Text of the opening remarks of the Union Home Minister at the India-US Homeland Security Dialogue
It is a great pleasure to welcome you and your delegation to India. I hope you had a good visit to Mumbai. We had a very good discussion a few minutes ago.
I am honoured to launch with you today the India-US Homeland Security Dialogue. This is an important milestone in India-US relations and adds a very important dimension to the growing strategic partnership between our two countries.
It implements one of the key strategic outcomes of the visit of President Barack Obama to India in November 2010, during which Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President Obama announced the Homeland Security Dialogue. I quote from their Joint Statement:
“Building upon the Counter Terrorism Initiative signed in July 2010, the two leaders announced a new Homeland Security Dialogue between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security and agreed to further deepen operational cooperation, counter-terrorism technology transfers and capacity building. The two leaders also emphasized the importance of close cooperation in combating terrorist financing and in protecting the international financial system.”
In a world of complex challenges, including new and emerging forms of threats, terrorism remains a principal challenge for our two countries. The events of the past few days, especially inside Pakistan, speak to the successes and to the enduring risks and challenges. Despite extraordinary efforts and significant successes against the forces of terrorism, its threat remains strong.
Our two countries - indeed, the global community - must also deal with a range of other challenges, including counterfeit currency, narcotics trafficking, threats and risks in the cyber space, etc.
Madam Secretary, it is a truism to say that India lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbourhood in the world. The global epicenter of terrorism is in our immediate western neighbourhood. The vast infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has for long flourished as an instrument of state policy. Today, different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan, are becoming increasingly fused; the society in Pakistan has become increasingly radicalized; its economy has weakened; and, the state structure in Pakistan has become fragile. Today, Pakistan itself faces a major threat from the same forces. Its people as well as its state institutions are under attack.
Terrorist infiltration or fake currency inflow does not only take place through our western border, but is often routed through countries that we share open borders with. We also have to deal with the challenge of large scale migrations from across our borders. Insurgent groups have some times found refuge in our neighbouring countries. Internal instability in our neighbouring countries has a direct bearing on the population in our border states.
Given the complexity of our region, our Government has a comprehensive neighbourhood strategy that is based on political engagement, especially with Pakistan; support for political stability; assistance for economic development; and, improved connectivity and market access for our neighbours to the Indian economy. A stable, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood is vital for the security of the people of India.
One of the key elements of the India-US relationship is our engagement on the issue of terrorism and on counter-terrorism cooperation. Dealing with the challenge of terrorism is a priority for the people of India. There has always been great public and political expectation about India-US cooperation on counter-terrorism. This is because of our shared values, the growth of strategic partnership between our two countries, US expertise and capabilities, and the perception in India that the United States exercises a strong influence on the country that is the hub of global terror.
A strong and effective India-US cooperation in homeland security and counter-terrorism is indispensable for our strategic partnership.
India and the United States established a Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism as early as February 2000. It had its ninth meeting recently. Our two countries signed a Counter-terrorism Cooperation Initiative in July 2010. There are other institutional mechanisms, such as the Working Group on Aviation Security, Working Group on Information and Communication Technology and the Defence Policy Group, which provide avenues for our cooperation. India’s membership of FATF has strengthened our ability to work with each other on the financial aspects of terrorism.
I recall my own visit to the United States in September 2009, which provided me the opportunity to identify areas in which we could learn from and work with each other.
Certainly, US political support and operational cooperation during and after the Mumbai attack meant a great deal to the people of India. We appreciate the US efforts to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack, and others associated with it, to justice. Even as we meet, the trial of Tahawwur Rana is taking place in Chicago. Prime Minister and President Obama, during their November 2008 meeting, called for Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Our cooperation must cover all aspects of the challenges that we face: anticipating and predicting threats, taking preventive or pre-emptive measures, or responding effectively and quickly to incidents. Therefore, we must further deepen our ties in intelligence, information and assessment sharing; cooperation in investigations and forensics; protecting cities, infrastructure, people and trade; and, developing capabilities to diffuse and terminate any incident.
I also want to stress the importance of developing and sharing appropriate technologies, equipment and systems for homeland security. I recognise that acquisition will be largely from the private sector, but as governments, we must continue a strategic dialogue to share information, experiences and assessment on technologies and systems; identify technology needs, trends and gaps; and, address licensing and other terms relating to transfer of counter-terrorism and homeland security equipment and technology to each other, in the spirit of the strategic partnership between the two countries. We would also work out a mechanism for government-private sector interface.
I would propose that our Home Secretary and Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security meet after six months to review progress on our calendar.
Before I conclude, I would also like to thank Ambassador Roemer, who has had an excellent track record in public life, including in Congress, in the cause of addressing the security challenges facing the United States. He has also been tireless in his efforts over the course of the past two years to promote India-US relationship and our counter-terrorism cooperation, in particular. The Counter-terrorism Cooperation Initiative is an important lasting contribution. Appropriately enough, his last bilateral dialogue as US Ambassador to India is in Homeland Security. I also thank my colleagues, especially Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Ambassador Meera Shankar, for their outstanding efforts in putting together this dialogue, and, more broadly, in promoting our cooperation.
May I welcome you, once again, Madam Secretary to Delhi