By John Kerry
When President Obama returns to India this January, he will become the first U.S. president to celebrate Republic Day as chief guest. As the leaders of the largest and oldest democracies in the world sit side-by-side along the Rajpath, it will be the surest sign yet that our interests and values are united like never before.
I’ve been Secretary of State now going on two years, and I was on the Foreign Relations Committee for nearly 30 years, so I’ve seen the ups and downs of this relationship. And people talk about the United States and India perhaps the way that a matchmaker talks about two friends that they want to get together: “Oh, you have so much in common. If only you’d spend more time together.”
People are watching to wait and see if this Modi moment is going to be the moment when the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy finally capitalize on the full, inherent potential of this relationship. And it does, in fact, seem so natural. The United States and India are two countries defined by the belief that all things are possible.
President Obama often says that, for him, only in America would his journey be possible. And Prime Minister Modi’s journey from a young man who sold tea by the railroad in Gujarat to the Prime Minister’s residence on Race Course Road seems no less improbable.
This belief in opportunity, even against long odds, is unique to our two countries. We are two countries who begin our founding documents with the same three words: “We the people.” We are two countries where entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation are in both of our DNA. We are the only two countries that could have given birth to Hollywood and Bollywood and where high-tech hubs like Bangalore and Silicon Valley could blossom and be connected — even as they are independent in their creativity. We are two countries that, as Swami Vivekananda said in Chicago more than a century ago, have sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations on earth.
In the last years, I have been pleased and privileged to see our relationship come a long way. It has been a long journey from the mistrust and misperception of the Cold War period and even the post-Cold War period and President Clinton’s efforts to forge a new relationship. And those efforts have continued under U.S. administrations Democratic and Republican, alike.
The question today is whether we are going to at last take this partnership to the new heights that we can both envision.
What is clear for all to see is that we are two confident, democratic nations together entering a new age of technological advancement, growth, and progress.
While India and the United States boast unique histories and cultures, we are also similar in many ways. With 3.2 million Indian-Americans creating businesses and enriching life in cities from Atlanta to San Francisco, India is tightly woven into the fabric of American society. And recently, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed our shared values when they visited the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial in Washington and discussed the impact that the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi had on America’s own Civil Rights Movement.
But what you might not see on the broadsheets, broadcasts, and tweets that our citizens share every day is that American and Indian businesses are forging a new model of relations founded on the building blocks of co-innovation and global collaboration – in the United States, India, and across the Indo-Pacific.
This week, with the launch of Huffington Post India, one of America’s most influential media organizations has recognized what you see every day: that India is in the midst of a great transformation — from its rural villages to its mega-cities — and that American business has an essential role to play in its continued emergence.
I first came to India in 1994 as a United States Senator leading a trade mission of American companies. I was immediately seized with India’s economic promise and entrepreneurial passion. And I was not alone. Two short decades later and American and Indian scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators have realized the same opportunity and are collaborating like never before. They have spurred progress in such sectors as health care, aeronautics systems, and green energy technology.
The fruits of these partnerships are already extraordinary.
When India became the first country to successfully send a satellite into orbit around Mars on its initial attempt, their collaborators at NASA and JPL were cheering just as loudly as the scientists and engineers at ISRO. Through innovative partnerships, India has embraced U.S. off-grid clean energy technology, which soon will provide millions of people with consistent electricity. Together we’ve developed vaccines for Rotavirus, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five. And last month, we held the U.S.-India Tech Summit, which brought together representatives from our governments to discuss new opportunities for mutual growth.
But the greatest dividends from our partnership will be realized in the future.
Two-way investment is booming. Ford Motor Company is spending $1 billion to turn its new auto plant in Gujarat into a regional manufacturing hub. U.S. subsidiaries of Indian-owned companies employ 45,000 people in the United States. U.S. financial institutions are investing in India’s booming start-up market. And we are encouraging utility firms to help Prime Minister Modi meet his goal of bringing power to every Indian home before the end of the decade — an important step toward achieving his other ambition, building a $10 trillion Indian economy by 2030.
There is no denying it: The work going on in boardrooms in Mumbai and New York, laboratories in Palo Alto and Gujarat, and factories from Pittsburgh to Bangalore is proof positive that Indians and Americans are blazing a new path forward, a path built on the bedrock of innovation.
All of these achievements are made possible by our dynamic societies. Last summer, I returned to India and spoke with Ratan Tata and other transformational business leaders. I stopped by the Indian Institute of Technology and watched students researching and developing new products like biodegradable plastics. And at Race Course Road, I sat down with Prime Minister Modi and discussed his vision for India’s economic future. I left India inspired, with the conviction that our entrepreneurial DNA will take our nations places we could have never imagined when I first arrived in 1994.
Both Indians and Americans are knowledge seekers and entrepreneurs. We believe in freedom and the rights of all. And we are aspirational: We trust that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
Today, our destinies are converging. As we continue to deepen our partnership, and transform how we collaborate and invent, India and the United States can create a more prosperous future — for the world and for one another.
Our time has come.
About the Author: John Kerry serves as the 68th U.S. Secretary of State. Go to www.state.gov/secretary and follow @JohnKerry on Twitter for more from the Secretary. This entry originally appeared as an Op-Ed in The Huffington Post.