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The President's Trip to South Asia

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 21, 2000


Rashtrapati Bhavan
Delhi, India

8:55 P.M. (L)

PRESIDENT NARAYANAN: Your excellency, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States of America; excellencies and distinguished guests. It is with great pleasure, Mr. President, that I welcome you and the distinguished members of your delegation, the honorable representatives of the U.S. Congress and high officials of the U.S. government on behalf of the government and the people of India.

We are aware that ever since your inauguration as President you have wanted to visit India. As a harbinger of your intention, the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, made a visit to India in March, 1995. We have pleasant memories of that visit and I should like to say that we miss her alongside you on this occasion.

India and the United States have been linked to each other by ideas, ideals and by enlightened interests. These go far beyond and deeper than the allurements of economics and trade, and the entanglement of any military alliance. For most Indians, the United States of America resonates with the great names and the high ideas of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, and the philosophy and thoughts of outstanding American thinkers and writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman who influenced great Indians like Vivekananda, Rabindranath Torgore, Jawaharlal Nehru, and of course, Mahatma Gandhi.

The influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King, Jr. in the struggle for the equality of the blacks in America is well-known; so much so that when Mr. King was shot, the whole world said that another Gandhi has been shot. Thus, Mr. President, impulses greater than trade and commerce have linked our two countries and peoples.

In 1961, at a time when we were facing particular issues, the then Prime Minister Nehru wrote to President John F. Kennedy saying that even if the United States did not do anything, India would remain friendly to her. Expatiating on this idea, Nehru wrote to the chief ministers of Indian states a little earlier -- and I quote -- "Many people imagine that our relations with the United States depend on the amount of financial aid that they can give us. This is a complete misapprehension. Whether the U.S. give us much or little, or nothing at all, our relations with them will not be affected much, provided other factors are satisfactory. It is these other and political factors that are constantly coming into the way."

A somewhat similar sentiment was expressed by Mahatma Gandhi much earlier, in 1936, when a group of Christian workers from the USA met him. He said, answering their questions -- and I quote -- "When Americans come and ask me what service they could render, I tell them, if you dangle your millions before us, you will make beggars of us and demoralize us. But in one thing I don't mind being a beggar. You can ask your engineers and agricultural experts to place their services at our disposal. They must come to us, not as lords and masters, but as voluntary workers."

Since Nehru and Gandhi gave expression to these sentiments, the relations between our two countries in economics and commerce and in the field of scientific exchanges have grown enormously, both in quality and quantity. Millions of tons of wheat have been shipped to India by USA and American agricultural experts have helped in igniting the green revolution which is one of the major achievements of India since independence.

The USA has emerged today as the number one partner of India in the realms of trade and investment, and our economic cooperation promises spectacular prospects for the good of our two countries and the world.

I must mention here the role of over 1 million people of Indian origin resident in America who have made outstanding contributions to the country of their adoption, and to cooperation between the United States and India. But there is no gainsaying that in the Cold War period our relations were bedeviled by military alignment and the ideological bloc politics, and the difficulty in that age of extremes on the part of the United States in appreciating India's policy of nonalignment and peaceful coexistence.

The mind-set of the Cold War has perhaps not entirely disappeared. Vestiges of the Cold War strategies still return to haunt the world. We believe, Mr. President, that in the post-Cold War period, the nonaligned concept of a pluralist world, order is more relevant than the politics of military blocs and alignments.

At this juncture, I recall the words of Jawaharlal Nehru who, on assuming office in 1946, said -- and I quote -- "We send our greetings to the people of the United States of America to whom destiny has given a major role in international affairs. We trust this tremendous responsibility will be utilized for the furtherance of peace and human freedom everywhere."

Prime Minister Nehru had enjoyed a warm equation with President Eisenhower, and years later with President John F. Kennedy. Of the later, Nehru said, "Wealth and prosperity came to his country. To these, President Kennedy added a deeper human and moral outlook which embraced in its scope the peoples of the world."

It is a measure of your own far-sightedness, Mr. President, that you, too, have thrown your great energy for the advancement of developing nations and the alleviation of poverty in the world. You have also striven to turn a major challenge in our bilateral relationship into an opportunity that both sides have grasped whole-heartedly.

Mr. President, one remarkable feature of the post-Cold War world is this emergence of a large number of developing nations in the political and economic arena of the world. And the other dominant fact is the emergence of the United States of America as the major economic, technological and military factor in the world. The USA holds a tremendous responsibility for strengthening peace and stability in the world. For that purpose, the United Nations organization should be strengthened and made the centerpiece of the new global architecture.

We believe, Mr. President, that the United Nations can be strengthened by the unstinting support of the United States of America and by reforming its major organs by giving the developing countries their due place in its central structure, reflecting the realities of the world today. We believe that among the developing nations, India has, in terms not only of its immense size and population, its economic and technological status and potentialities, but also in terms of its great services to the cause of the U.N., every right to be represented on a reformed and expanded Security Council.

Throughout its independent history, especially in the early years when the U.N. itself was under jeopardy, India had served the cause of the world body. Mr. President, we do recognize and welcome the fact that the world has been moving inevitably toward one world. From the earliest times, India has had intimations of an emerging one world of humanity as a single family.

But for us, globalization does not mean the end of history and geography, and of the lively and exciting diversities of the world. As an African statesman has observed to us, the fact that the world is a global village does not mean that it will have only one village headman. In this age of democracy, it will be headed by a panchayat. For us, the United Nations is the global panchayat, and that is why we wanted to be democratized and sustained.

Globalization means that global societies should be sustained by each unit -- the nation states, groups, families and individuals who have their own inextinguishable identities and unique characteristics. Long ago, Mahatma Gandhi described his version of a one world in the following manner -- and I quote -- "The better mind of the world desires today not absolutely independent states, but a federation of friendly interdependent states. I desire the ability to be totally independent without asserting that independence."

In such a globalized world society, there would be no place for hegemonistic controls or cutthroat competition. India, Mr. President, is a country that has wrested its independence from one of the mightiest empires on Earth by the method of nonviolence. It is not a desire of this nation to solve such problems as we have with our neighbors by the use of force.

With Pakistan, which was carved out of our body politic, it was our desire to have friendly cooperation in a hundred ways after partition. But if India's integrity and independence is threatened, it becomes the duty of the Indian state -- its duty to the 1 billion people who inhabit our vast land -- to defend them with all the resources and strength at its disposal.

We are open to a dialogue and a peaceful settlement of differences. But should they have the divine right of aggression and of indiscriminate and well-organized terrorism across the international borders or the agreed line of control sanctified by solemn treaties and commitments?

It has been suggested that the Indian subcontinent is the most dangerous place in the world today, and Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint. These alarmist descriptions will only encourage those who want to break the peace and indulge in terrorism and violence. The danger is not from us who have declared solemnly that we will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but rather it is from those who refuse to make any such commitment.

We are publicly committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons together with other nuclear powers who possess them in awesome stockpiles capable of destroying the world many times over. India does not threaten any other country and will not engage in an arms race, but India will maintain a minimum credible nuclear deterrent -- no more, no less -- for her own security.

We continue to be anxious to work with the USA to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to promote a goal of a world free of weapons of mass destruction. On this historic, auspicious occasion of your visit to India, Mr. President, let us appeal to the world to take steps, concrete and substantive, towards nuclear disarmament along with nonproliferation, so that we do not consolidate the existing inequalities and sanctify the possession of nuclear weapons in the armouries of the nations.

Mr. President, your visit provides us an opportunity to lay the foundation of a new, dynamic, and multifaceted partnership between our great democratic nations. Our peoples now expect us to advance our relationship based on a shared commitment to peace and democracy, reenforced by a growing mutuality of interest in political and technological fields, and by an increasing convergence of a world view. This will require us to remain engaged in frank dialogue on the lines described by Henry David Thoreau. He said, it takes two to speak the truth -- one to speak, and another to hear.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in proposing a toast to the health and well-being of the President of the United States of America, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton; to the abiding friendship between our peoples, the peoples of India and the United States; to the success of our joint endeavors for peace and justice in the world.

(A toast is offered.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, distinguished guests. First, on behalf of the American delegation, let me thank you for your warm hospitality and, indeed, I thank all of you for making us feel so welcome.

As you pointed out, Mr. President, it was five years ago next week when my wife and daughter first came to New Delhi. I confess I was a little jealous of them then because I wanted to come. And I am delighted finally to be here today.

One of my country's most beloved writers, Mark Twain, once wrote that India -- and I quote -- "is the sole country under the sun that all desire to see, and having seen once, would not trade that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of globe combined."

India has given profound gifts to the world for thousands of years now. Nearly half of humanity practices the four great religions that were born here -- Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism. The whole world has been influenced by Indian culture. Indian thinkers have enriched every science known to humanity. And I welcome the presence of so many of your scientists here tonight.

However, I must confess there are many American high school students who wish that Aryabhatiya had kept his work on trigonometry to himself. (Laughter.)

The computer age would hardly be possible at all without the decimal system invented in India. And, appropriately enough, 30 percent of the world's software engineers today are Indian. Every American who has been moved by the universal philosophy of nonviolence, every American whose life was transformed by the civil rights movement, owes a debt to India.

Today I had the great honor of visiting the Gandhi Memorial. Two weeks ago, in my own country, I visited Selma, Alabama, which is one of the sacred sites of our civil rights movement -- where the words of Martin Luther King and the marches of ordinary citizens both echoed the ideas of Gandhi.

My country has been enriched by the contributions of more than a million Indian Americans, from Vinod Dahm, the father of the pentium chip; to Deepak Chopra, pioneer of alternative medicine; to Saveer Bhatia, creator of the free mail system, hotmail -- the e-mail system.

Now, next Sunday, when the Academy Awards are given out in Los Angeles, more than a few people not only in India, but in America, will be rooting for director M. Night Shyamalan, and his remarkable movie, The Sixth Sense, nominated for best picture.

So we have gotten a lot from India, and we have neglected our friendship for too long. Today we are proud to be your partners, your allies, your friends in freedom. As a President who has the good fortune to have been selected by an electorate that casts about 100 million votes, I can hardly imagine a nation with over 600 million eligible voters. I don't know how you please them all. Or should I say, 60 crore.

I didn't know what a crore was until I got here this time. Now I can go home and suggest to my Vice President that he have a new slogan -- Four crore for Al Gore. (Laughter.)

We have a lot to give the world in the richness of democracy. One of the great things about a democracy is it is a system which allows us to resolve our differences through conversation, not confrontation. I've enjoyed the conversation that we began here today. I am grateful that we found common ground. I am convinced we have laid the foundation for a new respectful partnership, based on our oldest and most enduring values.

In the days to come, may our two nations always remain examples of tolerance and the power of diversity. May we build societies that draw upon the talents and energies of all our people. May we preserve the beauty and natural richness of this small planet that we share. May we work together to make the difficult choices and the necessary investments, as Nehru once instructed, "to advance the larger cause of humanity." In the spirit of that partnership and that vision, I ask you all to join me in raising a glass to the President, the Prime Minister, and the people of this wonderful nation which has welcomed us.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)


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