U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged India Wednesday to take greater responsibility on the global stage, in partnership with the United States.
Speaking to some of India's brightest students on the Delhi campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kerry called India "an established power with a footprint on matters that affect the entire planet.” The top American envoy said further cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies is essential for confronting global challenges from terrorism to climate change.
“The bottom line is that the deep cooperation between India and the United States matters a great deal to both our countries and to the entire world,” said Kerry.
Leading nations, added Kerry, ”cannot simply ignore threats beyond our borders because, in the interconnected, globalized world we live in today, those dangers will inevitably cross borders. So we must confront them together.”
Kerry described Indo-American cooperation as having reached “an unprecedented level,” but said more is needed, while noting that “lasting peace requires strong diplomacy.”
Much of his remarks focused on confronting terrorism and the regional security challenge posed by Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea, the latter a growing concern of India, which shares a disputed border with China.
“There’s no military solution to this,” Kerry stated.
In a joint statement issued Tuesday the United States and India reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation in and over the South China Sea.
The Secretary of State also reiterated the United States backs “India’s emergence as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean.”
Another security concern for India is safe havens for terrorists in neighboring rival Pakistan.
“Progress is being made and the Pakistanis are moving at a greater pace,” Kerry noted, adding that India should understand that Pakistan has also suffered greatly from terrorism with 50,000 Pakistanis having been killed in attacks by extremists.
Kerry said U.S. and Indian “intelligence agencies now exchange information constantly” about suspected terrorists, noting agreements announced the previous day in the 2nd US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue on furthering such cooperation.
Kerry also called for India to do more to provide better opportunities for equal access to education and good-paying jobs.
India has a substantial minority population and many Muslims complain of being treated as second class citizens.
Islam is the second largest religion in India, followed by about 15 percent of the population – some 175 million people.
Hand in hand with corruption is “bad governance” and can lead to disaffected people becoming radicalized, Kerry warned.
Longstanding Indo-Pakistani tensions have meant barriers to trade, meaning South Asia remains the least connected market in the world, something Kerry called “unacceptable.”
The highest-ranking U.S. diplomat also chided India for its continued push for coal to meet its rising demand for energy.
“If it is all coal, we are all in trouble,” said Kerry, a long-time strong advocate of clean energy from his years as a U.S. senator. “All the attendant problems that come with it (coal) vastly outstrip the cost.”
India’s current installed level of power generation is 30 gigawatts, yet 300 million people in the country still lack reliable access to electricity.
The country has a national plan to install 175 gigawatts of renewable power capacity by 2022, which Kerry characterized as “daunting but achievable.”
The United States and India have a civil nuclear agreement, which has cleared the way for U.S.-based Westinghouse to build six nuclear power plants in the country, with Kerry on Wednesday touting fourth-generation nuclear reactors as safe.
The two countries are also collaborating on smart grid technology and biofuels.
Later in the day Kerry, accompanied by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, visited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On an outdoor concrete path leading to Modi's office, Pritzker caught her heel in a line in the pavement and fell forward. Kerry quickly helped his Obama Cabinet colleague get to her feet. Pritzker was able to walk on her own and the secretary of state put his arm momentarily around Pritzker's right shoulder to help guide her in to the prime minister's office.
In greeting Kerry and Prizker, Modi, speaking in Hindi, said, "It looks like the rains this time have warmly welcomed you."
The U.S. delegation received a wet reception in the Indian capital Monday evening after a flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Despite a police escort, Kerry's motorcade from Palam airfield to a hotel became stuck in gridlocked traffic on waterlogged roads, experiencing what millions of other motorists in the city also had to endure.
Kerry plans to stay in India in the coming days before traveling to Huangzhou, China for the G20 summit next week.