Am deeply honoured by the invitation to address this joint meeting of the US Congress. Thank you Mr Speaker for opening the doors of this magnificent capital. This temple of democracy has encouraged and empowered other democracies the world over. It manifests the spirit of this great nation which is in Abraham Lincoln’s words was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
In granting me this opportunity, you have honoured the world’s largest democracy and its 1.25 billion people. As a representative of the world’s largest democracy, it is indeed a privilege to speak to the leaders of its oldest.
Mr Speaker, two days ago I began my visit by going to Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many brave soldiers of this great land. I honour their courage and sacrifice for the ideals of freedom and democracy. It was also the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day. On that day, thousands from this great country fought to protect the torch of liberty. They sacrificed their lives so that the world lives in freedom.
I applaud, India applauds the great sacrifices of the men and women from the land of the free and the home of the brave in service of mankind. [PM Modi applauds the Congress with claps]
India knows what this means, because our soldiers have fallen in distant battlefields for the same ideals. That is why the threads of freedom and liberty form a strong bond between our two democracies.
Mr Speaker, our nations may have been shaped by diverse histories, cultures and faiths, yet our belief in democracy for our nations and our liberty for our countrymen is common. The idea that all citizens are created equal is the central pillar of the American constitution. Our founding fathers too shared the same belief and sought individual liberty for every citizen of India. There were many who doubted India as a newly independent nation. We reposed our faith in democracy.
DEMOCRACY AS ESSENCE OF SOUL
Indeed, wagers were made on our future. But the people of India did not waiver. Our founders created a modern nation with freedom, democracy and equality as the essence of its soul, and in doing so we they assured that we continue to celebrate our age old diversity. Today, across its individuals and institutions, and in its villages and cities, in streets and states, are anchored in equal respect for all faiths. And in the melody of hundreds of its languages and dialects, India lives as one, India grows as one, India celebrates as one.
Mr Speaker, modern India is in its 70th year. For my government, the constitution is its real holy book. And in that holy book, freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background are enshrined as fundamental rights.
Eight hundred million of my countrymen may exercise the freedom of franchise once every five years, but all the 1.25 billion of our citizens have freedom from fear – a freedom they exercise every moment of their lives.
Distinguished members, engagement between our two democracies has been visible in the manner in which our thinkers impacted one another and shaped the course of our societies. Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience influenced our political thoughts and similarly the call by the great sage of India Swami Vivekanand to embrace humanity, was most famously delivered in Chicago. Gandhi’s non-violence inspired the heroism of Martin Luther King.
Today, a mere distance of three miles separates Martin Luther King Memorial at Tidal Basin from the statue of Gandhi at Massachusetts Avenue. This proximity of memorials in Washington mirrors the closeness of the ideas and values they believed in. The genius of Dr Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar was nurtured in the years he spent at the Columbia University a century ago. The impact of US constitution on him was reflected in his drafting of the Indian constitution some three decades later.
Our independence was ignited by the same idealism that fuelled your struggle for freedom. No wonder then, the former prime minister of India Atal Bihari Vajapyee called India and US natural allies. No wonder that the shared ideals and common philosophy of freedom shaped the bedrock of our ties. No wonder that President Obama has called our partnership – the defining partnership of 21st century.
Mr Speaker, more than 15 years ago Prime Minister Vajapayee stood here and gave a call to step out of the shadow of hesitation of the past. The pages of our friendship since then tell a remarkable story. Today, our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history. Comfort, candour and convergence define our conversations. Through the cycle of elections and transition of administrations, the intensity of engagements has only grown, and in this exciting journey the US Congress has acted as it compass. You have helped us turn barriers into bridges of partnership.
In the Fall of 2008, when the Congress passed the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, it changed the very colours of leaves of our relationship. We thank you for being there when the partnership needed you the most. You have also stood by us in times of sorrow. India will never forget the solidarity shown by the US Congress when terrorists from across our border attacked Mumbai in November of 2008. And for this, we are grateful.
Mr Speaker, I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. Am also told that you are well known for your bipartisanship. Well, you are not alone. Time and again, I have also witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament, especially in Upper House. So, as you can see, we have many shared practices.
Mr Speaker, this country knows well that every journey has its pioneers. The genius of Norman Borlaug brought the Green Revolution and food security to my country. The excellence of American universities nurtured institutions of technology and management in India. And I could go on, but fast forward to the present.
The embrace of our partnership extend to the totality of human endeavour. From the depths of the oceans to the vastness of space, our science and technology collaboration continues to help us in cracking the age old problems in the fields of education, public health, food and agriculture. Ties of commerce and investment are flourishing. We trade more with the US than with any other nation.
The flow of good services and capital between us generates jobs in both our societies. As in trade, so in defence. Indian army performs exercises with the US more than any other partner. Defence purchases have moved from almost zero to $10 billion in less than a decade. Out cooperation also secures our cities and citizens from terrorists and protects our critical infrastructure from cyber threats. Civil nuclear cooperation, as I told President Obama yesterday, is a reality.
Mr Speaker, our people to people links are strong and there is a close personal connect between our societies. Siri, you are familiar with the Siri, tells us that India’s ancient heritage of Yoga has over 30 million practitioners in the US. It is estimated that more Americans bend for Yoga than to throw a curve ball. No Mr Speaker, we have not yet claimed intellectual property right on Yoga.
Connecting our two nations is also a unique and dynamic bridge of 3 million Indian Americans. Today, they are among your best CEOs, academics, astronauts, scientists, economists, doctors and even spelling bee champions.
They are your strength. They are also the pride of India. They symbolise the best of both of our societies. Mr Speaker, my understanding of great country began long before I entered public office. Long before assuming office, I travelled coast to coast covering more than 25 states of America. I realised then that the real strength of the US was in the dreams of its people and the boldness of their ambitions. Today, Mr Speaker, a similar spirit animates India. Over 800 million youth are especially impatient (sic).
AMBITIOUS TO-DO LIST
India is undergoing a profound social and economic change. A billion of its citizens are politically empowered. My dream is to economically empower them through many social and economical transformations. And do so by 2022 – the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. My to-do list is long and ambitious. But you will understand it includes a vibrant and rural economy with a robust farming sector.
A roof over each head and electricity for all households. To train and make millions of our youth skilled, build 100 smart cities, have broadband for a billion and connect our villages to the digital world. And create a 21st century rail, road and port infrastructure. These are not just aspirations but goals to be reached in a finite time frame, and to be achieved with light carbon footprint and greater emphasis on renewables.
Mr Speaker, in every sector of India’s forward march, I see the US as an indispensible partner. Many of you also believe that a stronger and prosperous India is in America’s strategic interest. Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation. There can be no doubt that in advancing this relationship, both nations stand to gain. As US businesses search for new areas of economic growth, markets for their goods, a pool of skilled resources and a global location to produce and manufacture, India could be their ideal partner.
India’s strong economy and growth rate of 7.6 per cent per annum is creating new opportunities for our mutual prosperity. Transformative American technologies in India, and growing investment by Indian companies in the United States, both have a positive impact on the lives of our citizens. Today, for the global research and development centres India is the destination of choice for the US companies. Looking eastward from India, across the Pacific, the innovation strength of our two countries comes together in California.
WE CAN MAKE DIFFERENCE
Here the innovative genius of America and India’s intellectual creativity are working to shape new industries of the future. Mr. Speaker, the 21st century has brought with it great opportunities, but it has also come with its own set of challenges. While some parts of the world are islands of growing economic prosperity, others are mad in conflicts.
In Asia, the absence of an agreed security architecture creates uncertainty. Threads of terror are expanding and new challenges are emerging in cyber and outer space.. and global institutions conceived in 20th century seem unable to cope with new challenges or take on new responsibilities.
It is war of multiple transitions and economic opportunities, growing uncertainties and political complexities, existing threats and new challenges. our engagements can make a difference by promoting, cooperation not dominance, connectivity not isolation, including not excluding mechanisms, respect for global commons and above all for international rules and norms.
India is already assuming her responsibilities in securing the Indian ocean region,. a strong India-US partnership can anchor peace, prosperity , and stability from Asia to Africa and from Indian ocean to the Pacific. It can also help ensure security of the sea-links of commerce and freedom of navigation on seas.
But the effectiveness of our co-operation would increase if international institutions frame with the mindset of the 21st century where they reflect the reality of today. Mr. speaker, before arriving in Washington D.C., I had visited Herat in western Afghanistan to inaugurate Afghan-India friendship dam built with Indian assistance. I was also there on the Christmas day last year to dedicate to that proud nation its parliament , a testimony to our democratic ties.
Afghans naturally recognise that the sacrifices of America have helped create a better life. But your contribution in keeping the region safe and secure is deeply appreciated by even beyond and India too has made an enormous contribution and sacrifices to support our friendship with afghan people. A commitment to re-build a peaceful and stable and prosperous Afghanistan is our sad objective.
LET’S FIGHT TERRORISM
It distinguished members not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere in south Asian and, globally terrorism remains the biggest threat. In the territory stretching from the west of India’s border to Africa form different names from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Taliban to ISIS but its philosophy is common of hate, murder and violence.
Although, it is a shadow spreading across the world, it is intimated in India’s neighbourhood. I commend the members of US congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains. Refusing the war is the first step to our holding them accountable for their actions.
The fight against terrorism has to be fought at many levels and the traditional tools of military intelligence or diplomacy alone would not be able to win this fight. Mr. speaker, we have both lost civilians and soldiers in combating terrorism. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation and base it on a policy that isolates those who harbour and support and sponsor terrorist.
That does not distinguish between good and bad terrorist and that de-links religion from terrorism. Also for us to succeed, those who believe in humanity must come together to fight for each and one and speak against this menace in one voice.
Terrorism must be delegitimized. Mr. Speaker, the benefits of our partnership extend not just to the nation and regions that need it the most. On our own, and by combating our capacities we are also responding to other global challenges today when disaster strikes and when humanitarian relief is needed. Far from our shores, we have evacuated thousands from Yemen, Americans, Indians and others.
Near our homes, we have the first responders during Nepal earthquake, Maldives water crisis and most recently during the landslide in Sri Lanka. We are also one of the largest contributors of tools to the UN peacekeeping operations. Often India and the US have combined their strengths in science and technology and innovation to help fight hunger, poverty, disease and literacy in different parts of the world. The success of our partnerships has also opened up new opportunities for lowering (39:42) security and developing from Asia to Africa.
BALANCING RESPONSIBILITIES FOR GREENER TOMORROW
And the protection of environment and caring for the planet in central for our shared vision of a just world. For us in India, to live in harmony with mother earth is a part of our ancient belief and to take from nature only what is most essential is a part of our Indian culture. Our partnership therefore aims to balance responsibilities with capability and it also focuses on the new ways to increase the availability and use of renewable energy.
A strong US support for our initiative to form an international solar alliance is one such effort. We are working together not just for better future for ourselves, but for the whole world. This has also been the goal of our efforts in G20, east-Asia summits and climate change summits.
Mr. speaker, as we deepen our partnership, there will be times when we will have differing perspectives. But since our interests and concerns converge, the autonomy in decision making and diversity in our perspectives can only add values to our partnership.
So as we embark on a new journey and set new goals, let us focus not just on routine matters but also transform all areas. Ideas which can focus not just on creating waves but also creating values for our societies. Not just on immediate gains but also long term benefits.
Not just on solving best practices but also shaping partnerships and not just on building a bright future of our people but in being a bridge to a more united human and prosperous world and important for the success of this journey would be a need to view it with new eyes with new sensitivities.
When we do this, we will realise the full promise of this extraordinary relations. Mr. speaker, in my final words and thoughts, let me emphasize that our relationship is prime for a momentous future. The constraints of the past are behind us and the foundations of the future are in place.
In the lines of Walt Whitman, the orchestra has sufficiently tuned their instruments, the baton has given the signal and to that, if I might add, there is a new symphony in play.