Address by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, MOS for External Affairs New Delhi: 15 March 2010
Our relationship with the United States of America is anchored in a shared vision of the two countries to play a leading role in global affairs. Democracy, shared values of freedom, free enterprise, multi-cultural societies and strong economic and technological complementarities bring the two nations together as natural partners. The significance of India and the US working together in charting a secured and prosperous future for the peoples of the two countries, and for the global community in equal measure, has led to a transformation in our bilateral ties with the US in recent years. The historic India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement is symbolic of the deep mutual trust and understanding that we share with the U.S. today and the distance the two countries have travelled in a short time in their Strategic Partnership. The agreement, though a bilateral compact, has been of international import. It has transformed the global landscape of cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes among international partners. Similarly, our cooperation with the US in the field of Space has resulted in path breaking human achievements. The discovery of water molecules and a new rock type on the surface of the Moon, an accomplishment of our Space mission Chandrayaan, in collaboration with the two US instruments on board the Spaceship, is a feat which makes us all proud as inhabitants of this planet.
PM’s State Visit to Washington
3. Our Prime Minister visited Washington in November 2009; on what was the first state visit of President Obama. The visit generated a strong political understanding between the two countries to consolidate and strengthen bilateral ties in the existing and new areas of cooperation. President Obama stated that India-US relationship was "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century", and spoke of India being "indispensable" for the building of a future of security and prosperity for all nations. These statements are strong political templates that would guide India-US global partnership in the coming years.
People to People Contacts and India-US Relationship
4. One of the defining features of India-US relations is the strong people to people ties that exist between the two countries. There are approximately 3 million people of Indian origin and Indians living in the US. The number of Americans visiting or working in India has gone up substantially in recent years. Owing to the constant interaction between the two societies, there is far greater understanding and appreciation of each others’ culture, politics and way of life. The earliest Americans to come to India were the traders from Massachusetts who off loaded North American ice on the shore of Madras. The enterprise of Satyananda Stokes, whose given name was Samuel Evan Stokes, an American missionary who arrived in Shimla in1904, introduced apple orchards of American Delicious variety in Himachal Pradesh. His visionary effort soon transformed the economy of the Shimla hills. Today, the stream of American travellers to India are business executives, scientists, innovators, engineers, Congressmen, officials, artists, and sportspersons among others. Every section of American society, from Palo Alto to New York, is engaged with India. Likewise, the movement of people from India to the US is equally varied. The imperatives of a global economic order based on innovation, technology and economies of scale has been a catalyst to this intermingling of the New and the Old "melting pots".
5. People to people relations have made a unique contribution to this bilateral relationship. Much before our leaders envisioned giving a new beginning to the India-US political relations, a strong engagement between the two societies was already flourishing. The shared multicultural experience underpinning the social fabric in the two countries made it easier for them to comprehend each other. This popular understanding provided the perfect platform for the two democracies to enter into a transformed relationship. The value and contribution of the popular relations between the two countries in the betterment of bilateral ties came to be increasingly recognised since the early nineties, a time when our IT revolutionaries set out to chart a new course for India-US technology and economic partnership; one of the most defining years of India-US non-state relations. Our economic reforms unleashed the potential that India had. The US Government and Strategic thinkers started reaching out to India. Time had come for the two countries to engage on strategic matters. The 123 Agreement was a logical culmination of the process.
6. Indian diaspora in the US has played a critical role in promotion of India-US relations. Indians have increasingly become politically active there and have established platforms to further India-US interests. Organisations of Indian professionals in the US such as those of doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs have made special efforts to lend a helping hand in partnering India’s development.
7. While Indian diaspora is present in every nook and corner of the world, what makes those present in the US standout as a group is their highly qualified nature. Indians along with other Asians have one of the highest educational qualifications of all ethnic groups in the US. According to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, there are close to 35000 Indian-American doctors in the US. The Indian community in the US is also one of the highest earning segments of the US society. [highest median income of any ethnic group]. The Indian diaspora has made a mark for itself in the US, a contribution well recognised by our American friends.
8. Friendship associations play an important role in promoting diplomatic relations between countries. They provide a valuable channel to synergise people to people relations for global goodwill, peace and harmony. In a fast paced interconnected world we see increasing role for non-state actors in promoting international relations. There are several India-US friendship groups in the US and India, who are doing commendable work to promote healthy relations between the two countries. The initiative – Indo-American Friendship Association - that we are here to launch today would be a further step in that direction. I wish Indo-American Friendship Association the very best in its endeavours to work for the betterment of Indian–US relations.