From India’s point of view, Barack Obama’s New Delhi trip has been very satisfying. His Central Hall address to Members of Parliament was really superb, both in content as well as in its style of delivery.
Let me quote below in president Obama’s own words a synopsis of the speech he delivered:
It is no coincidence that India is my first stop on a visit to Asia, or that this has been my longest visit to another country since becoming President.
In Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged.
It is my firm belief that the relationship between the United States and India – bound by our shared interests and values – will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.
My confidence in our shared future is grounded in my respect for India’s treasured past – a civilization that has been shaping the world for thousands of years.
It is no exaggeration to say that our information age is rooted in Indian innovations – including the number zero.
India not only opened our minds, she expanded our moral imagination. With religious texts that still summon the faithful to lives of dignity and discipline.
For me and Michelle, this visit has therefore held special meaning. Throughout my life, including my work as a young man on behalf of the urban poor, I have always found inspiration in the life of Gandhiji and in his simple and profound lesson to be the change we seek in the world.
An ancient civilization of science and innovation. A fundamental faith in human progress. This is the sturdy foundation upon which you have built ever since that stroke of midnight when the tricolour was raised over a free and independent India. And despite the skeptics who said that this country was simply too poor, too vast, too diverse to succeed, you surmounted overwhelming odds and became a model to the world.
Instead of succumbing to division, you have shown that the strength of India – the very idea of India – is its embrace of all colours, castes and creeds. It’s the diversity represented in this chamber today. It’s the richness of faiths celebrated by a visitor to my hometown of Chicago more than a century ago-the renowned Swami Vivekananda. He said that, “holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character.”
Instead of being lured by the false notion that progress must come at the expense of freedom, you built the institutions upon which true democracy depends – free and fair elections, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.
Here in India, two successive governments led by different parties have recognized that deeper partnership with America is both natural and necessary. In the United States, both of my predecessors – one Democrat, one Republican – worked to bring us closer, leading to increased trade and a landmark civil nuclear agreement.
We salute India’s long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. And we welcome India as it prepares to take its seat on the United Nations Security Council.
In short, with India assuming its rightful place in the world, we have an historic opportunity to make the relationship between our two countries a defining partnership of the century ahead. And I believe we can do so by working together in three important areas.
First, as global partners we can promote prosperity in both our countries.
We need to forge partnerships in high-tech sectors like defence and civil space.
We can pursue joint research and development to create green jobs; give Indians more access to cleaner, affordable energy; meet the commitments we made at Copenhagen; and show the possibilities of low-carbon growth. Together, we can strengthen agriculture.
As we work to advance our shared prosperity, we can partner to address a second priority – our shared security.
In Mumbai, I met with the courageous families and survivors of that barbaric attack. And here in this Parliament, which was itself targeted because of the democracy it represents, we honor the memory of all those who have been taken from us, including American citizens on 26/11 and Indian citizens on 9/11. This is the bond we share. It’s why we insist that nothing ever justifies the slaughter of innocent men, women and children. It’s why we’re working together, more closely than ever, to prevent terrorist attacks and to deepen our cooperation even further.
And we will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice.
And as two global leaders, the United States and India can partner for global security – especially as India serves on the Security Council over the next two years. Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today – in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.
When Indians vote, the whole world watches. Thousands of political parties, hundreds of thousands of polling centres. Millions of candidates and poll workers, and 700 million voters. There’s nothing like it on the planet. There is so much that countries transitioning to democracy could learn from India’s experience; so much expertise that India could share with the world. That, too, is what’s possible when the world’s largest democracy embraces its role as a global leader.
I want every Indian citizen to know: The United States of America will not simply be cheering you on from the sidelines. We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder. Because we believe in the promise of India. And we believe that the future is what we make it.
We believe that no matter who you are or where you come from, every person can fulfill their God-given potential, just as a Dalit like Dr. Ambedkar could lift himself up and pen the words of the Constitution that protects the rights of all Indians.
We believe that no matter where you live – whether a village in Punjab or the bylanes of Chandni Chowk…an old section of Kolkata or a new high-rise in Bangalore – every person deserves the same chance to live in security and dignity, to get an education, to find work, and to give their children a better future.
It’s a simple lesson contained in that collection of stories which has guided Indians for centuries – the Panchtantra. And it’s the spirit of the inscription seen by all who enter this Great Hall: ‘That one is mine and the other a stranger is the concept of little minds. But to the large-hearted, the world itself is their family.”
In the course of his election campaign in 2008 Barack Obama had remarked that “working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” would be among the critical tasks of his administration.
In his Central Hall speech the U.S. President lauded India’s great civilisation, its pluralism and its democracy. He spoke of Vivekananda, of Gandhi, of Tagore and Dr. Ambedkar. He said he looked forward to India becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
For all Indians, what he said was important, and heartening. But what he omitted to say, I think, was no less important. There was no mention of the word Kashmir in his speech!
When Smt. Sushma Swaraj met him she told him emphatically that the impression common Indian citizens have about U.S. attitude towards this part of the world is as follows : For Washington, Pakistan is an ally, India is a market.
I feel his speech in Parliament’s Central Hall was a conscious effort to dispel this impression that India for Americans is just a market, nothing else. The concluding paragraph of Obama’s address was as follows:
“If we pursue the vision I have described today – a global partnership to meet global challenges – then I have no doubt that future generations –Indians and Americans – will live in a world that is more prosperous, more secure, and more just, because of the bonds that our generation forged today. Thank you, Jai Hind!, and long live the partnership between India and the United States”.
14 November, 2010