I am truly pleased to be here with you this evening and appreciate your warm welcome. I thank you for coming here from across the continent as representatives of a dynamic and creative community of Indian Americans.
I have had a fruitful and most stimulating visit to Washington DC. In my meetings with President Obama we resolved to further strengthen our bilateral relations and to work together as partners in a changing world. My wife and I have been truly touched by the warmth and generosity of the First Lady and President. I have invited them to visit India and I am delighted that he has accepted the invitation.
There were times in the past when the perspectives and priorities of our two countries were different. This often obscured the commonality of values and interests. Today things have changed. I wish to record our deep appreciation for the enormous contribution your creativity, your hard work, and your good citizenship have played in bringing our two nations together.
We also value the contribution you have been making to India’s progress and modernization.
India is on the march. While the global slowdown has hurt us too, we have been able to catch our breath and move forward. With a gross savings ratio of over 35 per cent of national income, and a gross investment ratio that is almost close to 40 per cent, we now have the economic pre-conditions for sustained high growth. Growth brings with it new challenges and new opportunities.
We need a better education system. We need a better health care system. We need investment in education and health care. We need modern infrastructure. It is through the application of modern science and technology that we hope to march forward.
More than the resources, however, we will require imagination and innovation to succeed. People of Indian origin worldwide can contribute mightily to this effort. In the past few years we have already experienced what has been called a “reverse brain-drain”. I would prefer to call this “brain gain” or, indeed, a meeting of minds.
We have tried to encourage this flow by making it easier for Indian and American scholars, scientists, business leaders and other professionals to work together. Let me take this opportunity to extend an invitation to all Indian Americans and non-resident Indians who wish to return home to India in one capacity or another. You no longer have to make a choice between here and there. Modern technology and our flexible policies have opened possibilities of working in both places.
I want to see a true intellectual and business partnership between Indians and Americans in years to come. We are similar in so many ways. We are both free and open societies. We are both plural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious societies. Metaphors like salad bowl, melting pot and the rainbow have been used to describe both our societies. We are constantly dealing with issues like coalition building, dealing with civil society organizations, non-governmental activism and the free consumer – of goods and ideas.
This is what makes it easy for Indians to adapt themselves to the US and, dare I say, for Americans to adapt themselves to India. I hope you will be the bridge that will continue to connect our two nations and societies.
Relations with the United States will remain one of the important pillars of our foreign policy. We see the United States as an important partner for meeting our national development goals and in creating a global environment marked by consensus, co-existence and cooperation.
Our relationship is not born out of a crisis or any one concern; nor does it exist in the context of any other relationship. It is nurtured by our shared values; and the bonds and mutual respect that exist between the people of our two democratic and pluralistic societies. It derives its vitality from recognition of the enormous potential for mutually beneficial cooperation and a sense of shared responsibility to work towards addressing global challenges.
For these reasons, our agenda of bilateral cooperation is extremely wide-ranging. We are encouraged by the fact that we have made progress across the board in our shared objectives of making our economies more prosperous, our people and our world safer and our planet greener.
Today, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack, I would especially like to thank the United States for the support we received in the investigations and for our enhanced cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism. This is just one example of how we are working together to make our people more secure.
President Obama and I met at a time when our relationship has matured into a strong strategic partnership of global dimension. This is a time of economic uncertainty and security challenges, but it is also a time of opportunity. There is a greater global awareness of the challenges and the need for stronger resolve to address them. We had extremely good discussions on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. This was our first detailed discussion in a bilateral setting. I found in him a great deal of respect for India and its values, and a strong commitment to this relationship.
We have, I believe, laid the foundation for consolidating the gains in our relationship. We are establishing new directions in the next phase of our relationship that will enable us to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our relationship will see a new emphasis on five Es – economy, energy, environment, education and empowerment – even as we further strengthen our ties in defence, security and counter-terrorism. We will also harness our natural synergies in science and technology, education and research to advance food security, improve healthcare, develop green technologies and create the human resources for the future.
It is through the example of your family life, your good neighbourliness, your enterprise and your contribution to knowledge and commerce that you have given the land of your ancestors a new identity in the new world. We, at home in India, value that.
I thank you once again for coming here today. I know that many of you have traveled from far in a holiday week. I extend to you and your families good wishes for the Thanksgiving.