REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON AND INDIAN PRIME MINISTER ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE AT WELCOMING CEREMONY
SOUTH LAWN, THE WHITE HOUSE
SEPTEMBER 15, 2000
PRESIDENT CLINTON: It is a special honor to welcome to the White House the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. Prime Minister Vajpayee, America always has had a great fascination with India, for its rich history, culture, great religions. And increasingly, we are fascinated by India when we think in terms of the future. We see in India today a rising economic leader, making breathtaking strides in information technology; an emerging environmental leader promoting ambitious goals for energy efficiency; a pioneering health leader, recently immunizing 140 million children against polio; a leader in our community of democracies, reminding the world that freedom is not a Western value, but a universal longing.
Mr. Prime Minister, it is not only India’s democracy, but India’s manner of achieving democracy that will forever inspire America. On my recent trip to India, I was profoundly moved by the visit that my daughter and our party and I had to the Gandhi Memorial. Tomorrow I will be proud to join you as you dedicate another Gandhi memorial right here in Washington, D.C.
It is altogether fitting that both our nations honor him. Martin Luther King used Gandhi’s teachings to show America that while we held principles of equality we knew to be right, we permitted practices of inequality we knew to be wrong. And we have been changing for the better ever since.
Mr. Prime Minister, from very different histories, India and the United States have forged a common bond arising from our common commitment to freedom and democracy. Our challenge is to turn our common bond into common achievements. Today we will continue our work in areas where the world needs both America and India to lead if we are to defeat AIDS, reduce poverty, protect the global environment and open the global economy.
We will discuss our common desire to see peace through dialogue in South Asia. We will talk about our common interests in slowing the spread of nuclear weapons, and the broader consequences of proliferation in South Asia. At the same time, we welcome India’s commitment to forgo nuclear testing until the treaty banning all nuclear testing comes into force.
No matter our differences — and two such large and diverse countries will always have some differences, as long as we are thinking — if we speak with care and listen with respect, we will find common ground and achieve common aims.
Prime Minister Vajpayee, in your speeches you talk of India’s ability to cherish its own marvelous diversity. In your poetry you write of the importance of unity; saying that people of many faiths can have one dream in every eye. In America, we too have a dream of unity amidst our diversity. If people as diverse as we can affirm our common humanity and share common dreams, surely we should and can embrace common endeavors.
Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you again for the wonderful welcome you and your people accorded to me, the members of my family and my delegation on our unforgettable trip to India. I hope this too will be a great trip for you, and that you will feel the warmth of America’s welcome in return. But more than anything else, I hope this is the beginning of a long line of common endeavors.
Thank you for coming here, sir, and welcome to America.
PRIME MIN. VAJPAYEE: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be here at the White House today as the guest of the American people and as yours. Thank you for your kind words and your generous hospitality.
This is a part of a continuing dialogue between the world’s two largest democracies. We will carry forward the talks that we began in New Delhi in March this year during President Clinton’s landmark visit to India. This is a time of new hope and new opportunities in Indo- American ties. The Indo-U.S. Vision Statement, which we signed in March this year, embodies the aspirations and responsibilities of our two countries for the 21st century. Yesterday was an historic and memorable day on Capitol Hill. This day in the White House promises to be the same.
Our dialogue will embrace economic cooperation, science, technology, as well as in-depth discussion on regional and global issues. I pay tribute to the Indian-American community, which has been such an effective bridge in strengthening Indo-U.S. ties.
My sincere thanks to the people of America for the gracious welcome extended to me here.