AHMEDABAD, May 15 (PTI): The relationship between India and the United States is based on a common desire to have stronger economies and a peaceful, prosperous Indo-Pacific region, and the two countries stand together wherever it is challenged, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said on Monday.
The two countries are an important part of a mutual strategy to protect the Indo-Pacific region and keep people safe, he said.
Garcetti also said the two countries will deepen defence ties and work to develop things together in sectors like space and technology.
Talking to reporters at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad during his maiden visit to Gujarat, he said the place is important not just for Indian history but for the history of humanity.
“Our relationship is not based on anyone else. It is based on each other, it is based on warmth of friendship, and it’s based on a common desire to have stronger economies and a peaceful, prosperous Indo-Pacific region. Wherever that is challenged, we stand together,” Garcetti said.
“We want to see stability in the neighbourhood–that’s important for India. But we also want to stand for the values that I think the Indo-Pacific region is strengthened by — freedom of movement and commerce, making sure we have a rule of law and people play by the same rules,” he said.
Garcetti was responding to a question on China signalling backing the military establishment in Pakistan amid turmoil in the neighbouring country and the US investment in defence and space sectors in India.
He said India and the US will continue to stand together for their respect to sovereignty and borders. The two countries will deepen defence ties and work to develop things together in sectors such as space and technology.
“We want to see technology as a positive thing in people’s lives,” he said while citing the way electronic payments helped empower Indian people from the bottom-up.
“We don’t see technology as being used against people from top down. I think there is a contrast where India and the US stand with other countries. But it is never about a third country. It is about us, and I would continue to emphasise this,” he said.
On the issue of backlog of visas for Indian students seeking to study in the US, Garcetti said an effort is being made to reduce the wait time and the US Embassy will be able to process them and get to even higher numbers than last year.
“My goal as an ambassador is to think of five years and 20 years from now. The president of the United States is much focussed on this too. He told me he wants us to focus on reducing visa wait times for not just students, but for first-time visitors and others,” he said.
Garcetti said in the last three months, the wait time was brought down by 60 per cent from where they were in December. He said in the coming year, he will bring the wait time down.
“Indian students are so great for America. They are great for our universities; they are great for our commerce. Look at the number of Indian-born CEOs of great companies based in America. It is good for the American economy, it’s great for the Indian economy, and it’s just good for civilisation too,” he said.
Sharing his connection with India, Garcetti said he first came to the country when he was 14 years’ old. As a university student at 19, he started studying the teachings and writings of Mahatma Gandhi “and saw its potential to not only transform the world, but to inspire and touch our hearts.”
“And today, while so much has changed since I was 19 years’ old, one thing that has not changed is the sense of connection I feel, not only to this place now and to the man who lived here with his family, but to the aspirations of the Indian people and the universal aspirations of all of us to live freely and to recognise the work of every human being,” he said.
Apart from visits to the old city of Ahmedabad and the Sabarmati Ashram, Garcetti is scheduled to meet the state leadership and watch a T20 cricket match at the Narendra Modi Stadium here.
He said this is an amazing moment in the US and India relations, a moment in which the two countries need to raise their ambitions.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, it does not matter who your parents are, it does not matter what religion you practice, it does not matter what language you speak–all that matters is the dreams in your hearts and working hard to achieve them. And those dreams of India are being realised every single day,” he said.
Garcetti said when he came to India at the age 14, the trade between India and the US was just two billion dollars.
“Today, it is over 100 billion dollars and it (US) is the number one trading partner with India. Back then, there were no defence cells, zero dollars, and now we are an important part of a mutual strategy to keep our people safe and protect the Indo-Pacific region together,” he said.
Cultural exchanges and influence the people of the two countries have on one another through Hollywood, Bollywood and Tollywood show the rich and deep ties between the two countries, he said.