News

USIS Washington File

03 July 2000

Text: Inderfurth Remarks on U.S.-India Relations July 1

(Spoke at Association of Physicians of Indian Origin - AAPI) (2910)

Following is the text of remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for
South Asian Affairs Karl F. Inderfurth at the American Association of
Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in New York City:

(begin text)
 
Remarks by Karl F. Inderfurth
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI)
New York, New York
July 1, 2000

Thank you very much. I feel honored to be here with you today,
following in the footsteps of the First Lady and her appearance
yesterday, which basically is an impossible act to follow! I am also
very pleased to be speaking to an audience made up of so many
physicians whose collective professional and practical wisdom -- not
to mention political clout -- has been diagnosed as being at the peak
of excellent health. I will come back to that later, but you have
asked me to speak about a different kind of health that I know you and
I care deeply about the health of the United States relationship with
India.

I think it is fair to say that this relationship is stronger and more
vigorous than it has ever been, and its future looks increasingly
bright. Both great nations have moved in recent years to make it that
way. Organizations like the AAPI have made an enormous contribution in
promoting this binational partnership -- I also believe that a great
deal of credit for this historic, positive transformation must be
accorded personally to President Clinton's leadership -- and, in no
small measure, to the First Lady.

Although she was too modest to claim such credit, I can tell you that
it was her direct experience, during her visit to South Asia with
Chelsea in 1995, that further inspired the President's own interest in
visiting this region. At the beginning of his second term, the
President made it very clear that he was determined to enhance our
relationship with India. And, as everyone here knows, in March he was
finally able to visit India for what turned out to be a wonderful five
days and a milestone in our bilateral relations. I was privileged to
be part of that eventful and exciting journey, and I would like to
give you just a little flavor of it.

There were plenty of colorful and moving moments, including the
President sprinkling flower petals at Raj Ghat, the Gandhi memorial,
and paying tribute to a man who inspired our own freedom movement for
civil rights in this country; participating in a welcoming dance
ceremony in a Rajasthan village and seeing grass roots democracy at
work, Indian-style; sighting not one but two tigers in the nature
preserve near Rathambore (when I was there a few days later with my
family they had gone back in hiding -- all we saw were tiger paw
tracks); and, of course, spending time with Chelsea in the
incomparable beauty and serenity of the Taj Mahal which the President
rightly described as a "Monument to Love." For me, though, the
emotional and political highpoint of this whole trip was President
Clinton's speech to a special joint session of the Lok Sabha and Rajya
Sabha, the supreme symbol and reality of democracy in India and the
key to the special bond that our two countries share.

It was from that podium -- beneath a portrait of the Mahatma -- that
the President made it very clear that his visit to India was intended
to open a new chapter in our relationship. He did this by first
calling attention to his upcoming visit to the Taj Mahal.

He recalled that a poet once said that the world's inhabitants can be
divided into "those that have seen the Taj Mahal and those who have
not." He said he would very soon have the chance to cross over to "the
happier side of that divide." And then he said, and here I quote: "But
I hope in a larger sense that my visit will help the American people
to see the new India and to understand you better. And I hope that the
visit will help India to understand America better. And by listening
to each other we can build a true partnership of mutual respect and
common endeavor."

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am convinced that the President accomplished
these objectives with his visit and now it is up to all of us to
sustain -- and build -- upon them. And that is exactly what we are now
working to do.

It has now been three months since the President's visit to India,
time enough to take stock and to begin realizing the vision and
building on the architecture we agreed to during that visit. I am
referring here to the Vision Statement signed by the President and
Prime Minister Vajpayee that lays out where we want the relationship
to go.

In that Vision Statement, formally entitled "India-U.S. Relations: A
Vision for the 21st Century," the U.S. and Indian governments state
that "we are convinced that it is time to chart a new and purposeful
direction in our relationship: and that we now have "both an
opportunity, but also a profound responsibility to work together." We
have a common interest in promoting strategic stability in Asia and
beyond, in countering terrorism, and strengthening the international
security system. Our vision includes working together to preserve
"stability and growth in the global economy" and in fighting poverty
"so that the promise of a new economy is felt everywhere and no nation
is left behind."

Our vision is admittedly ambitious. How do we get there? We have put
into place an Institutional Dialogue or "architecture" to facilitate
our relations with India that we hope will be as enduring as it is
comprehensive. Two of the main pillars of the architecture outlined
during the President's visit are the political and economic aspects of
the relationship.

Let me start with the political. As part of our enhanced engagement
with India, Prime Minister Vajpayee has accepted the President's
invitation to visit in the fall. We believe that there must be regular
meetings of our highest leaders -- and not a gap of 22 years between
visits of an American President to New Delhi. We also believe there
should be frequent meetings of our Foreign Ministers. Secretary
Albright and External Affairs Minister Singh just met this week at the
inaugural meeting of the Community of Democracies initiative in
Warsaw. Indeed, India and the U.S. are co-convenors of the Community
of Democracies, thus giving concrete expression to our oft-repeated
phrase about the "world's oldest and largest democracies."

Our political consultations also include regular Foreign Office
consultations at a senior level, including an Asian security dialogue.
Under Secretary Tom Pickering was in New Delhi in May to launch those
discussions.

In the important area of security and nonproliferation, Deputy
Secretary of State Talbott is continuing his dialogue with Minister
Singh, which both sides agree is probably the most sustained, serious
and intensive interaction in the history of our bilateral ties. We
have also held a series of very productive counter-terrorism talks,
and FBI Director Freeh had a successful visit to New Delhi. Our
agreement to open the first U.S. Legal Attache office in India, and
our expected agreement on a new Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, will
reinforce our strong cooperation in the common battle against
terrorism and international crime.

Let me now focus for a moment on the economic side of our relations.
Simply stated, we believe there is a huge opportunity to grow our
relationship here. The United States is already India's largest
trading partner and largest foreign investor. India has one of the
world's largest economies. But if you compare where we stand relative
to India, with where we stand relative to China, I think that it is
evident that there could be substantially more U.S. investment in
India, substantially more trade between our two countries. Hopefully
we can work together to promote that. Moreover, we both have a stake
in energizing economic growth in India so that it not only benefits
the middle class but reaches the very poor and draws them into a
robust market economy where there are better jobs and greater
opportunities. So I think that these mutual interests are what will
draw us together.

A great deal should be happening on the economic front in the coming
months. During the President's visit, Commerce Secretary Daley and
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Maran signed an agreement
establishing a new Commercial Dialogue. During his visit to Washington
for the World Bank/IMF meetings this spring, Finance Minister Sinha
and Treasury Secretary Summers signed an agreement setting up an India
Financial Forum. We also have established a Joint Consultative Group
on Clean Energy and the Environment and a Science and Technology
Forum, which will include government officials and some of our best
scientific and academic minds. Our Ambassador to India, Dick Celeste,
is very excited about this forum and what it can accomplish.

These are but several of the areas of interest we are actively
pursuing in the wake of the President's visit to India. We are
determined to have an across-the-board, multifaceted relationship with
India, one that will extend to the next Administration and beyond.
There are clearly so many things we should and can be doing in
building this new relationship.

One such area of obvious interest to this gathering is medicine and
public health President Clinton devoted special attention to this
vital sector on his trip, visiting a hospital in Hyderabad and even
personally taking part in a vaccination campaign. "Last December," he
said in his address to Parliament (to sustained applause I might add),
"India immunized 140 million children against polio, the biggest
public health effort in human history. I congratulate you for that."
To follow-up, India's Health Minister visited Washington in June, and
together with HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, launched two significant
new joint projects: one on HIV/AIDS, and one on maternal health care.

Indeed, health care was a key element of the Vision Statement signed
in New Delhi. Referring to India's successful campaign to eradicate
polio, the statement says "With leadership, joint research, and
application of modern science, we can and will do the same for the
leading killers of our time, including AIDS, malaria, and
tuberculosis."

The Vision Statement also includes another very important passage that
has direct relevance for this audience. In pursuant of the "closer and
qualitatively new relationship" that Prime Minister Vajpayee and
President Clinton resolved to create, they paid tribute to one of the
most important participants that will make that happen. "Our
partnership" the Vision Statement said, "is reinforced by the ties of
scholarship, commerce, and increasingly of kinship among our people.
The industry, enterprise and cultural contributions of Americans of
Indian heritage have enriched and enlivened both our societies." Let
me spend a few moments on this subject.

In my current position as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia,
I spend quite a bit of time talking about our diplomatic relationship
with India, and as you know, in the world of diplomacy a demarche is
an important tool. But for George Thampy, a 12-year old Indian
American student from Missouri, the word "demarche" is significant for
another reason; by spelling it correctly, he recently clinched the
National Spelling Bee championship. His spelling victory followed his
second place finish in the National Geography Bee. And I would also
note that it was the second year in a row that an Indian American was
crowned the spelling champion.

In fact, Indian Americans are appearing on all sorts of lists of honor
and achievement: being named as Truman scholars and Presidential
scholars; being cited for outstanding leadership by the American
Medical Association, being nominated for Best Director at this year's
Academy Awards for "The Sixth Sense;" receiving this year's Pulitzer
Prize for fiction for a collection of stories dealing with the Indian
immigration experience, and in the case of Vinod Dhan being hailed by
President Clinton for being, the "Father of the Pentium chip."

Moreover, Indian culture is hot right now in America. As a recent
article in the Chronicle of Higher Education points out, Sony featured
Bangra music in a recent advertisement; Madonna wore a sari on the MTV
Video Music Awards; "Indian fusion" cuisine is attracting customers
throughout the country; the Body Shop is extolling the benefits of
Indian traditional healing products in its store windows; Yoga classes
seem as common in the United States as Windows NT classes are in
India. In addition, CNN is scheduled to launch a new South Asian
channel with expanded coverage of all things Indian.

The Vision Statement also extols the value of enhanced cooperation and
even stronger people-to-people ties. The Indian American community has
an impressive record of promoting those ties, and indeed is one of the
most important bridges between our two countries, something we want to
highlight during Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to Washington. Your
own practice at AAPI of sending faculty to India to teach and share
expertise with their Indian counterparts is but one fine example.

And, of course, our cultural exchanges program, including the
Fulbright and International Visitor programs, count among them
distinguished alumni such as President Narayanan, Prime Minister
Vajpayee, four cabinet ministers, and a governor. We are hoping to
welcome a new generation of distinguished alumni to exchange programs
focused on citizen participation, environmental protection, and
judicial reform.

Some of the most exciting examples of people-to-people exchanges come
from the non-governmental sector. And in the information age,
people-to-people is being redefined -- to include people who
communicate and collaborate via the Internet. As many of you know, the
WebMD Foundation, for example, has chosen to make India its pilot
country for a Health Information InterNetwork. By the way, speaking of
the Internet, I am reminded of what President Clinton said when he
visited the Hi-Tec Center in Hyderabad: "When I was a young man," he
recalled, "chips were something you ate, 'windows were something you
washed, disks were parts of your spinal column, that when you got
older often slipped out of place, and semiconductors were frustrated
musicians who wished they were leading orchestras." The audience loved
it!

Well, times have changed, and very much for the better as well, in
Indo-U.S. relations. For a long time, the classic reference volume
about that relationship was Dennis Kux's book entitled Estranged
Democracies. I believe we have now embarked on a new era in our
relations with India, one that will be called "Engaged Democracies."
Perhaps after that the next great book about U.S. ties with India will
be entitled "Embraced Democracies!" But let's not get ahead of
ourselves.

Before closing, have you noticed a subject that I have not mentioned?
There are of course, many but one stands out. I have given almost an
entire speech on US-Indian Indian relations without mentioning
Pakistan. This is not because we do not consider Pakistan a friend --
because we do. Nor is it because we do not want to improve our
relationship with Pakistan -- again, we do, But it is because we are
determined to move ahead with our relations with India on their own
merits. For too long there has been the hyphenated relationship --
India-Pakistan -- you could hardly speak about one without referring
to the other. For too long there has been the zero-sum relationship --
what is a gain for one must be a loss for the other. But just as the
Cold Wax is over between the U.S. and its former adversary, so we
believe there must be a new way of looking at the subcontinent. As the
President has made clear, we have great opportunities to build a new
relationship with India, and we intend to do so. But this will not be
done at the expense of Pakistan, with whom we have had longstanding
ties. Indeed we believe that our enhanced relationship with India will
serve Pakistan's long term interests as well, especially as it seeks
to realize the stable, prosperous, democratic nation of its founders'
dreams. We are also hopeful that India and Pakistan will be able to
begin a process that will lead to a resolution of their long-standing
differences, including Kashmir, As President Clinton has said on many
occasions, the United States will do everything it can to support such
a process of peace and reconciliation.

Let me conclude by returning to President Clinton's visit to India.
Quite frankly, that trip exceeded our expectations, especially in the
response he received. It was a wonderful opportunity for him to
communicate to the leaders and to the people of India our respect for
its democracy, our appreciation for its history and culture and the
collaboration we intend to pursue with India, across the board. He
also made, clear our commitment to work through problem areas of real
concern, including nonproliferation and regional stability. We were
all very gratified by the visit and by the reception President Clinton
was given. Soon it will be our honor and privilege to reciprocate with
a similar reception for Prime Minister Vajpayee in the United States.
We are counting on your enthusiastic support and participation.

Thank you very much.

(end text)

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