PM Modi’s visit to the U.S. comes at a historic moment, says envoy Eric Garcetti

India and U.S. are aligned on values; they are two democracies working to ‘uplift women, minorities that are disenfranchised, people who come from poverty’, says U.S. Ambassador to India 

Updated - June 16, 2023 04:32 pm IST

Published - June 15, 2023 04:45 am IST - NEW DELHI

U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti speaks during ‘Roundtable on Advancing India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in New Delhi, on June 13, 2023.

U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti speaks during ‘Roundtable on Advancing India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in New Delhi, on June 13, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

As the dates for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States draw closer, officials from New Delhi and Washington are busy making the final arrangements for the strategic and defence agreements the two sides hope to sign or announce during the State visit. U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti says the visit will be a historic one as U.S. and India seek to deepen their ties and work for peace, prosperity, the people and the planet. The envoy also lays emphasis on the democratic values that the two countries share. Excerpts from an interview:

This is a major visit for the two countries. What are the issues top on the agenda and what are the deliverables?

I think this is a historic visit and it’s coming at a historic moment. We’ve never seen the U.S.-India relationship so deep and so broad. And it rests on a foundation of deep friendship between the two leaders, both who have come from modest places and became the leaders of the two largest democracies. But also between two nations, the people of India and the U.S. who really feel an affinity to one another. It’ll deliver, I think, first and foremost, the deepening of the relationship. It’ll secondly have the symbolism of why this relationship is so critical, not just to India and the U.S., but to the world. And within that, what I call the four Ps, we’ll have deliverables among peace, prosperity, for the planet and for our people.

Peace, of course, which is the foundation of everything else... How we can deepen our defence ties, integrate our technologies, co-produce, purchase cutting-edge technologies to make sure that India is safe and secure, but also strategically how we can better integrate, supporting one each other in times of need. In terms of prosperity, we’re working very hard to see if we can dial back some of the trade disputes that we saw from the previous administration to really open up the doors for technology through iCET, the critical emerging technologies, everything from space to artificial intelligence. How do we use technology as a force for good, not of oppression? How do we as democracies contrast with autocracies? Third, the planet, I would say from the seabed to the stars... You’ll see the preservation of the ocean, here Indian Ocean and the region, work that we’ll do to preserve the climate and the planet through new cutting edge, zero carbon energy and transportation. And, then, participation in space together where we see unlimited opportunities. And finally, hopefully, we’ll deepen the resources we’re assigning to the people-to-people ties, whether that’s expanding our missions in both countries and getting people here who can help bring down the backlog and the waiting time for visas as well as educational exchanges, which are so integral. Those are some of the highlights of what we can expect.

There is lot of focus particularly on defence and high tech cooperation. Do you see jet engine cooperation materialising and also anything under the ambit of iCET?

More broadly, I’m very optimistic... We’re really leaning in to help make sure that India’s Air Force and Navy and domestic industry have the most exquisite technologies that exist. And that’s a real commitment of faith, of this relationship and of our future together. That’s something that really the U.S. hasn’t done before with any other country, not even our closest allies. And it reflects a confidence between our militaries, between our leaders, and between our people.

[As for] iCET, the sky is the limit. We’re looking at semiconductors and diversifying our supply chain. This is not about being against any other country. But we should not be overly dependent on any one source for critical technologies that run our cars, help our militaries and connect us with our phones. I always say, will technology be used to connect us, protect us, heal us, or will it be used to divide us, oppress us and cause us to have more unhealthy lives? And that choice is clear. And both countries aren’t just aligned in terms of strategic interests. Like we’re aligned with values, two democracies who respect the fact that I’m having an interview with you. This wouldn’t happen in in non-democratic countries... That we try to uplift women, minorities that are disenfranchised, people who come from poverty. This is, especially in a G-20 year, something we want to highlight.

In the overall relationship, military-to-military cooperation has seen a tremendous progress. So apart from defence sales and the co-development and co-production, what is next on that front, and to borrow the idea shared by Admiral Harry Harris several years ago here in Delhi, is it time for India and the U.S. to start something like joint patrols in the Indian Ocean Region?

That’ll be up to our Indian friends to tell us what their needs are. But I think we’ve proven ourselves as partners and friends. It’s deeper than partners. Sometimes, partners sounds too clinical and we’re really friends in times of need. We have been there now every single time in recent years India needed us. India does more military exercises with us than any other country. And the more that we do exercises, the more that we could envision those kind of joint awareness of seas, undersea domains and of an overall security. India isn’t a country that wants to project power, it wants to protect its people. The United States, too, we’re often misunderstood. We have no desire to project power. We want to protect trade, have the rule of law, and we want people to have peaceful lives. So I think the sky’s the limit. And that it will be up to the Indian military force to tell us what it would not only like to have, but what it would like to do with us.

One final question. Data and cybersecurity are something on which there has been concern from U.S. officials and the industry. Given recent reports, what are your concerns on that front and what is that you want India to do?

Firstly, we want to help India have the most secure kind of cyber environment that it can because we know there are malicious actors, who seek to disrupt, who seek to steal, who seek to weaken the strength that India has. So first and foremost, we want to build up that capacity. Secondly, for private industry, we’ve always thought that the right way forward is to safeguard the privacy of consumer data. But we are also impressed by India’s ability to take public systems like UPI and others to make sure there is no corruption, make sure the bottom at the end of the economic scale have access to the technology and through that access to prosperity. And we continue to make good progress here. By the way, it’s not just American companies but also Indian companies which understand that some data needs to be kept private for the consumer and for companies before they will make this sort of level of investment that I think India wants to see. But we have seen good amendments to initial legislation that went forward and I am very optimistic that we really see more and more eye to eye on this.

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