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Growing ties of friendship and trust between India & USA

Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the banquet hosted in honour of the President of the United States of America H.E. Mr. Barack Obama: Your Excellency, President Barack Obama, Mrs. Michelle Obama, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a great honour and privilege to welcome you and the First Lady this evening, Mr. President. After having had the pleasure of meeting you in such a banquet four years ago during your last visit to India, I am doubly delighted to be able to receive you again - this time, as the host! Excellency, you have made history thrice-over today by becoming the first U.S. President to grace our Republic Day celebration as the Guest of Honour; by being the first U.S. President to visit India twice while in office; and by holding a second Summit-level meeting in the shortest-ever time span of four months. These milestones make this a truly historical visit. While I am proud that we are creating history together, I am even more pleased that we are creating a brighter future together - for our two countries and the world. The relationship between India and the United States is a special one. It is special because it is a relationship forged in the hearts and minds of our two people, in the commercial ties between our two businesses, in the exchanges between our two scientists and engineers and in the enduring linkages between hundreds of our institutions. This is one relationship where the two Governments can rightfully take pride in acknowledging that they have successfully put in place a ‘Strategic Partnership’ simply by following the lead shown by their people! It is this strong attraction and chemistry that explains why the people of both countries have always viewed each other as friends in every opinion poll; it also explains why the relationship has consistently enjoyed bipartisan political support. This natural sense of kinship stems from the foundational values that both our people cherish deeply – the values of individual liberty and freedom, democracy, diversity and justice. These core values not only determine how we live and how we are governed as a nation; they also define our aspirations for the future and the vision of the world we want to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. Excellency, it is this shared vision that forms the solid bedrock of our blossoming relationship. Today, our people are collaborating in practically every sphere of human activity - from jointly plumbing the depths of the ocean to understand the Indian monsoon, to joint space exploration in Mars – and everything that lies in between. But in a relationship like ours that has infinite potential, there is so much more that we can and should do. Excellency, I am glad, therefore, that our countries are deepening strategic, security and defence cooperation to make our two countries, the region and the world a safer place; the United States in partnering us in our ambitious economic and development agenda through infrastructure development, clean energy solutions, investment, technology, leveraging information technology, education and skilling; your people are also working with us in setting up Smart Cities, fighting diseases and improving water, health and sanitation. Your presence at our cherished Republic Day Parade tomorrow will demonstrate to the world, the growing ties of friendship and trust that bind our two democracies closely. As we create new milestones in history and chart new destination points in our shared journey into the future, your visit, Mr President, symbolizes both history and future in the making. Excellencies and Distinguished Guests, may I now request you to join me in raising a toast to: - The good health of His Excellency President Obama and Her Excellency Mrs. Michelle Obama; - To the continued prosperity and well being of the United States; and - To creating new milestones that further strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between India and the United States. Remarks by President Obama at India State Dinner PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening.  President Mukherjee, Prime Minister Modi, distinguished guests -- on behalf of Michelle and myself, I want to extend our deepest thanks for the extraordinary hospitality that you’ve shown us here today.  We feel your friendship -- your dosti.  And I am deeply honored to be the first American President to join you in celebrating India’s Republic Day. I also want to thank you for not making me dance -- again.  (Laughter.)  The last time we were here, we joined some children in Mumbai for Diwali.  And we danced.  It was pretty clear what the Indian press thought.  One headline said, “President Obama Visits India.”  The other said, “Michelle Obama Rocks India.”  (Laughter.)  It is true, Michelle is a better dancer than me. Let me also thank my partner and friend, Prime Minister Modi.  I’ve often said that my life story could only happen in America.  But of course, Mr. Prime Minister, your story could only happen in India.  Here this evening, we think back to all those years ago -- to your father selling tea in the train station, and your mother working at other families’ homes to support her own.  And tonight, their son welcomes us as the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. Now, we all know about the Prime Minister’s legendary work ethic.  He was explaining to me today how he only needed three hours’ sleep, which made me feel bad; I thought I was doing okay with five.  (Laughter.)  What I didn’t know until now is that he once survived an attack by a crocodile.  So he’s tough.  And he also has style.  One of our newspapers back home wrote, “Move aside, Michelle Obama.  The world has a new fashion icon.”  (Laughter.)  Tonight, I was thinking about wearing a Modi Kurta myself.  And while I do not want to use a dinner like this to make United States policy, let me just say that given the Prime Minister’s advocacy at the United Nations, Michelle and I are looking forward to the first International Yoga Day. Our visit reflects the deepest connections and long friendship between our peoples.  One of America’s greatest poets was Walt Whitman, and more than a century ago he wrote a poem -- “Passage to India” -- in which he celebrated the technological ingenuity and human spirit that joins our nations.  He wrote: “Seest though not God’s purpose from the first?  The earth to be spann’d, connected by network, the people to become brothers and sisters.”  Here, in our time, these words have come to pass. India and America have spanned the Earth, connected and networked by technology and by family, including millions of Indian Americans, among them our nation’s first Indian American ambassador to India, Rich Verma.  And in the shared work of our world, our purpose -- lifting up our fellow citizens, advancing human dignity -- we, as the poet predicted, have become brothers and sisters. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Republic Day.  We will honor the generations of Indians who built this nation through toil and tears and iron will.  And at the end of the day, I’m told the band will play that hymn that was dear to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. And so I propose a toast, if I can get a glass -- oh, here we go.  To the great partnership between our nations and the friendship -- the dosti -- between our peoples.  Here in the eventide, Indians and Americans, let us know, in the darkness or day, in good times or bad, whenever one of us looks to the other, we will surely say, abide with me. Cheers!

About Sanjay Trivedi

Sanjay Trivedi is honorary editor of Asia Times. He is senior Indian Journalist having vast experience of 25 years. He worked in Janmabhoomi, Vyapar, Divya Bhaskar etc. newspapers and TV9 Channel as well as www.news4education.com. He also served as Media Officer in Gujarat Technological University.

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