Remarks at Luncheon for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 24, 2009

Please be seated, and welcome to the State Department, to the ceremonial receiving rooms of the 8th floor. And it is a personal delight, as well as a high honor, to have so many of you gathered here, such a distinguished group, for this special occasion.


Prime Minister, Mrs. Kaur, we are so delighted and honored that you could be here and that you are the first official state visitors of the Obama Administration. And it’s a special pleasure to be here with my friends, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.


When the Vice President and I served together in the United States Senate, one of the many issues on which we shared a common view was the importance of building a strong and sustainable partnership with India. I co-founded and co-chaired the Friends of India Caucus, the first country-focused caucus in the history of the Senate. And Vice President Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was absolutely central to the passage of the landmark civilian nuclear agreement between our nations. He worked for months to craft the compromise that made this agreement possible. And we have seen how it has opened vital new avenues of cooperation between India and the United States.


The Vice President understood early what is now a core tenet of foreign policy in the Obama Administration, that the ability and the commitment of India and the United States to work together will be critical to our successes in both nations in addressing common challenges and achieving shared goals in the 21st century.


As the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy, we are poised to collaborate on a number of fronts, from strengthening our security and confronting the threat of violent extremism, to fostering breakthroughs in science and technology, to increasing political, economic, and social opportunities for the world’s women.


India’s emergence as a political and economic leader gives us the chance to widen opportunity in places that have been left out of global progress for so long. And the many ties that connect us, many evidenced here in this room, between families and businesses, universities, cultural institutions, and civil society groups, create so much potential for us to work together to improve the lives of citizens in both our countries.


I am particularly impressed by Prime Minister Singh’s absolute determination to raise the standard of living and provide greater opportunity for the people that he represents. You cannot talk with him for more than 30 seconds without feeling that passion and that commitment. (Applause.)


And I have been privileged to have worked with and followed the affairs of India over a number of years, going back to my time as First Lady, and certainly as senator. But I was especially pleased to return to India this summer as Secretary of State, where Minister Krishna and I announced a new Strategic Dialogue between our countries covering a range of issues, including nonproliferation and counterterrorism, education and development, trade, and agriculture, science and technology, clean energy, and climate, and so much else.


And while I was in India, I had the chance to meet with people from across the spectrum, from university students to agricultural scientists, to women entrepreneurs from rural areas who are transforming their lives. And I was reminded of the extraordinary diversity and energy of India, not unlike that of the United States, another pluralistic, diverse, occasionally raucous democracy that invites the free expression of ideas, elects leaders peacefully through free and open elections, and continues to move forward into the future with momentum.


So we live in exciting times. And President Obama, Vice President Biden, and I are committed to making the most of this promising moment by deepening the areas of cooperation that exist between India and the United States. We will work together to help shape a future that really fulfills the dreams of our people. Both Indians and Americans want a better life. That’s why our people are such hard workers and so committed to a better future for their children. And the Indian American community represented here today has been an absolute engine of progress and change here in our country.


So, Mr. Prime Minister, this is a very auspicious occasion for us. And we work with you to achieve the goals that you have stood for throughout your entire public career. We are grateful for the history and friendship that already unites us, and we are committed to building on that in the years to come. And one of the people who will be leading the way is my friend and colleague, Vice President Joe Biden. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/1169