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The President's Trip to South Asia

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Mumbai, India)

For Immediate Release March 24, 2000


Stock Exchange

7:45 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, President Goenka. Chief Minister Deshmukh; my good friend, Ambassador Wisner; my colleague and longtime friend, Ambassador Celeste; Secretary Daley; our distinguished crowd here -- we thank you for welcoming us. I have brought quite a group from the United States including six members of our Congress.

And we were just down in Hyderabad, and I asked the crowd to acknowledge them because I always got to give the speech, they always have to listen, but when we go home they control all the money. (Laughter.) So I would like to acknowledge the presence here of Congressman Jim McDermott, Congressman Gary Ackerman, Congressman Ed Royce, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative Nita Lowey, and Representative Jan Schakowsky, all members of the United States House of Representatives. We thank them for coming. (Applause.)

This has been a remarkable week, and I think a wonderful week for me and my daughter, Chelsea, who is here, and for our entire American delegation. We came as friends to a changing India, to gain a better understanding of your country, your views, in order to build a new partnership on a higher level than that which we have experienced over the last 22 years.

If you imagine the world you would like to see 10 years from now or 20 years from now, if you imagine how you would like India to be 10 or 20 years from now, it is difficult to believe that the world you would like and the India you would like can be achieved without a deeper and better partnership of mutual respect and common endeavor with the United States. (Applause.)

I can also say, I'm grateful for the presence of the American Ambassador, one former American Ambassador to India, and the Indian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Chandra, that I cannot imagine the world that I want for my children's generation in America that does not include a deeper and better partnership with India. (Applause.)

And so I came here to try to build it, or at least to have the foundations there before my time as President is done. Already, as all of you well know, America is the largest trading partner and investor for India. This week, American companies signed about two dozen agreements to create or advance projects worth another $4 billion. And I'm very pleased that our Export-Import Bank will make available a billion dollars in new financing for small and medium-sized businesses in India to export to the United States.

This week we have strengthened our commitment to work together to protect the environment, to promote clean energy, to fight against deadly diseases, to use science and technology to help people rise from poverty.

I visited a small village in Rajasthan yesterday -- you probably saw the pictures in the paper where I was dancing with the village ladies. (Laughter.) It was pretty good odds -- there were about 30 of them and one of me. (Laughter.) And they were throwing -- the children were throwing flowers, petals of flowers on us. But the reason we were dancing was because of the time we had shared before, and I saw the work that was being done in the poor village to lift the lives of women, to give them access to credit, to give them support in the workplace, to keep their children, including their girl children in school. I saw the role of men and women and people of different tribes and castes working together in the local government units. And so there was cause for celebration.

Today in Hyderabad, when I was there, I talked to representatives of all 23 districts of the state in a teleconference about the same sorts of activities that are occurring. I say that because I believe that while there is plainly a digital divide in India and a digital divide in the United States -- not just from place to place, but within every city where there is a strong business group well-connected to the new economy -- the truth is that the Information Age gives us the chance to eliminate poverty more quickly for more people than ever before in all of human history. (Applause.)

I saw that yesterday when I was in this little village of Nayla. And there was a computer hook-up to the state and federal government so that all the people could come in and find out what all the services were that were available to them. And there were printouts so that the women could get actual prints that they could take home that would tell them how to take better care of their children.

And some day every village will have all the educational software available anywhere in the world on it, so that in the poorest villages of India or Africa or China or Latin America, people will be able to print out for their school children the most modern educational materials available anywhere, so that people in the poorest villages of the world will have access to the same learning materials that the people in the richest schools in the United States or any other country have today.

If we do this right, we will find that doing what is morally right, consistent with the values of India that's a sense of community and mutual responsibility, also turns out to be very good economics in the Information Age -- because you need more education, you need more people with the capacity to make the most of this new economy.

The same thing is true with the environment. All over the world today there's a general consensus that the climate is warming too quickly and that the consequences are likely to be disastrous.

I met with a man doing malaria research shortly before I came here tonight. And we talked about how troubling it was the malaria is now being found at higher and higher altitudes in countries all across the globe where it manifests, so that it's attacking people in villages that have never seen it before. And they're much more vulnerable and likely to have many more problems -- all the consequences of changing environment.

But in the Information Age, no nation has to grow rich by putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. And in fact, there will be enormous opportunities for India -- millions and millions of jobs; a trillion-dollar global market -- in developing alternative energy sources, maximizing the use of new energy technologies, the development of fuel for automobiles from farm sources all over the world.

It will change the world in the next five years about as much as the Internet has changed it in the last five. And it will do nothing but help India. It would reduce the pressures on your people to continue practices that lead to soil erosion or the loss of precious species.

Yesterday I went to the Ranthambhore National Park and I saw two magnificent Bengal tigers -- one, a vast male tiger named Boomerang -- interesting name for a tiger -- (laughter); and the other a female tiger -- rather like often happens, the female was doing all he work in this setting. (Laughter.) She was stalking a herd of deer. And it was an amazing sight to behold.

Already this year, 20 tigers have been killed in India, even though it is not legal to do so. All these competing economic pressures. I hope all of you will help to preserve your tiger population. It's an important part of India's heritage.

But I think we all understand that the stronger and more diversified the economy gets, the easier it will be to preserve the species, to preserve the environment, to restore the magnificent historical and cultural artifacts that dot the countryside in every part of this magnificent country.

So we have a lot at stake in this. So does the United States. We have in Silicon Valley alone 750 companies started by Indian Americans -- 750 in Silicon Valley alone. (Applause.) We have seen the country literally transform because of the infusion of new talent from people from all over the world. But we have been especially blessed by people from India and, indeed, from throughout South Asia.

And as I look at the world of tomorrow -- a world that I hope will be characterized by peace and prosperity; by a genuine commitment to he dignity of all people; by societies which celebrate their ethnic, their racial, their tribal, their religious diversity, but are bound together by a common acceptance that the humanity we all share is even more important than the differences among us -- I know the world will never be that way unless South Asia is that way.

And I have seen in these local experiments in India something I wish for all the world. Yesterday, in that little village where I am known now only for dancing not very well with the village women, I talked to people on the local government council who told me that they now had 10 of their tribes and castes represented in their local government; that, for the first time in the history of the village, people from different groups were regularly dining together.

Now, it seems like a little thing, but if you consider the fact that 800,000 people, more or less, were killed in the Rwandan tribal wars in the space of 100 days, that a million people were driven from their homes in Kosovo simply because they were Muslim in a country that was mostly Serbian and Orthodox Christian, that the Irish Troubles have been going on for 30 years, and in the Middle East people still die because of their faith and ethnic background, and I could go on and on and on -- it was a truly remarkable thing to see that, in a local community in India, people were worried about how they could get clean water, and it didn't matter much what your caste or tribe was. And they were rather proud of the fact that women as well as men were in the government, and that their positions were, to some extent, guaranteed. And they couldn't even remember why they didn't want to have dinner together anymore.

This may seem small to you, but if you have seen people like I have seen them -- a widow in Rwanda who woke up to see her husband and six children cut to death all around her, just because of the tribe they were in; if you had been in the refugee camps that I've been in, in the Balkans in Bosnia and Kosovo, to see people run out just because of their religious faith -- it is not something to be lightly discarded.

If you can figure out how to take what I saw yesterday at the village level and keep working until you reach some sort of acceptable accommodation on the other larger problems on this subcontinent, there's no stopping you.

I really do believe that if India -- and, of course, as I said in my speech to the Parliament, you'll have to make all these decisions yourself. And we don't agree on every issue, and we shouldn't. And friends don't have to agree on every issue, they just have to have an honest relationship about it. And then whoever is supposed to make the decision has to make the decision.

But I do believe if we can lead the region -- or you can -- away from the proliferation of dangerous weapons, toward the proliferation of new ideas, new companies and new technologies; away from the kind of racial and ethnic tensions that we see now in the trouble spots in South Asia, toward the sort of harmony I saw in that little village yesterday -- then the dreams that your Chief Minister spoke of are well within your grasp.

I believe that if we work together to turn our common vision into common progress, to educate our children as partners, to fight disease as partners, to protect our environment as partners, to expand commerce as partners, to lift the lives of the poorest among us as partners, to fight terrorism and work for tolerance as partners, I believe if we do that then what Gandhi said of India so long ago will certainly be true. He once said, "It is my conviction that India, numbering one-fifth of the human race, can be a great force of service to the whole of mankind."

If we have the right kind of partnership and the best of India that I have seen in these last few days becomes the guiding force for all of India, then Gandhi's cherished hope will become the accepted reality for your children and America's children in this new century.

Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)


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