September 24, 2004
PM's speech at the Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Haass, Dr. Bollinger, Professor Frankel, Dr. Desai, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a privilege to have this opportunity to share with this distinguished gathering my thoughts on the prospects for a stronger and mutually enriching partnership between India and the United States in the years ahead.
Commonality of values and factors driving a shared world view
It is usual for speakers on India US relations to stress the fact that we are both democracies and that this provides an essential commonality of values between our two countries which should lead naturally to a strong partnership. I do believe that this approach is fundamentally right. A commitment to a genuinely democratic society, which is also an open, liberal and tolerant society, represents a basis of shared values between us which is very important. But we must also realistically recognize that this by itself does not ensure or guarantee a close relationship as is evident from the fact that India US relations have had their ups and downs in the past.
Real partnership requires more than just a shared commitment to democracy. A real partnership requires the commonality of values to be supplemented by an awareness of converging interests, and a shared worldview. I believe that the changes that have occurred in the world in the past fifteen years or so have brought us much closer to such an awareness than ever in the past. In my view, there are at least three major elements that have driven this process of redefining world views.
Firstly, the cold war ended. Old threats receded and new threats emerged. Strategic equations began to be revaluated, in Delhi, in Washington, and in other capitals too. The second factor is the accelerating pace of globalization. This had profound implications for economic policy in developing countries, and of course for India in particular. Thirdly, the nearly two million strong Indian American community carne of age in the US. They began to develop a prominent presence in this country, with greater involvement in mainstream America. They have become a potent voice for promoting stronger bilateral ties. These three factors, I believe, point to a future of accelerated engagement based on partnership.
Our democratic polity and commitment to pluralism & liberalism For India, our response to these factors is powerfully affected by our democratic structures and the underlying commitment to the deeper values of pluralism and liberalism. Let me elaborate.
As in other developing countries, our primary challenge is one of economic development. We are determined to improve the conditions of life for our people and this can only be done by transforming our economy into a modern, middle income economy as swiftly as possible. However, we have chosen to work towards this goal within the framework of parliamentary democracy. We adopted parliamentary democracy, based on universal suffrage, at per capita income levels which were: a fraction of those in industrialized countries and with levels of literacy as low as 18%, at the time India became independent.
The task of economic development, never an easy one, is especially challenging when it is to be realized through a functioning democracy in a low income environment. Economic transformation requires difficult choices in which short term goals often have to be sacrificed for longer term objectives. The pressures of politics do not always afford the luxury of the long view. Many observers had doubts on whether democratic India could deliver results and there have been periods when our performance has been less impressive than we would have wished. Yet, on the whole, we can be proud of what we have achieved.
We today are an economy which has grown at close to 6% per annum . over twenty years. We have the fourth largest GDP in the world in terms of purchasing power. We have a confident, competitive private sector, which displays remarkable entrepreneurial energy. India is well endowed with human resources of a very high order and an infrastructure of law and commercial accounting conducive to modern business. Our economy has shown dynamism in many areas of advanced technology.
This is the result of sustained efforts over the past fifty years to build institutions that provide the underpinning of economic development over the longer term efforts that began early on as a part of the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru. It is also the result of economic reforms which have greatly increased our competitiveness in recent years. Economic analysts today agree that India has the potential to achieve 8% growth for a sustained period. The fact that this achievement has drawn on, and reinforced our democracy is an achievement of which all Indians are justly proud.
Elections are the very essence of a democracy. We take pride in the unaffected regularity of our electorate voting their representatives into and out of office quite matter of factly. The United States is keen to support the promotion of democratic values around the world. India is a living example of how democratic institutions can flourish in developing countries and in a manner which achieves developmental objectives.
Our commitment to democracy is conjoined with a commitment to the deeper values of pluralism and liberalism. India's embrace of diversity as an essential ingredient of our democracy what today is characterised as multiculturalism is deeply rooted in our culture. The effort to preserve it in the process of building a modern state is a socio political experiment on a massive scale. Its success is a validation of our underlying philosophy. This is a model of democratic practice that has great relevance to this fractured world, in which we often hear seductive arguments equating ethnicity or language or religion with nationhood. Such flawed hypotheses do not create states or civilizations. Democracy cannot be based on exclusion; it has to be inclusive because it celebrates plurality. Threatening this plurality is extremism and terrorism, now on a global scale, from which no one can be safe or insulated. Acts of violence and terror in the name of religion and ideology are sometimes projected as a clash of cultures, instead of what they actually are attempts to impose bigotry on tolerance. Multi cultural nations like ours, will remain the targets of the protagonists of bigotry because our societies invalidate their thesis. We in India have suffered from such violence. The wounds inflicted on this city too, are still seared in our memory.
Earlier this week, I conveyed to President Bush that India's determination to confront and vanquish global terrorism is second to none. For a decade and a half, India has paid a price in human lives that cannot be equalled anywhere. We have not let it weaken our resolve, or undermine the fundamental values on which our society and yours is based. This is a shared struggle and one in which we should find it possible to do a great deal more together.
Globalisation the other challenge
Globalisation is the other international development that influences our world view. As trade barriers have dropped sharply, global economic integration has encouraged an expansion in trade, foreign direct investment and flows of technology and people. The explosion of information technology has created new business opportunities undreamt of ten years ago. India, like other developing countries, stands to benefit enormously from this explosion of economic opportunities and indeed has done so in several respects.
As I have already mentioned, the economic reforms we introduced in 1991 and which have been continued by successive governments, laid the foundations of an economy poised to reap the potential benefits of globalization. Our trade has expanded and we have done exceptionally well in certain areas such as IT-enabled services. India is now seen as having the potential to emerge as a major player in the knowledge economy. Business Process Outsourcing a phrase which has spawned a number of emotive myths is only one indicator of the potential. Each day, Indian companies are proving themselves to be credible partners for American enterprises. Time and distance, the handicaps of the past, have become the advantages of our times. Our skills have helped to sharpen the competitive edge of American companies.
While globalisation presents many potential benefits, it also poses special challenges. In a democracy, it is necessary that the process of reform be perceived as equitable and caring. In a. world in which information flows are unfettered, growth processes in which some are seen to benefit while others are excluded are not viable. This is particularly sensitive in a democratic polity in which public dissatisfaction can be quickly converted into electoral defeat. This is indeed the message of the recent elections in India. They were not, as some . have said, a vote against reforms. They were a vote against a process of reform that was seen to be unbalanced, a process which neglected the needs of our rural areas and the agricultural economy.
My government is committed to addressing these problems. We will strengthen and deepen reforms so that India can benefit from the tremendous opportunities which the global economy offers today, but we will also ensure that there is a better distribution of benefits. Our vision of 'inclusive politics' is rooted in a vision of liberal economics.
The integration of the Indian economy with the world, opens new vistas of potential cooperation with the United States. The United States is potentially a major investor, but the volume of US investment in India is as yet modest. Our growth ambitions need massive investments, particularly in infrastructure, and much of this will have to come from public private partnerships. We believe the United States can play a major role in this area. The United States can also help in sustaining India's efforts to globalise by remaining true to your own traditional commitment to freer trade. I must confess that at times we see disturbing signs of protectionism in the US which run counter to everything this country has stood for. Let me just say that at this point in time when India and other developing countries are beginning to be won over by the persuasiveness of the case for globalisation, I hope the argument will not be lost here. We count on the United States standing firm in its commitment to free trade and open access.
Role of the Indian community in the USA
The Indian American community in this country is the third significant factor in a much stronger India US partnership in the future. I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to this community and to recognize their contribution to strengthening our bilateral relations. Indian Americans have shown the exceptional characteristic of being able to integrate fully into American life while also maintaining a close cultural and economic connection with India. They serve as a bridge between our national interests. They are an inspiration to our younger people. Often their regional roots in India makes them a special bridge to individual states. They also, we hope, speak for India, helping to explain some of our concerns, constraints and perceptions to their fellow Americans.
Recent trends in India US cooperation
Happily, the last decade and a half has seen a progressive transformation in our bilateral engagement. This process began during the visit of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983 and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The reevaluation on both sides of the India America equation has yielded encouraging results in recent years, and the canvas is still unfolding.
We have recently embarked on a forward looking programme which envisages cooperation in civilian space applications, nuclear energy, high technology commerce and a dialogue on missile defence. As we move forward on the basis of trust and confidence there are ever widening prospects for cooperation in these areas.
Our scientific and technological interaction is more and more wider-ranging, with increasing global applications. It has also been energized by new prospects in industry. Information technology, advanced materials research, medicine and vaccine development are a few of the frontier areas of our collaboration.
Our defence ,cooperation is growing rapidly. We also have close cooperation on counter terrorism, whose benefits are extensive and measurable.
In Nepal and Sri Lanka, the US has supported India's approach in strengthening peace and stability by supporting democratic forces, constitutional processes and political dialogue. In Afghanistan, India strongly supported US led efforts to replace the repressive Taliban regime and to eliminate the AI Qaeda menace. We remain deeply involved in assisting the democratic Government of Afghanistan in its national reconstruction efforts.
New partnerships have to escape the straitjacket of old paradigms. Looking beyond our bilateral relationship, I believe we can also be partners in developing a global perspective on creating a new and durable structure for international cooperation. It is remarkable that the world order of 1945 dominates global decision making even today. The architecture of all our major international organizations has remained virtually immune to the momentous political, economic, social and demographic changes of the second half of the twentieth century. It is not only the agencies and councils of the United Nations, which are outdated. . So too are many nuclear proliferation and arms control regimes and a number of other alliance systems. They were all designed to address threats that either no longer exist or have been so fundamentally altered that their neutralization calls for innovative approaches. I believe the time is ripe for the United States to seriously consider the advantages of further enhancing' our partnership on major international issues by recognizing India's due place in global councils.
India's geographical location and security environment have informed our concern at the unrestrained proliferation of nuclear and missile technology. Our responsible record underscores the logic of India's partnership with the United States to make the world a safer place. Together, our governments can address threats from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, to which President Bush and I have committed our countries, would raise our cooperation in these areas to higher levels.
I come to you with the conviction that an extraordinary responsibility rests upon our two nations to ensure that the fixture of mankind is not afflicted by the two paramount ills that made the previous century such a cruel one the scourge of violence that made the last century one of the most brutal known to mankind; and chronic and large scale deprivation that denied millions of human beings the dignified lives they deserve. History will judge us by our efforts to rid the world of the twin menaces of violence and exclusion.
I believe that the India US relationship has reached a stage where it can serve this larger global cause. Our polities are founded on similar principles and shared values. Our relations have reached a stage of maturity, in which we can manage our differences in a rational and practical manner. There is a mutuality of interests and a complementarity of major objectives. This is a sound basis for a durable partnership in the enterprise we are engaged in the building of a stable, secure, prosperous and equitable world order. In essence, therefore, my message is simple we are on the same side. And as I have said before the best is yet to be.
Printed from the site http://www.pmindia.nic.in