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Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Vajpayee of India in Joint Press Statement March 20, 2000

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Trip to South Asia


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 22, 2000


New Delhi, India

11:10 A.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker,members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, I am privileged to speak to youand, through you, to the people of India. I am honored to be joined todayby members of my Cabinet and staff at the White House, and a very largerepresentation of members of our United States Congress from both politicalparties. We're all honored to be here and we thank you for your warmwelcome. (Applause.)

I would also like to thank the people of India for their kindness tomy daughter and my mother-in-law and, on their previous trip, to my wifeand my daughter. (Applause.)

I have looked forward to this day with great anticipation. This wholetrip has meant a great deal to me, especially to this point, theopportunity I had to visit the Gandhi memorial, to express on behalf of allthe people of the United States our gratitude for the life, the work, thethought of Gandhi, without which the great civil rights revolution in theUnited States would never had succeeded on a peaceful plane. (Applause.)

As Prime Minister Vajpayee has said, India and America are naturalallies, two nations conceived in liberty, each finding strength in itsdiversity, each seeing in the other a reflection of its own aspiration fora more humane and just world.

A poet once said the world's inhabitants can be divided into "thosethat have seen the Taj Mahal and those that have not." (Laughter.) Well,in a few hours I will have a chance to cross over to the happier side ofthat divide. But I hope, in a larger sense, that my visit will help theAmerican people to see the new India and to understand you better. And Ihope that the visit will help India to understand America better. And thatby listening to each other we can build a true partnership of mutualrespect and common endeavor.

From a distance, India often appears as a kaleidoscope of competing,perhaps superficial, images. Is it atomic weapons, or ahimsa? A landstruggling against poverty and inequality, or the world's largestmiddle-class society? Is it still simmering with communal tensions, orhistory's most successful melting pot? Is it Bollywood or Satyajit Ray?Swetta Chetty or Alla Rakha? Is it the handloom or the hyperlink?

The truth is, no single image can possibly do justice to your greatnation. But beyond the complexities and the apparent contradictions, Ibelieve India teaches us some very basic lessons.

The first is about democracy. There are still those who deny thatdemocracy is a universal aspiration; who say it works only for people of acertain culture, or a certain degree of economic development. India hasbeen proving them wrong for 52 years now. Here is a country where morethan 2 million people hold elected office in local government; a countrythat shows at every election that those who possess the least cherish theirvote the most. Far from washing away the uniqueness of your culture, yourdemocracy has brought out the richness of its tapestry, and given you theknot that holds it together.

A second lesson India teaches is about diversity. You have alreadyheard remarks about that this morning. But around the world there is achorus of voices who say ethnic and religious diversity is a threat; whoargue that the only way to keep different people from killing one anotheris to keep them as far apart as possible. But India has shown us a betterway. For all the troubles you have seen, surely the subcontinent has seenmore innocence hurt in the efforts to divide people by ethnicity and faiththan by the efforts to bring them together in peace and harmony.

Under trying circumstances, you have shown the world how to live withdifference. You have shown that tolerance and mutual respect are in manyways the keys to our common survival. That is something the whole worldneeds to learn.

A third lesson India teaches is about globalization and what may bethe central debate of our time. Many people believe the forces ofglobalization are inherently divisive; that they can only widen the gapbetween rich and poor. That is a valid fear, but I believe wrong.

As the distance between producers large and small, and customers nearand far becomes less relevant, developing countries will have opportunitiesnot only to succeed, but to lead in lifting more people out of poverty morequickly than at any time in human history. In the old economy, locationwas everything. In the new economy, information, education and motivationare everything -- and India is proving it.

You liberated your markets and now you have one of the 10 fastestgrowing economies in the world. At the rate of growth within your grasp,India's standard of living could rise by 500 percent in just 20 years. Youembraced information technology and now, when Americans and other bigsoftware companies call for consumer and customer support, they're just aslikely to find themselves talking to an expert in Bangalore as one inSeattle. (Applause.)

You decentralized authority, giving more individuals and communitiesthe freedom to succeed. In that way, you affirmed what every successfulcountry is finding in its own way: globalization does not favor nationswith a licensing raj, it does favor nations with a panchayat raj. And theworld has been beating a path to your door.

In the new millennium, every great country must answer one overarchingquestion: how shall we define our greatness? Every country -- Americaincluded -- is tempted to cling to yesterday's definition of economic andmilitary might. But true leadership for the United States and Indiaderives more from the power of our example and the potential of our people.

I believe that the greatest of India's many gifts to the world is theexample its people have set "from Midnight to Millennium." Think of it:virtually every challenge humanity knows can be found here in India. Andevery solution to every challenge can be found here as well: confidence indemocracy; tolerance for diversity; a willingness to embrace social change.That is why Americans admire India; why we welcome India's leadership inthe region and the world; and why we want to take our partnership to a newlevel, to advance our common values and interests, and to resolve thedifferences that still remain.

There were long periods when that would not have been possible.Though our democratic ideals gave us a starting point in common, and ourdreams of peace and prosperity gave us a common destination, there was fortoo long too little common ground between East and West, North and South.Now, thankfully, the old barriers between nations and people, economies andcultures, are being replaced by vast networks of cooperation and commerce.With our open, entrepreneurial societies, India and America are at thecenter of those networks. We must expand them, and defeat the forces thatthreaten them.

To succeed, I believe there are four large challenges India and theUnited States must meet together -- challenges that should define ourpartnership in the years ahead.

The first of these challenges is to get our own economic relationshipright. Americans have applauded your efforts to open your economy, yourcommitment to a new wave of economic reform; your determination to bringthe fruits of growth to all your people. We are proud to support India'sgrowth as your largest partner in trade and investment. And we want to seemore Indians and more Americans benefit from our economic ties, especiallyin the cutting edge fields of information technology, biotechnology andclean energy.

The private sector will drive this progress, but our job asgovernments is to create the conditions that will allow them to succeed indoing so, and to reduce the remaining impediments to trade and investmentbetween us.

Our second challenge is to sustain global economic growth in a waythat lifts the lives of rich and poor alike, both across and withinnational borders. Part of the world today lives at the cutting edge ofchange, while a big part still exists at the bare edge of survival. Partof the world lives in the information age. Part of the world does not evenreach the clean water age. And often the two live side by side. It isunacceptable, it is intolerable; thankfully, it is unnecessary and it isfar more than a regional crisis. Whether around the corner or around theworld, abject poverty in this new economy is an affront to our commonhumanity and a threat to our common prosperity.

The problem is truly immense, as you know far better than I. Butperhaps for the first time in all history, few would dispute that we knowthe solutions. We know we need to invest in education and literacy, sothat children can have soaring dreams and the tools to realize them. Weknow we need to make a special commitment in developing nations to theeducation of young girls, as well as young boys. Everything we havelearned about development tells us that when women have access toknowledge, to health, to economic opportunity and to civil rights, childrenthrive, families succeed and countries prosper.

Here again, we see how a problem and its answers can be found side byside in India. For every economist who preaches the virtues of women'sempowerment points at first to the achievements of India's state of Kerala-- I knew there would be somebody here from Kerala -- (laughter andapplause.) Thank you.

To promote development, we know we must conquer the diseases that killpeople and progress. Last December, India immunized 140 million childrenagainst polio, the biggest public health effort in human history. Icongratulate you on that. (Applause.)

I have launched an initiative in the United States to speed thedevelopment of vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS -- the biggestinfectious killers of our time. This July, when our partners in the G-8meet in Japan, I will urge them to join us.

But that is not enough, for at best, effective vaccines are yearsaway. Especially for AIDS, we need a commitment today to prevention, andthat means straight talk and an end to stigmatizing. As Prime MinisterVajpayee said, no one should ever speak of AIDS as someone else's problem.This has long been a big problem for the United States. It is now a bigproblem for you. I promise you America's partnership in the continuedstruggle. (Applause.)

To promote development, we know we must also stand with thosestruggling for human rights and freedom around the world and in the region.For as the economist Amartya Sen has said, no system of government has donea better job in easing human want, in averting human catastrophes, thandemocracy. I am proud America and India will stand together on the rightside of history when we launch the Community of Democracies in Warsaw thissummer.

All of these steps are essential to lifting people's lives. But thereis yet another. With greater trade and the growth it brings, we canmultiply the gains of education, better health and democratic empowerment.That is why I hope we will work together to launch a new global trade roundthat will promote economic development for all.

One of the benefits of the World Trade Organization is that it hasgiven developing countries a bigger voice in global trade policy.Developing countries have used that voice to urge richer nations to opentheir markets further so that all can have a chance to grow. That issomething the opponents of the WTO don't fully appreciate yet.

We need to remind them that when Indians and Brazilians andIndonesians speak up for open trade, they are not speaking for some narrowcorporate interest, but for a huge part of humanity that has no interest inbeing saved from development. Of course, trade should not be a race to thebottom in environmental and labor standards, but neither should fears abouttrade keep part of our global community forever at the bottom.

Yet we must also remember that those who are concerned about theimpact of globalization in terms of inequality, in environmentaldegradation do speak for a large part of humanity. Those who believe thattrade should contribute not just to the wealth, but also to the fairness ofsocieties; those who share Nehru's dream of a structure for living thatfulfills our material needs, and at the same time sustains our mind andspirit.

We can advance these values without engaging in rich-countryprotectionism. Indeed, to sustain a consensus for open trade, we must finda way to advance these values as well. That is my motivation, and my onlymotivation, in seeking a dialogue about the connections between labor, theenvironment, and trade and development.

I would remind you -- and I want to emphasize this -- the UnitedStates has the most open markets of any wealthy country in the world. Wehave the largest trade deficit. We also have had a strong economy, becausewe have welcomed the products and the services from the labor of peoplethroughout the world. I am for an open global trading system. But we mustdo it in a way that advances the cause of social justice around the world.(Applause.)

The third challenge we face is to see that the prosperity and growthof the information age require us to abandon some of the outdated truths ofthe Industrial Age. As the economy grows faster today, for example, whenchildren are kept in school, not put to work. Think about the industriesthat are driving our growth today in India and in America. Just as oilenriched the nations who had it in the 20th century, clearly knowledge isdoing the same for the nations who have it in the 21st century. Thedifference is, knowledge can be tapped by all people everywhere, and itwill never run out.

We must also find ways to achieve robust growth while protecting theenvironment and reversing climate change. I'm convinced we can do that aswell. We will see in the next few years, for example, automobiles that arethree, four, perhaps five times as efficient as those being driven today.Soon scientists will make alternative sources of energy more widelyavailable and more affordable. Just for example, before long chemistsalmost certainly will unlock the block that will allow us to produce eightor nine gallons of fuel from bio-fuels, farm fuels, using only one gallonof gasoline.

Indian scientists are at the forefront of this kind of research --pioneering the use of solar energy to power rural communities; developingelectric cars for use in crowded cities; converting agricultural waste intoelectricity. If we can deepen our cooperation for clean energy, we willstrengthen our economies, improve our people's health and fight globalwarming. This should be a vital element of our new partnership.

A fourth challenge we face is to protect the gains of democracy anddevelopment from the forces which threaten to undermine them. There is thedanger of organized crime and drugs. There is the evil of trafficking inhuman beings, a modern form of slavery. And of course, there is the threatof terrorism. Both our nations know it all too well.

Americans understood the pain and agony you went through during theIndian Airlines hijacking. And I saw that pain firsthand when I met withthe parents and the widow of the young man who was killed on that airplane.(Applause.) We grieve with you for the Sikhs who were killed in Kashmir --(applause) -- and our heart goes out to their families. We will work withyou to build a system of justice, to strengthen our cooperation againstterror. (Applause.) We must never relax our vigilance or allow theperpetrators to intimidate us into retreating from our democratic ideals.

Another danger we face is the spread of weapons of mass destruction tothose who might have no reservations about using them. I still believethis is the greatest potential threat to the security we all face in the21st century. It is why we must be vigilant in fighting the spread ofchemical and biological weapons. And it is why we must both keep workingclosely to resolve our remaining differences on nuclear proliferation.

I am aware that I speak to you on behalf of a nation that haspossessed nuclear weapons for 55 years and more. But since 1988, theUnited States has dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear weapons. We havehelped Russia to dismantle their nuclear weapons and to safeguard thematerial that remains. We have agreed to an outline of a treaty withRussia that will reduce our remaining nuclear arsenal by more than half.We are producing no more fissile material, developing no new land- orsubmarine-based missiles, engaging in no new nuclear testing.

From South America to South Africa, nations are foreswearing theseweapons, realizing that a nuclear future is not a more secure future. Mostof the world is moving toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. Thatgoal is not advanced if any country, in any region, it moves in the otherdirection.

I say this with great respect. Only India can determine its owninterests. Only India -- (applause) -- only India can know if it truly issafer today than before the tests. Only India can determine if it willbenefit from expanding its nuclear and missile capabilities, if itsneighbors respond by doing the same thing. Only India knows if it canafford a sustained investment in both conventional and nuclear forces whilemeeting its goals for human development. These are questions others mayask, but only you can answer.

I can only speak to you as a friend about America's own experienceduring the Cold War. We were geographically distant from the Soviet Union.We were not engaged in direct armed combat. Through years of directdialogue with our adversary, we each had a very good idea of the other'scapabilities, doctrines, and intentions. We each spent billions of dollarson elaborate command and control systems, for nuclear weapons are notcheap.

And yet, in spite of all of this -- and as I sometimes say jokingly,in spite of the fact that both sides had very good spies, and that was agood thing -- (laughter) -- in spite of all of this, we came far too closeto nuclear war. We learned that deterrence alone cannot be relied on toprevent accident or miscalculation. And in a nuclear standoff, there isnothing more dangerous than believing there is no danger.

I can also repeat what I said at the outset. India is a leader, agreat nation, which by virtue of its size, its achievements, and itsexample, has the ability to shape the character of our time. For any ofus, to claim that mantle and assert that status is to accept first andforemost that our actions have consequences for others beyond our borders.Great nations with broad horizons must consider whether actions advance orhinder what Nehru called the larger cause of humanity.

So India's nuclear policies, inevitably, have consequences beyond yourborders: eroding the barriers against the spread of nuclear weapons,discouraging nations that have chosen to foreswear these weapons,encouraging others to keep their options open. But if India's nuclear testshook the world, India's leadership for nonproliferation can certainly movethe world.

India and the United States have reaffirmed our commitment to foregonuclear testing. And for that I thank the Prime Minister, the governmentand the people of India. But in our own self-interest -- and I say thisagain -- in our own self-interest we can do more. I believe both nationsshould join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; work to launchnegotiations on a treaty to end the production of fissile materials fornuclear weapons; strengthen export controls. And India can pursue defensepolicies in keeping with its commitment not to seek a nuclear or missilearms race, which the Prime Minister has forcefully reaffirmed just in theselast couple of days.

Again, I do not presume to speak for you or to tell you what todecide. It is not my place. You are a great nation and you must decide.But I ask you to continue our dialogue on these issues. And let us turnour dialogue into a genuine partnership against proliferation. If we makeprogress in narrowing our differences, we will be both more secure, and ourrelationship can reach its full potential.

I hope progress can also be made in overcoming a source of tension inthis region, including the tensions between India and Pakistan. I sharemany of your government's concerns about the course Pakistan is taking;your disappointment that past overtures have not always met with success;your outrage over recent violence. I know it is difficult to be ademocracy bordered by nations whose governments reject democracy.

But I also believe -- I also believe India has a special opportunity,as a democracy, to show its neighbors that democracy is about dialogue. Itdoes not have to be about friendship, but it is about building workingrelationships among people who differ.

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me is that you don't makepeace with your friends. That is what the late Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Rabin told me before he signed the Oslo Accords with thePalestinians, with whom he had been fighting for decades. It is well toremember -- I remind myself of it all the time, even when I have argumentswith members of the other party in my Congress -- (laughter) -- you don'tmake peace with your friends.

Engagement with adversaries is not the same thing as endorsement. Itdoes not require setting aside legitimate grievances. Indeed, I stronglybelieve that what has happened since your Prime Minister made hiscourageous journey to Lahore only reinforces the need for dialogue.(Applause.)

I can think of no enduring solution to this problem that can beachieved in any other way. In the end, for the sake of the innocents whoalways suffer the most, someone must end the contest of inflicting andabsorbing pain.

Let me also make clear, as I have repeatedly, I have certainly notcome to South Asia to mediate the dispute over Kashmir. Only India andPakistan can work out the problems between them. And I will say the samething to General Musharraf in Islamabad. But if outsiders cannot resolvethis problem, I hope you will create the opportunity to do it yourselves,calling on the support of others who can help where possible, as Americandiplomacy did in urging the Pakistanis to go back behind the line ofcontrol in the Kargil crisis. (Applause.)

In the meantime, I will continue to stress that this should be a timefor restraint, for respect for the line of control, for renewed lines ofcommunication.

Addressing this challenge and all the others I mentioned will requireus to be closer partners and better friends, and to remember that goodfriends, out of respect, are honest with one another. And even when theydo not agree, they always try to find common ground.

I have read that one of the unique qualities of Indian classical musicis its elasticity. The composer lays down a foundation, a structure ofmelodic and rhythmic arrangements, but the player has to improvise withinthat structure to bring the raga* to life.

Our relationship is like that. The composers of our past have givenus a foundation of shared democratic ideals. It is up to us to give lifeto those ideals in this time. The melodies do not have to be the same tobe beautiful to both of us. But if we listen to each other, and we striveto realize our vision together, we will write a symphony far greater thanthe sum of our individual notes.

The key is to genuinely and respectfully listen to each other. If wedo, Americans will better understand the scope of India's achievements, andthe dangers India still faces in this troubled part of the world. We willunderstand that India will not choose a particular course simply becauseothers wish it to do so. It will choose only what it believes itsinterests clearly demand and what its people democratically embrace.

If we listen to each other, I also believe Indians will understandbetter that America very much wants you to succeed. Time and again --(applause) -- time and again in my time as President, America has foundthat it is the weakness of great nations, not their strength, thatthreatens our vision for tomorrow.

So we want India to be strong; to be secure; to be united; to be aforce for a safer, more prosperous, more democratic world. Whatever we askof you, we ask in that spirit alone. After too long a period ofestrangement, India and the United States have learned that being naturalallies is a wonderful thing, but it is not enough. Our task is to turn acommon vision into common achievements so that partners in spirit can bepartners in fact.

We have already come a long way to this day of new beginnings, but we stillhave promises to keep, challenges to meet and hopes to redeem.

So let us seize this moment with humility in the fragile and fleetingnature of this life, but absolute confidence in the power of the humanspirit. Let us seize it for India, for America, for all those with whom weshare this small planet, and for all the children that together we can givesuch bright tomorrows.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)  

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