Tackling 21st Century Challenges Together

Tackling 21st Century Challenges Together

November 13, 2014 | Author: Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs

When its spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit earlier this fall, India joined a select group of nations who have revolutionized space travel in the 21st century, achieving what many never thought possible.  And, as Indians celebrated, Americans too shared in their pride, knowing that close collaboration with NASA had played a part in India’s quest to become the first Asian nation to go to Mars.  Such high technology partnerships are essential to tackling each of our country’s biggest challenges – and those of the world.  That’s why the India-U.S. Technology Summit, taking place next week in New Delhi, represents a unique opportunity for both countries to showcase how technology and innovation partnerships – both between our governments and our private sectors – can meaningfully change the lives of every single person on Earth.  Ours is truly a partnership for the people and centuries to come.


We can accomplish far more together if our best and brightest from industry, academia, and laboratories are connected and coordinated.  By fostering linkages between industry, research, and government in India and the United States, we hope this Summit will encourage innovative partnerships.  Such joint ventures have the potential to generate economic growth and jobs, helping people live longer and healthier lives, and finding solutions to global development challenges.


Our work in the energy sector is a perfect illustration of the potential impact of the partnerships that we hope will take root at, and be strengthened by, the Summit.  There are over 400 million people in India who are not connected to reliable electrical grids.  To address this pressing problem, the United States government has launched the Off-Grid Alliance, which will enhance access to financing and the certification of off-grid technology.  While this is an important step forward, we urgently need help identifying sustainable market solutions to these energy challenges.  The convergence of hundreds of innovators, researchers, academics, and government officials at the Summit next week, presents an incredible opportunity for these leaders to join together to address critical issues in the energy sector, as well as so many other areas.


Next week’s gathering is just one among many steps that we are taking to foster greater collaboration and facilitate real progress.  The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) have agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that enables Ex-Im Bank to make available up to $1 billion in financing to support Made-in-America renewable energy goods and services in connection with critical clean energy projects in India.  Next week at the Summit, Ex-Im Bank and IREDA are expected to sign and formally announce this MOU, and will discuss how our respective renewable energy sectors can more closely collaborate.  The Partnership to Advance Clean Energy has separately mobilized $2.4 billion for clean energy finance.  These initiatives support India’s goal of transitioning to a low-carbon and climate-resilient energy economy, while creating and sustaining renewable energy jobs in the United States.


Another key opportunity for collaboration that will be featured at the Summit is urban planning and infrastructure.  Millions of inhabitants from the Indian countryside in search of better jobs and livelihoods move to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata each year, severely straining urban infrastructure.  To address this challenge India plans to build 100 smart cities.  The Indian government is reaching out to the American private sector to help bring cutting-edge technology and best practices to the challenge.  India has already invited U.S. industry participation in developing new smart cities in Ajmer, Rajasthan; Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh; and Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.


The intersection of innovation and health provides another frontier for collaboration that may have truly global implications.  The fight against Ebola is a clear opportunity for research collaboration, but we are also tackling other infectious diseases.   Already, our two countries are deploying a rotavirus vaccine ROTAVAC, which is the product of an Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program collaboration by private sector, academic partners, and government that has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of young lives in India and around the world.  Highly contagious rotaviruses are the leading cause of severe illnesses among infants and young children in both developed and resource-limited countries.  Each year, rotavirus-induced disease kills roughly 435,000 children younger than 5 years old and hospitalizes an estimated two million children worldwide, largely in developing countries.


Our hope in partnering with India for the Technology Summit is to bring together the visionaries who seek to address challenges in the energy, water and sanitation, infrastructure, science and technology, innovation, health, manufacturing, and information technology sectors in a sustainable way, and improve the lives of Americans, Indians, and people across the globe in the process.


Two-way trade between the United States and India has increased fivefold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion.  We believe this is just the beginning, which is why during their first bilateral meeting together President Obama and Prime Minister Modi committed to increasing trade another fivefold.  To achieve that goal the United States and India will need to expand the breadth and depth of an already robust U.S.-India science and high technology relationship; we hope the Summit will facilitate progress toward this goal.


I invite American business owners, executives, and academics to take advantage of this opportunity and play a key role in U.S.-India trade growth and technology development.  I hope many of you will find a way to participate in this effort, if not in the Summit itself, than in what will surely be the many follow-on activities that will emerge in the months and years to come.


The India-U.S. Technology Summit is organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology, and the U.S. Department of State.  Follow the story on social media by following #IndoUSTechSummit and @IndUSTechSummit, the official twitter handle of the Summit.