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'US-India ties allow us to capture the strength of both nations'

March 28, 2014 14:49 IST

‘When the United States and India make common cause there's really no challenge that we can't tackle, there's no mission that we can't overcome,’ believes senior US official Nisha Desai Biswal

Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal, the Obama administration's point person for South Asia, recently showered kudos on Indian American physicians and the broader Diaspora community for not just being catalytic in fostering the India-United States relationship, but for being the solid anchor that sustains this partnership through good times and bad.

Biswal made the comments while keynoting the legislative conference of the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin -- arguably the largest and most influential international medical organisation in the country -- held on Capitol Hill.

She said she was elated to be at the event “because I understand one of the more important roles AAPI has played over the decades on the US-India relationship”.

”AAPI has been a tremendous organisation for what you do here in the United States and for what you do in India and for what you do to improve and extend the US-India relationship,” she added.

Biswal, an erstwhile long-time Congressional staffer, recalled, “Obviously, I have had an opportunity to work over the years in my various capacities, first on the Hill, then at USAID (US Agency for International Development) and now at the State Department to work with you.'

She said, “You are well aware of the collaboration and the important work between the United States and India in India and globally on these issues, and what a key relationship this is”.

”India was a partner with the United States on the Global Call for Action on Child Survival, which was a global effort to end preventable child deaths,” she noted, and hailed India for being “a leader and a partner on so many health innovations and we are working together, like I said, in advancing health issues in India, but then also partnering with India on taking these innovations globally”.

Biswal harked to her recent trip to India and spoke of her visit to Bangalore and her tuur of the GE research facility, GE Health Systems and how impressed she was.

“One of the most amazing state-of-the-art facilities and some of the work they were doing and taking advanced technologies and adapting it to emerging markets”.

She said, “That kind of innovation, in taking cutting edge technology but then making it accessible is making dramatic improvements across the globe, and this is, again, where the partnership between the United States and India manifest in such a powerful way”.

Biswal said all of this was “really the beauty of the US-India relationship in that it allows us to capture the strength of both countries, and we know that when the United States and India make common cause there's really no challenge that we can't tackle, there's no mission that we can't overcome”.

She argued, “That is the power and potential of this relationship and that really for me is an exciting, exciting area to be working on across a broad spectrum, whether we are talking about the strategic relationship and the aspects of working together as we address global challenges, whether it's the economic potential of the relationship that we are currently at a two-way trade of a $100 billion annually with potential of expanding greatly, and with the defence and the security relationship, where the United States is now doing more joint exercises with India than really with any other country.'

Biswal said, “These are all indicators of how important and valued this relationship is for both countries but also the future trajectory, which is on a very positive path”.

She noted, “Obviously, India is going through national elections and we much look forward to the outcome of those elections and engagement with the new government following those elections. But one of the things that have been a remarkable foundational aspect of this relationship is that it has been supported in a bipartisan way here in the United States -- and I know you guys do that very well.'

She reiterated, “So, we look forward to continuing to engage no matter what the outcome of that election is and continuing to grow that relationship”.

Biswal underscored “how important the Diaspora community has been in creating the bedrock of support that allows the relationship to be supported through good times and bad, through moments of opportunity and moments of challenge. That Diaspora foundation really is the kind of the genesis in the old days when -- if I may speak candidly -- the extent of the relationship was resolutions that would be introduced every year congratulating India on its democracy”.

Biswal once again recalled her recent trip to India and spoke of her visit to the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“I had a wonderful meeting with Dr Radhakrishnan, the head of ISRO, and we talked about the next generation of US-India collaboration, the fact that we are working together on the Indian Mars Observer Mission, and we are working together on satellite technology that will transform the kind of date that we are mapping on climate to the next generation of ideas of collaboration -- the work that's happening between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and CalTech with Indian innovators and researchers are really a harbinger of what lies ahead.'

She declared, “All of this is possible because of the very early investments that all of you have made over the decades, and your continued engagement and activism is most welcome and always, always, needed”.

Image: Nisha Desai Biswal

Aziz Haniffa In Washington, DC