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Yes, together we can

During my confirmation hearing to become the US ambassador to India, I said that the real test of the US–India partnership will be how we work together on global challenges of our era. Timothy Roemer writes.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2011 11:26 IST

After two years as a diplomat in this beautiful country, I have had a chance to reflect on the road we have travelled together during the formation of this global partnership. During my confirmation hearing to become the US ambassador to India, I said that the real test of the US–India partnership will be how we work together on global challenges of our era like terrorism, economic development, renewable energy, and poverty. Our two democracies have risen to almost every challenge and, in a post-Osama bin Laden environment, there are more opportunities to bring peace and stability in the region.

The revelations of al-Qaeda’s continued global ambitions to create mayhem reaffirm the need to remain vigilant. Groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Haqqani network have increased interest in regional recruiting and global targets. These threats strengthen President Barack Obama’s focus on partnering with the international community for global security. As he said, such partnering to forge cooperation with 21st century centres of influence must include India as a respected power.

Our new Security Partnership has reached unprecedented heights in the past two years. Our Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative, signed in July 2010, has expanded our security cooperation to megacity policing, maritime security, law enforcement collaboration, and forensics training. Our intelligence-sharing, including access to David Headley, has benefited both countries. Our armed forces have regular exercises that are increasing in size and complexity as our militaries become more familiar with each other.

This increased security cooperation is a by-product of India’s arrival on the global stage and the world’s need for India to play a constructive role in meeting the many global challenges. Such recognition was the impetus behind President Obama’s historic announcement in the Indian Parliament that he looked forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council “that includes India as a permanent member”.

Our economic partnership has made significant progress in the past two years on the trade and commercial front. Our vibrant economies are taking advantage of many opportunities in infrastructure, clean energy, mining, and technology for oil refining, and realising the president’s vision of increased cooperation between the US and India that “will be a win-win proposition for both nations.” In 2010, two-way trade was up almost 30% and India is now our 12th largest trading partner, up from 25th in 2000. With its high growth rates, booming middle class, and world class companies, I hope to see India in the top seven within the next several years.

While we were deeply disappointed in the MMRCA combat fighter decision, this multi-faceted partnership has moved beyond the next ‘single big idea’ and is no longer defined by any one deal. We have a potential pipeline of $8-10 billion in defence sales including the pending sale of C-17 aircraft that will create 30,000 jobs in the US as well as broaden the capabilities of India’s armed forces, and strengthen our bilateral military relationship.

There have been some uncomfortable moments. While American officials haven’t officially commented on WikiLeaks, we have seen positive outcomes. The reporting in India of these purported cables has shown that the US has a broad-based strategic vision for India and displayed a similar concern for terrorism spilling over from Pakistan. Our reported privately expressed opinions have been consistent with our public message. Ultimately, our global partnership is only as strong as our people-to-people ties, the foundation of what we have accomplished to date and what we will accomplish together in the future. Throughout my travels in India, I have seen examples of the shared values between our countries. In Varanasi, I experienced India’s religious freedom and diversity at an interfaith prayer meeting; at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, I viewed volunteers serve food daily to thousands of people; and I have witnessed the thirst for education visiting with young people and schools such as the Navodaya Vidyalaya school outside Delhi.

The formation of our global partnership is the beginning of a golden era in US-India relations. From defence to trade, from Africa to Asia, from education to health, we will collaborate on the major challenges of the day, use our collective strengths and lead the world toward peace and prosperity.

Timothy Roemer is the outgoing US ambassador to India. The views expressed by the author are personal.