International Affairs



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 honourable members of the US Congress and high officials of the US 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, Madame Hillary Rodham Clinton, paid 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 ideals of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and the philosophy and thoughts of outstanding American thinkers and writers like Emerson, Thoreau and Walt Whitman who influenced great Indians like Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and, of course, Mahatma Gandhi. The influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King Jr. in the struggle for equality by the Blacks in America is well known, so much so that, when 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 critical issues, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to President John F. Kennedy, saying that even if the United States did not give anything, India would remain friendly to her. Expatiating on this idea, Nehru wrote to the Chief Ministers of the Indian States some time earlier, "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. gives 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 in the way."

A somewhat similar sentiment was expressed by Mahatma Gandhi much earlier in 1936 when a group of Christian workers from the U.S.A. met him. He said answering their questions: "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 the U.S.A., and American agricultural experts have helped in igniting the Green Revolution which is one of the major achievements of India since Independence. The U.S.A. has emerged to-day as the Number One partner of India in the realms of trade and investment, and our economic co-operation promises spectacular prospects for the good of our two countries and the world. I must mention here the contributions of over one million people of Indian origin resident in America, who have made substantial contributions to the country of their adoption and to co-operation between the U.S. and India.

But there is no gainsaying that in the Cold War period, our relations were bedevilled 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 non-alignment and peaceful co-existence. The mindset 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 world the non-aligned concept of a pluralistic 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: "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 latter 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. You have also striven to turn a major challenge in our bilateral relationship into an opportunity that both sides have grasped wholeheartedly.

Mr. President, one remarkable feature of the post Cold War world is this emergence of a large number of developing nations on 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 U.S.A. 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 centre-piece 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 of the world their due place in its central structure, reflecting the realities of the world to-day.

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 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 towards a one-world. From the earliest times India has had the 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 be run by 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 want it to be democratized and sustained. Globalization means that global society should be sustained by its units - the nation, states, groups, families and individuals who have their own inextinguishable identities and unique characteristics. Long ago Mahatma Gandhi described his vision of a one world in the following manner: "The better mind of the world desires to-day not absolutely independent States, but a federation of friendly inter-dependent States. .............. I desire the ability to be totally independent, without asserting the independence".

In such a globalised world society there would be no place for war, for hegemonistic controls or cut-throat competition. India, Mr. President, is a country that has wrested its independence from one of the mightiest empires on earth by the method of non-violence. It is not the desire of this nation to solve such problems as we have with our neighbours by the use of force. With Pakistan, which was carved out of our body-politic, it was our desire to have friendly co-operation 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 one-billion people who inhabit our vast land -- to defend them with all the resources and strength at its disposal. We are open to dialogue and to 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 sub-continent is the most dangerous place in the world to-day and Kashmir is a nuclear flash-point.

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 and 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 the goal of a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

On this historic and 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 non-proliferation 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 foundations for 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, reinforced by our growing mutuality of interests in the political, economic and technological fields, and by an increasing convergence of our world view. This will require us to remain engaged in frank dialogue on the lines described by Henry David Thoreau: "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 good health and well being of the President of the United States of America, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton;
  • the abiding friendship between the peoples of India and the United States of America;
  • the success of our joint endeavours for peace and justice in the world.

Thank you

Jai Hind