cooperating on the issue of climate change both bilaterally and multilaterally. India took an active part in the negotiation of the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009. The Copenhagen Accord reaffirmed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The Copenhagen Accord will undoubtedly serve as a significant input into the post-Copenhagen negotiating process leading up to CoP-16.
It, however, cannot supplant the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. We need to uphold the multilateral process, the principle of consensus, even while we take forward the key elements of the Accord into the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations. We also need to take note of the fact that CoP-15 decided, by consensus, to continue multilateral negotiations on the two parallel tracks, that is, the Bali Action Plan and the Kyoto Protocol tracks, with no change in their mandates.
At the same time, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, India stands by its voluntary domestic target of reducing the energy intensity of its gross domestic product growth by 20-25 per cent by 2020 in comparison to the level achieved in 2005. This reflects India's readiness to address the issue of climate change with commitment and focus, even as it seeks to meet the challenges of economic and social development and poverty eradication.
Reverting back to the topic of my address, ours is a relationship with boundless possibilities for mutual benefit. There are no real irritants in our relations. All indicators point to a strong desire to work with each other, in both countries. Through the surge in trade, services and investment that we have witnessed in both directions, our entrepreneurs and corporate have already demonstrated that India-US ties are creating jobs and benefits in both countries.
Our governments are working to put in place a better enabling environment to facilitate movement of capital and human resources. And the role of the Indian-American community in promoting the positive transformation of our relations must be acknowledged fulsomely.
To conclude, in an increasingly complex world, neither India nor the United States can achieve their goals on their own; nor will our partnership exclusively suffice to address our problems. But, our collaboration and cooperation will be indispensable for shaping the character of the 21st century. It is also natural that we will not always agree on everything. But, increasingly, I believe, there is the maturity and confidence in our relationship to address areas of divergence with openness, and also promote convergences in our approaches to global challenges.
Excerpted from Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's January 12 keynote address at the India Initiative of the Centre for a New American Security and the ASPEN Institute India