Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s opening statement at the National Press Club, Washington DC on July 20, 2005:
“I have been deeply moved, the way you have introduced me but this visit of mine has been a visit which will go down in my mind as the most memorable event. Everywhere I went, right from the President to the Houses of Congress and now to this most prestigious institution that the National Press Club is, I have received and I felt that I am in the company of very intimate friends. And I know that’s a tribute not to me personally but to the country that I represent, an India that is now trying to seek its social and economic salvation in the framework of an open society and an open polity. So, I thank you very much for this very warm welcome. Of course, it is an understatement that I am absolutely delighted to join you this afternoon. I know something about the great weight that the National Press Club enjoys in the world of journalism. That you have done me this honour, I am most grateful to you for this.
I thank you for this invitation to share my thoughts on our country’s hopes, aspirations, and the challenges we face and now working together India and America can help us to meet those challenges so that in the process, we begin a new chapter in the history of Indo-American relations. I would like to share with you my perceptions of this very significant visit to the United States. My discussions with President Bush, the members of his Cabinet and with members of the US Congress, have convinced me that on the journey we have embarked upon towards a future of hope for our people, America would be both a friend and a very important partner.
India is today poised for a leap to a brave new world. A sustained growth of over 6% per annum for the last 15 years - now reaching 7% per annum - is fundamentally transforming our economy and our society. Its social consequences are visible in rising income levels, growing expectations and in the rising demand for quality products and services. This transformation has unleashed a powerful surge of entrepreneurship, creativity and a desire for excellence. Our growing involvement with the global economy and society, expanding foreign trade, reputation for services and activities of our world-class firms are one facet of this change that is now sweeping our country.
We strive to address the needs of every citizen, ensuring their education and well being, and giving them a decent livelihood. On every score, their demands rise as each year's achievements become the benchmark for forward movement the next time. Basic needs of all have to be met even as more ambitious hopes of the aspiring are realised. Sustaining growth impulses has to be accompanied by policies aimed at ensuring that change is sufficiently inclusive and benefits of development are indeed available to all our citizens.
In the past, our ties with the United States have benefited India greatly. Yesterday when I addressed the Members of US Congress, I recalled with gratitude the contribution that the United States had made in ushering in the Green Revolution in our country. The cooperation between American Land Grant Colleges and our institutions of research in agriculture gave rise to that phenomenon of miracle of new wheat seeds which made it possible for our agriculture to grow phenomenally since the mid-60’s. I thank America for that. We now seek to build on that past tradition of working together while forging a new partnership with the United States. This new partnership is focused on greater business to business interaction, cooperation in the field of energy, in agricultural research and agri-business, in new technologies, in educational networking, and in building new frontier science capabilities. The 21st century probably will be a knowledge intensive century. India and the United States can be very valuable partners in the management and ushering in of the new knowledge society that is on the horizon. Much of my discussions with President Bush were devoted to what the India-US relationship had to offer in the fields of infrastructure, energy and in the field of knowledge creation.
I believe that American interests are well served by a stronger and more modern Indian economy. Many of the initiatives that we announced yesterday – on agricultural research, on nano-science or on innovative technologies – reflect this shared belief of the President and myself. I am convinced that steps that we have taken will lead to a long-term partnership between India and the United States to our great mutual benefit.
Access to energy resources is an issue of particular importance to our relationship and our newly constituted Energy Dialogue is focused precisely on this issue. Our current dependence on hydrocarbons will have to be diversified in favour of a broader energy mix. I discussed with the President prospects for the resumption of our cooperation on civilian nuclear energy. The United States, I believe, is not only cognisant of our energy requirements but appreciative of the role that India can also play in strengthening global non-proliferation efforts.
The uniqueness of Indian growth experience is that it takes place entirely within the framework of a democratic polity. This has demonstrative implications for the world at large. The success of India will be a living proof that growth need not come at the cost of human freedoms. At the same time, its intrinsic stability and consensual basis will make themselves fully felt in long-term partnerships. Many of you probably know the diversity and the complexity of a country of one billion people that India is. All the great religions of the world are represented in our country. We have 150 million citizens who practice the faith of Islam and I say it with some pride, about their patriotism, that not one of them has joined the ranks of these gangs like Al-Qaeda or other terrorist activities.
Our track record on cooperation with the United States, even within the last year that our Government has been in office, clearly conveys a determination to raise both its quality, content and scope. We have completed the next steps in strategic partnership. We have established Energy and Economic Dialogues at the very high cabinet levels, put in place an Intellectual Property Rights regime and investment policies that encourage business. We have addressed the long standing disputes about American direct investments in the famous Dabhol project. We have recently concluded with the United States an Open Skies Agreement. We have expanded our defence cooperation with a new framework and worked very closely with the US on tsunami relief operations last year. These achievements give us the confidence to now tackle the more ambitious agenda that we have before us.
India has consistently sought to ensure that global institutions and agreements are perceived to be fair and equitable. At a time when global challenges like terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, environment or health, have become more complex, it is vital that global mechanisms have the necessary capability and credibility to respond. In matters relating to terrorism, we recognize that it is a global phenomenon. We ourselves have suffered grievously at the hands of these terrorist gangs for more than 15 years. We, therefore, understand the pains and sufferings of the American people or the citizens of London when terror afflicts them. We recognize all civilised societies have an obligation to work together to deal with this phenomenon. We also believe that the United Nations is at the centre of such efforts and its reform is currently being debated. By any criteria, India has a strong case to become a permanent member of the Security Council. I hope that my visit can contribute to a better appreciation in the United States of the benefits of including a democratic and secular India in global decision-making processes.
As I said a moment ago, terrorism poses a complex threat to all open societies and more so to pluralistic democracies that the United States and India are. For we doubly challenge it, with our freedoms and our tolerance of diversity. India, as I said, is one of the oldest victims of modern terrorism. Experience that we would have rather not had, has taught us valuable lessons. A key conclusion is that there can be no compromise with those who resort to terrorism. Terrorism anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere. We see the United States as an important partner in combating global terrorism.
India-US relations are based today on shared values and shared interests. We have a partnership based both on principles and on pragmatism. We have a broad-based and a very ambitious agenda that we seek to realise. It is one based on a vision of the world, in which our societies work together to advance human freedom, creativity, prosperity and ensure security. Mechanisms to accomplish these objectives include a range of initiatives and dialogues, some bilateral, others involving the global community. Our goal is to make India-US ties one of the principal relationships of the world.
With these words, I once again thank you for giving me this opportunity to share these thoughts with you and as is normal, I will be happy to take any questions that you may have in mind. I thank you once again for the warmth of your reception and for your generosity.”
Source: Press Information Bureau