I was saddened to learn of today's train crash in West Bengal that claimed at least 70 lives and wounded more than 200 and extend my deep condolences to the families of the victims. India has been in my thoughts lately, following my recent return from New Delhi, where I held encouraging talks on May 24 with senior officials from the Indian government to prepare for next week's official launch of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.
Everywhere, I saw signs of India's dynamism. India's trillion dollar economy is churning out mass rapid transit systems, high tech office parks, and expressways at a pace unimagined only a few years ago. Delhi's airport is about to open one of the largest and most modern terminals in the world, to match the longest (and newest) runway in Asia. The newest part of greater Delhi, including the high tech boom town of Gurgaon, finds Indian and American firms designing, marketing, and supporting the latest innovations in the world of technology and services.
The rise of India is important and positive for American interests. I can't think of a global challenge today that doesn't require Indian cooperation -- climate change, counterterrorism, international economic stability, nuclear nonproliferation, economic growth and the list goes on. I had good discussions on all these issues while in Delhi. Not only do our countries share the same democratic values, but our leaders also share the same vision in shaping the 21st century. It wasn't a coincidence that President Obama invited Prime Minister Singh for the first State visit of his presidency last November, and the President will further advance our bilateral cooperation when he visits India later this year.
My discussions with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao were rooted in our strong support for India's rise as a more consequential actor on the international stage. Indeed, the level and candor of our exchange on security developments in Asia, Africa and the Middle East reminded me a lot of conversations with some of our closest allies. Meanwhile, the planeload of "Blue Beret" Indian peacekeepers I saw waiting to embark at the airport when we arrived reminded me of India's growing military reach and its role as a provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond.
At the working level, we've been identifying ways to expand the full range of our bilateral activities -- from defense and counterterrorism cooperation to export controls, the civil nuclear agreement, and collaboration in agriculture, health, education, and more. Foreign Secretary Rao hosted a lunch with other Indian Joint Secretaries in which we discussed regional and multilateral issues, to include our strong support for India's development efforts in Afghanistan and our plans to coordinate even more closely on United Nations issues.
During my meeting with Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan, we talked about the opportunities for technological cooperation leading up to and beyond the Strategic Dialogue, and the unique partnership between our countries in using technology for development. We're both excited about the extent and caliber of U.S.-India S&T collaboration, which spans the tiniest microbes to the vastness of outer space. I also had some interesting conversations with Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the dynamic Deputy Chairman of India's Planning Commission, on our cooperation in clean energy, weather forecasting, export controls and food security, and the high expectations for next month's meeting of the U.S.-India CEO's forum.
I'm confident that the knowledge societies of the United States and India, linked together, can be a force for major technological breakthroughs in the 21st century, improving the lives of Indians, Americans, and the global community in the process. I look forward to continuing these conversations with my Indian counterparts when they come to Washington, DC next week for the Strategic Dialogue, which will provide an important institutionalized mechanism for identifying and advancing our shared bilateral priorities and ensuring that what we do as governments keeps pace with the rapid growth of ties between our peoples, our companies, our NGOs and universities.