Meeting the Challenge of our Times: Deepening the India-U.S. Partnership | Opinion

As the world comes to terms with its biggest disruption in more than half a century, it is time to renew the promise of a unique partnership that can directly benefit a fifth of humanity, and can be a source of durable peace and security for the rule-based world order. Over the last two decades, India and the United States have overcome the hesitations of history and fashioned a remarkable partnership, built on a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. and cross-party support in India. As the new administration takes shape under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we can build on that foundation to benefit our nations and the world.

Our immediate work with the U.S. administration will focus on confronting the pandemic, advancing our wide-ranging cooperation in health care, which ranges from scientific exchanges (five vaccine collaborations are currently underway) to pharmaceutical inputs and exchange of best practices. In recent years, India has emerged as the "pharmacy of the world," with great capabilities in bulk production of generic drugs and vaccines, in addition to our experience immunizing a large population. India recently stepped up to provide vaccines to neighboring countries and other partners, including in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

The United States has resources and scientific capabilities that make it a natural, complementary partner in supporting a number of other countries seeking to fight the pandemic. Furthermore, from the provision of active pharmaceutical ingredients to generic medicines that have lowered drug prices and created jobs and investments, India has demonstrated its reliability as a supply chain partner, especially as de-risking from single country supplies has become a priority.

Our shared concern in creating a healthier world goes hand in hand with combating climate change—a second area of cooperation. India remains committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, and welcomes the return of the U.S. to this important agreement. Here again India has demonstrated leadership, creating the International Solar Alliance, while being on track to surpass our voluntary commitments under the Paris Accord. Our solar energy production will reach 450GW by 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30-35 percent by that year (from 2005 levels).

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The national flag of India is hoisted at Times Square to mark Indian Independence Day on August 15, 2020 in New York City. The national holiday commemorates India's independence from the United Kingdom on August 15, 1947. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images) Jamie McCarthy/Getty

India and the U.S. already work together in renewable energy under the Strategic Energy Partnership. We can build on these gains and accelerate a green transformation through effective technology transfers, financing and an equity-based approach that will increase access to renewable energy for a wider population, which in turn will create global low-carbon pathways, green jobs and achieve shared climate goals. Such an approach will also ensure that India's growth trajectory, critical to the economic empowerment of millions, will be sustained and sustainable.

Economic growth in the post-COVID world will also depend on our digital capabilities—these technologies will be critical in how our large populations work, study and interact. India has one of the largest digital economies in the world—with a digital GDP poised to cross $1 trillion by 2025. Our human resource pool is significant, and two-way investments between India and the U.S. in the field have been steadily growing. There are tremendous opportunities to expand our collaboration in frontier technologies like 5G, AI, big data analytics, quantum computing, blockchain and IoT. These digital and tech partnerships will be an important third area of cooperation.

Virtual collaborations have been made possible by bringing together the best minds in India and the U.S. Today, as more than 200,000 Indian students study in the U.S., many in STEM fields, the education partnership has become a source of strength and an important bridge between our two peoples. This knowledge bridge has unleashed entrepreneurship and innovation from Boston to Benguluru. As this is poised to expand, structured partnerships that take advantage of it will benefit both India and the U.S. In particular, India's new National Education Policy provides new opportunities for investments and knowledge ties in the fields of higher, vocational and school education.

None of these partnerships are possible without the guarantee of security, and it is natural that democracies with shared values should partner with each other to ensure a safer, more secure world. Our deepening defense and strategic partnership, therefore, constitutes a fifth area of cooperation, which rests on a strong institutional framework for defense collaboration and our shared strategic interests. This will be particularly important in Asia where we will work bilaterally and with like-minded partners to pursue a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, while advancing the security and economic interests of countries with legitimate and vital interests in the region. And we will build on the deepening trade and investment linkages that create economic opportunities and jobs in both countries.

Beyond being natural partners, cooperation between the world's oldest and largest democracies impacts real lives by creating prosperity, securing our peoples and advancing shared democratic values. But as we confront an unprecedented moment in history—the twin crises of the pandemic and economic slowdown, as well as the long-term challenge of climate change—our countries have a unique opportunity to work together to meet the moment. These five areas provide us with a robust platform: if we rise to the occasion, we can bring about a safer, healthier and more prosperous world.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu is ambassador of India to the United States.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.