New York, N.Y.
RICHARD HAASS: Good afternoon. I’m Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and it’s my great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Singh to New York and to the Council on his first trip to the United States in his new position as prime minister. And all of us thank him for taking this opportunity to share his thoughts, as he will do with all of you.
We’re pleased not simply to host the prime minister, as we would be on any occasion, but we’re especially pleased that he’s agreed this year to be our Russell C. Leffingwell lecturer. This gentleman was a charter member of this organization, and he also served as one of my predecessors, from 1944 to 1946. And he was the chairman of our board from 1946 to 1953. And this lecture is given annually by a distinguished foreign leader or official on a topic of major international significance, and it’s made possible through the generosity of the Leffingwell family and the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company.
Let me say the obvious. I’m good at that. Cameras in the back. This meeting is on the record. It’s also being teleconferenced, no doubt using some Indian IT [information technology], to Council members nationwide. And it’s also being webcast to students at Columbia University.
My only request of you at this point is that you turn off your cell phones, your iPods, your CD players and anything else you have with you.
I’d also like to make— this is special today for many reasons, in addition to our guest. Possibly for the first time, the Council is cosponsoring an event with three other organizations. And it’s Columbia University), it’s the University of Pennsylvania, and it’s our neighbor from up the street, the Asia Society. And let me quickly just say something about each.
Columbia University is led by its president— and, I’d also point out, importantly, a member of this organization— Lee Bollinger. This university and Lee himself are a long-time friend of the Council and a friend of India. Indeed, Columbia is one of the few universities in the United States, or the world, for that matter, with an endowed chair in Indian political economy— appropriately enough, named after our very own [Senior Fellow in International Economics] Jagdish Bhagwati, who shares his life between Columbia University and the Council on Foreign Relations, but perhaps more important today, was a classmate of the prime minister when they were both at Cambridge— [inaudible]--university in that country called the other university. [Laughter.]
By the way, the prime minister— I learned this reading his bio— spent time at both Oxford and Cambridge, which is essentially what one would expect from a man who was born in Pakistan and has now grown up to be prime minister of India— [laughter]--what the economists call hedging, I think. [Laughter.]
In addition to this chair, Columbia University is also doing important work on the ground in India through its Earth Institute conservation projects, and through its Mailman School of Public Health, and a special project on averting maternal death and disability.
Secondly, I’m also pleased to introduce and welcome Francine Frankel. Francine is the Madan Lol Sobti professor for the Study of Contemporary India and founding director of the Center for Advanced Study of India— known to its friends and the cognoscenti as CASI— at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s also a founder and member of the governing council of CASI’s counterpart institution in New Delhi.
The center here in Pennsylvania was founded in 1992, and to the best of my knowledge, is the only research institution in this country that’s dedicated to the study of contemporary India. And what it aims to do is nurture a new generation of scholars, and to provide a forum in this country for dialogue on India among leaders from the academic world, the business world, and the foreign policy world.
Last but far from least, I’m pleased to introduce Vishakha Desai, who, although not new to her organization, has just taken the reins as president of the Asia Society. Described by [former United States Secretary of State] Warren Christopher as, and I quote, “America’s pre-eminent organization linking Asians and Americans,” the Asia Society is another long-term partner of the Council, and one which in the past— indeed, as recently as yesterday, when we were fortunate enough to have [Pakistani] President Musharraf— someone who we’ve partnered with.
Dr. Desai, who I believe hails from Bombay— or to be politically correct, Mumbai— is one of this country’s, or any country’s, leading authorities on classical Indian art. And again, we are thrilled to have her with us today. And we are thrilled to have her in the neighborhood.
The way this is going to work today is Vishakha has generously agreed to take the podium and introduce the prime minister. The prime minister then will give us some remarks, after which he and I will sit up there, and I may ask one or two questions myself, and then I’ll do my best to reserve the bulk of the time for your questions.
With that, Dr. Desai.
VISHAKHA DESAI: Thank you very much, Richard, for that very warm introduction. And good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m thrilled to be standing here— in fact, this is my very first occasion to be standing at the Council on Foreign Relations as the president of the Asia Society. Indeed, I’m known as the culture person at the Asia Society, but we do firmly believe that without knowing culture and values, you actually can’t be a good policy-maker. And I should also say that, in fact, my own passion for political science goes right back to my undergraduate days at the University of Bombay.
On behalf of all of our collaborating partners and good friends indeed, it is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to this very special occasion.
And, Honorable Manmohan Singh, we are particularly honored that you have taken time from your very busy schedule to address this very important audience. You spoke at the Asia Society in 1993 when you were in the finance minister in the [former Indian Prime Minister] Narasimha Rao government [1991-96]. We are delighted to welcome you back to New York to address our joint audience.
It’s hard to introduce somebody as distinguished as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but let us say that he has been described, at least in professional terms, as a brilliant economist, a distinguished professor, and a stellar bureaucrat. One term that traditionally is not used to describe him is politician, yet it’s fair to say that since taking office in May, Prime Minister Singh has actually demonstrated a very rare combination of inner toughness and agility, hallmarks of a successful politician.
Dr. Singh’s intellectual prowess is legendary. It is said that even at a young age he stood out amongst his nine siblings. And judging from his passion for studies, Dr. Singh’s father apparently commented that he would one day become the prime minister of India. [Laughter.] So, when the whole world was surprised at the news of his appointment in May, I think the media crews should have just gone to his family.
I should actually say personally that I was in Korea at the time, and I actually said to my husband, “You watch, it’s going to be Dr. Manmohan Singh who’s going to be the prime minister of India.” And at that point, [then-Asia Society] president, Nick Platt, was right there and he said, “What is this, a woman’s intuition?” [Laughter.] But whatever it is, I’m telling you, and I was very proud that I was one of the few who actually did that, so I think I am part of your honorary family. [Laughter.]
Dr. Singh is best known as the father of the reform process in India. As all of you know, as finance minister in the early 1990s, he was responsible for ushering in the reforms that liberalized India’s economy and put India on the path of globalization. It is fair to say that the reform agenda of the subsequent government was simply a continuation of the plan developed by Dr. Singh and his colleagues.
Dr. Singh has been associated with the economic life of India for many, many decades. He was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, as well as has been the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He also served as the central government’s adviser on economic affairs, besides taking international assignments at the International Monetary Fund and at the Asian Development Bank.
Prime Minister Singh has won several awards for his work and contribution to the society, including: the Padma Vibhushan, which is one of the highest awards in India, the Euro Money Finance Minister of the Year Award in 1993, and the Asia Money Finance Minister of the Year Award in 1993 and 1994.
But I believe what is most remarkable about Honorable Prime Minister Singh is not simply his economic brilliance and his professional accomplishments, but his very deep commitment to bringing prosperity to all segments of the Indian society, especially those who are at the very bottom of that society.
He brings an uncommon combination of scholarship, vision and humility to his current position, a model of leadership that many countries can only dream of.
So, it’s not surprising that his address to the nation on India’s Independence Day this past August, which is usually the time that many pronouncements are made and promises are articulated— rather than doing that, he simply said, “Today I have no promises to make, but I have promises to keep.”
Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. [Applause.]
PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH: Thank you very much. Dr. Haass, Dr. Bollinger, Professor Frankel, Dr. Desai, ladies and gentlemen, it is a real privilege to have this opportunity to share with this distinguished gathering my thoughts on the prospect for a stronger and mutually enriching partnership between India and the United States in years to come.
I know the capacity and the influence of this august Council in influencing all those who are opinion-makers in this country. And therefore, I greatly welcome this opportunity, and I am very, very grateful to Dr. Haass, Dr. Bollinger, Professor Frankel, Dr. Desai for having provided me this very, very important platform to share with you how, working together, our two democracies can enhance the cause of peace and prosperity in the world as a whole.
It is usual for speakers on relations between India and the United States to stress the fact that we are both democracies and that this provides an essential commonality of values between our two countries, which should lead naturally to a strong partnership.
I do believe that this approach is fundamentally right. A commitment to a genuinely democratic society which is also an open, liberal, and tolerant society, committed to respect for all fundamental human freedoms, represents truly a basis of shared values between us, which is indeed of great importance.
But we must also realistically recognize that this by itself does not ensure or guarantee a close relationship, as is evident from the fact that India-U.S. relations have had their ups and downs in the past.
Real partnership requires, therefore, more than just a shared commitment to democracy. A real partnership requires the commonality of values to be supplemented by an awareness of converging interests and a shared world view.
I believe that the changes that have occurred in the world in the past 15 years or so have brought us much closer to such an awareness than ever in the past. It is my view— in my view, therefore, there are at least three major elements that have driven this process of redefining the world view of our two countries.
First, the Cold War ended. Old threats receded and new threats emerged. Strategic equations began to be re-evaluated in Delhi, in Washington, and in other capitals as well.
The second factor is the accelerating base of processes of globalization. This has had profound implications for economic policy in developing countries, and of course for India in particular.
Third, the nearly 2-million-strong Indian-American community came of age in the United States. They began to develop a prominent presence in this country, with greater involvement in mainstream America. They have become a very important force for promoting stronger bilateral ties between our two countries.
These three factors, I believe, point to a future of accelerated engagement based on truly— based on true partnerships. Ladies and gentlemen, for India, our response to these factors is powerfully affected by our democratic structures and the underlying commitment to the deeper values of pluralism and liberalism. Let me elaborate.
As in other developing countries, our primary challenge is one of accelerating the pace of social and economic development. We are determined to improve the conditions of life for our people, and this can only be done by transforming our economy into a modern, middle-income economy as quickly as possible. However, we have chosen to work towards this goal within the framework of parliamentary democracy based on universal adult franchise.
We today are an economy which has grown at close to 6 percent per annum. We have the fourth-largest GDP [gross domestic product] in the world in terms of purchasing power. We have a confident, competitive private sector, which displays remarkable entrepreneurial energy. India is now well-endowed with human resources of a very high order, and an infrastructure of law and commercial accounting conducive to modern business. Our economy has shown dynamism in many areas of advanced technology.
This, of course, is the result of sustained efforts over the past 50 years to build those institutions that provide the underpinnings of economic development over the longer term, efforts that began early on as part of the vision of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. It is also the result of economic reforms which have greatly increased our competitiveness in recent years. Economic analysts today agree that India has the potential to achieve 8 percent growth for a sustainable period.
The fact that this achievement has drawn on, and reinforced, our democracy is an achievement of which all Indians are justly proud. There are no instances in the history of the world where a billion people choose to find their salvation in the framework of democracy, committed to respect for the rule of law and respect for all fundamental freedoms that we cherish.
Elections are, of course, the very essence and heartbeat of a democracy. We take pride in the unaffected regularity of our electorate voting their representatives into and out of office quite matter-of-fact. Democracy, someone has described, has a periodic redistribution of power. We are fortunate that this periodic transfer of power in our country has taken place peacefully, and in an atmosphere free from anger, rancor, and violence.
The United States is keen to support the promotion of democratic values around the world, and I suggest to this august audience that India is a living example of how democratic institutions can flourish in developing countries at relatively low levels of living, and in a manner which still achieves important development objectives.
Ladies and gentlemen, our commitment to democracy is conjoined with a commitment to the deeper values of pluralism and liberalism. India’s embrace of diversity is an essential ingredient of our democracy. What today is characterized as multiculturalism is deeply rooted in our ancient culture and civilization. The effort to preserve it in the process of building a modern society is a socio-political experiment on a massive scale. Its success is a validation of our underlying philosophy. This is a model of democratic practice that has great relevance, I believe, to this fractured world in which we often hear seductive arguments equating ethnicity or language or religion with nationhood. Such flawed hypotheses do not, in our view, create states or civilizations. Democracy cannot be based on exclusion. It has to be inclusive because it celebrates plurality.
Threatening today this plurality is extremism and terrorism, now operating on a global scale, from which no one can be safe or insulated. Acts of violence and terror in the name of religion and ideology are sometimes projected as a clash of cultures instead of what they actually are, attempts to impose bigotry on tolerance. Multicultural nations like ours will remain the target of the protagonists of bigotry because our societies invalidate their thesis.
We in India have suffered from such violence enormously. The wounds inflicted on this great city too, three years ago, are still seared in our memories. Earlier this week, I conveyed to President Bush that India’s determination to confront and vanquish global terrorism is second to none.
For a decade and a half, India has paid a price in human life that cannot be equaled anywhere. We have not let it weaken our resolve, or undermine the fundamental values on which our society— and indeed your society— is based. This is a shared struggle, and one in which we should find it possible to do a great deal more together.
Globalization is the other international development that influences our world view. As trade barriers have dropped sharply, global economic integration has encouraged an expansion in trade, foreign direct investment, and flows of technology and people. This explosion of information technology has created new business opportunities undreamt of even 10 years ago. India, like other developing countries, stands to benefit enormously from this explosion of economic opportunities, and indeed, has done so in several respects.
As I have already mentioned, the economic reforms we introduced in 1991, and which have been continued by successive governments, laid the foundations of an economy poised to reap the potential benefits of globalization. Our trade has expanded, and we have done exceptionally well in certain areas such as IT-enabled services. India is now seen as having the potential to emerge as a major player in the evolving knowledge economy that is now on the horizon.
Business process outsourcing— a phrase which has spawned a number of emotive myths— is only one indicator of this potential. Each day, Indian companies are proving themselves to be credible partners for American enterprises. Time and distance, the handicaps of the past, have become the advantages of our times. Our skills have helped to sharpen the competitive edge of American enterprise.
Ladies and gentlemen, while globalization presents many potential benefits, it also poses special challenges. In a democracy, it is necessary that the process of reform be perceived as equitable and caring. In a world in which information flows are unfettered, growth processes in which some are seen to benefit while others are excluded are not a viable proposition.
This is particularly sensitive in a democratic polity in which public dissatisfaction can be quickly converted into electoral defeat. This is indeed the message of the recent election held in India a few months ago. These elections were not, as some have said, a vote against reform. They were a vote against a process of reform that was seen to be unbalanced, a process which neglected the needs of our rural areas and the agricultural economy.
Our government is committed to addressing these problems effectively. We will strengthen and deepen reforms so that India can benefit increasingly from the tremendous opportunities which the global economy offers today.
But we will also ensure that there is a better distribution of benefits. Our vision of inclusive politics is rooted in a vision of liberal economics.
The integration of the Indian economy with the world opens new vistas of potential cooperation with the United States. The United States is potentially a major investor, but the volume of U.S. investment in India is, as yet, modest. Our growth ambitions need massive investment, particularly in infrastructure, and much of this will have to come from public-private partnership. We believe the United States can play a major role in this area.
The United States can also help in sustaining India’s efforts to globalize by remaining true to your own traditional commitment to freer trade.
I must confess that at times we see disturbing signs of protectionism in the United States and other developed countries, which run counter to everything this country has stood for. Let me just say that at this point in time, when India and other developing countries are beginning to be won over by the persuasiveness of the case for globalization, I hope the argument will not be lost here. We count on the United States standing firm in its commitment to free trade and open access.
This leads me to the third element which brings our two countries together, and that relates to the role of the Indian community in the United States.
The Indian-American community in this country is the third significant factor in a much stronger India-U.S. partnership in years to come. I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to this community and to recognize its contribution to strengthening our bilateral relations.
Indian-Americans have shown the exceptional characteristic of being able to integrate fully into American life, while also maintaining a close cultural and economic connection with India. They serve as a bridge between our national interests. They are an inspiration to our younger people. Often their regional roots in India makes them a special bridge to individual states in our union. They also, we hope, speak for India, helping to explain some of our concerns, constraints and perceptions to their fellow Americans.
Happily, the last decade and a half has seen a progressive transformation in our bilateral engagement. This process began during the visit of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983 and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The re-evaluation on both sides of the India-America equation has yielded encouraging results in recent years, and the canvas is still unfolding.
We have recently embarked on a forward looking-program which envisages cooperation in civilian space applications, nuclear energy, high technology commerce, and a dialogue on missile defense. As we move forward on the basis of trust and confidence, there are ever-widening prospects for cooperation in these important areas.
We remain deeply involved in assisting the democratic government of Afghanistan in its national reconstruction efforts. New partnerships have to escape the straitjacket of old paradigms. Looking beyond our bilateral relationship, I believe we can also be partners in developing a global perspective on creating a new and durable structure for international cooperation.
It is remarkable that the world order of 1945 dominates global decision-making even today. The architecture of all our major international organizations has remained virtually immune to the momentous political, economic, social, and demographic changes of the second half of the twentieth century. It is not only the agencies and councils of the United Nations which require updating; so too are many nuclear proliferation and arms control regimes, and a number of other alliance systems. They were all designed to address threats that either no longer exist or have been so fundamentally altered that their neutralization calls for new, innovative approaches. I believe the time is ripe for the United States to seriously consider the advantages of further enhancing our partnership on major international issues by recognizing India’s due place in global councils.
India’s geographical location and security environment have informed our concern [over] the unrestrained proliferation of nuclear and missile technology. Our responsible record underscores the logic of India’s partnership with the United States to make the world a safer place. Together, our governments can address threats from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, to which President Bush and I have committed our two countries, would raise our cooperation in these areas to higher levels.
Friends, I come to you with the conviction that an extraordinary responsibility rests on— upon our two nations to ensure that the future of humankind is not afflicted by the two paramount ills that made the previous century such a cruel one: the scourge of violence that made the last century one of the most brutal known to humankind and chronic and large-scale deprivation that denies millions of human beings the dignified lives they deserve. History will judge us by our efforts to rid the world of the twin menaces of violence and exclusion.
I believe that India-U.S. relations have reached now a stage where it can serve this larger global cause. Our polities are founded on similar principles and shared common values. Our relations have reached a stage of maturity in which we can manage our differences in a rational and practical manner. There is a mutuality of interest and a complementarity of major objectives. This is, in my view, a sound basis for a durable partnership in the enterprise we are engaged in— that is, the building of a stable, secure, prosperous, and equitable world order.
In essence, therefore, my message is simple: We are today on the same side, and as I have said before, the best is yet to come. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
HAASS: Thank you, Prime Minister. Before I go any further, I need to correct my manners. I did not— in addition to welcoming the prime minister, I neglected to welcome India’s new Ambassador to the United States [Ronen Sen], and also members of the foreign policy and national security team of the prime minister. And these individuals, who I’ve known, in some case, for decades, just reinforce my optimism about the future trajectory of this relationship.
I also say the same thing about the speech we just heard. It has been not always my good fortune but my experience to hear many speeches on U.S.-Indian relations over the last few decades, and it’s always dangerous to predict how journalists and, more important, historians will judge things. But my pretty strong hunch is, the speech you just heard will be seen as something of a watershed. It is, I thought, a remarkable statement about India’s view of the world and India’s view of its relationship with the United States. And again, as someone who cares passionately about this relationship, I can basically say I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a statement like that. [Laughter.] And it’s very, very welcome. [Applause.]
I’m going to exploit my job, which allows me to ask one or two questions. And I promise just one or two, and then I’ll turn it over to you. And I just wanted to pick up on some things I heard from the prime minister, just to get him to say one or two more things.
Sir, you made the interesting point that the global architecture is— essentially dates back to 1945— and an awful lot has happened since then. And the inference I drew is, essentially, that you believe the global architecture is somewhat anachronistic or obsolete even, and that considerable changes are called for. And indeed, you said you hoped the United States— I think I have it right— would recognize India’s due place. Could you say a little bit more about what you think India’s due place is?
HAASS: You’re microphoned from here. So please, relax a little bit.
SINGH: Well, the essential structures that are now in place were a by-product of the thinking which went before the Second World War as to how to make the world a safe place for civilized living. In 1945, there were many nations which were still colonies. In 1945, there were nations belonging to the category of the vanquished nations. Since then, both Japan and Germany have come of age. Since then, the process of decolonization has enlarged the number of nations which are free. And also, countries like India, countries like Brazil, have acquired a stake in the world order, which I think is not reflected in the decision-making processes which govern institutions like the [United Nations] Security Council.
So therefore, we feel that a new international decision-making process which does not take into account the interests and concerns of countries like India, countries like Brazil, countries like Germany and Japan, cannot effectively meet the challenge of our times. A more inclusive approach, therefore, to processes of decision-making would add, in our view, to the effectiveness of these institutions in discharging their responsibilities.
HAASS: Let me also, if I might, follow up on something you said about the U.S.-Indian relationship. You used phrases like true partnership and accelerated engagement. What is your sense, almost your vision, of where you would like the U.S.-India relationship to be in a few years? How would you describe it? Is it comparable to some other relationship that either the United States or India now has? Is there some model in your mind or template?
SINGH: Well, I would like India and the United States to cooperate in more than one way. India is a country now in the process of accelerating the pace of its development. We need a lot more capital, we need a lot more access to modern technology, and we need a lot more access to export markets for products in which we have a competitive advantage.
And I know how, in the last 30 years, countries of Southeast Asia have industrialized themselves. They take advantage of the enormous opportunities that exist in exporting their products to the United States, and drawing upon American capital and American technology. I hope we will get, and create, a similar environment in which the two-way flows of trade, technology, and investment can enrich and enhance the development prospects of our country. But today, the challenge is beyond the management of the economy; the challenge is many-formed.
Today, environmental strains and stress are affecting the livelihood of millions and millions of people all over the world. We need an international order which will protect the environment, and not at the same time perpetuate the misery and poverty of countries of the Third World.
We are today faced with an uncertain energy future. There are doubts whether there will be adequate supplies of energy to match the increase in demand. Therefore, the world has to think in terms not only of cleaner technology in the use of hydrocarbons and fossil fuels, but also the renewable alternatives, and in this there is enormous scope for expanding areas of cooperation.
And we have this new menace of terrorism, which today constitutes a threat to civilized ways of living all over the world, and the terrorism machine today knows no international boundaries. That’s one— another— area where I feel India, United States, and other civilized countries of the world have an obligation to work hand-in-hand and to cooperate and to see that this planet of ours is freed of this scourge.
And finally, the old struggle against poverty, hunger, and development. Two billion people today— even today— live on a per capita income of less than $2 a day. And yet, developments in modern science and technology have made it possible, as never before in human history, to ensure that chronic poverty does not have to be the inevitable lot of a majority of humankind.
So, I see in all these areas the United States can take a lead, and India would like to be a partner of the United States in a more equitable management of the global order that is now on the horizon.
HAASS: Thank you for that full answer. One last thing. I learned before today, speaking with the prime minister before, that he had an unexpectedly long meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. And not only was it a long meeting, one on one, but also, they for the first time, to the best of my knowledge, issued a joint statement and then had a joint press conference.
And I think there would be an awful lot of interest here, sir, in your impressions, your sense of— but not simply the meeting, but where India-Pakistani relations evolve from here.
SINGH: Well, I said to [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf that he and I both have a unique opportunity to give a new sense of direction to the relationship between our two countries.
I was born in a village in west Punjab that happens to be part of Pakistan. President Musharraf was born in Delhi— [laughter]--so we both are migrants in one sense of the term. And we also understand the pain of partition and the suffering that went with it. And I think both of us agreed today that we have a unique opportunity to reverse this adverse [inaudible] in the affairs of our two countries.
We have worked out a program of action, and the best that I can do today is to read out the giant statement that we both— [laughter]--have signed. And if you permit me—
HAASS: I feel like I just joined your staff. [Laughter.]
SINGH: If you like, I’ll read this out:
“President Musharraf and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had a one-hour meeting this morning. Their discussions were held in a constructive and frank spirit. They welcomed the opportunity of making each other’s acquaintance during their first meeting. Both leaders reiterated their commitment to continue the bilateral dialogue to restore normalcy and cooperation between India and Pakistan. They agreed that confidence-building measures of all categories under discussion between the two governments should be implemented, keeping in mind practical possibilities.
“They also addressed the issue of [the disputed areas in] Jammu and Kashmir and agreed that possible options for a peaceful negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner. In the spirit of the Islamabad joint press statement of January 6, 2004, they agreed that confidence-building measures will contribute to generating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding so necessary for the well-being of the people of both countries.
“The possibility of a gas pipeline via Pakistan to India was also discussed. It was felt that such a project could contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the people of both countries, and should be considered in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan.”
I sincerely hope, in my meeting with President Musharraf today, we have made a new beginning. And we are very sincere in our desire to carry forward this dialogue that is now underway to a constructive and fruitful outcome. [Applause.]
HAASS: Thank you. We’ve got time for a few questions. I ask that people identify themselves, wait for the microphone, one question, and please keep it as short as possible, so we can give as many people a chance— and I don’t have my glasses, so if I don’t call on you by name, please forgive me. Is that Tesi?
HAASS: [Chuckles.] That well I can see.
QUESTIONER: Tesi Schaffer from CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies] in Washington. It’s wonderful to see you, Mr. Prime Minister, and we are inspired by your speech.
I wanted to ask you about another one of the great globalization issues, which I had the honor of speaking to you about last January, and that is HIV/AIDS. What is your view of how this problem fits into the panoply of challenges you face as India’s prime minister? And how do you plan to move India’s fight against the epidemic forward?
SINGH: Well, there are different views about the number of people who are afflicted by HIV/AIDS in our country, but most conservative estimates place that number at over 4 million people.
I recognize that AIDS constitutes a great menace to [the] future prosperity of our country, because it affects the most productive sections of our society. And therefore, we must do all that is in our power to control it through better awareness, and also, simultaneously, adopt effective measures to provide assistance and help to those who are afflicted by this menace.
There has been in the past, a tendency to underplay this menace, but our government recognizes the peril that awaits us if we do not wake up to the vast damage that the spread of this grave disease can cause to our country. So, in years to come, we will work with like-minded countries, like-minded institutions, to strengthen the AIDS control progress [inaudible] fold. That is our commitment that we have outlined in our government’s Common Minimum Program as well.
HAASS: Yes, ma’am? Just wait for the microphone, please, and identify yourself.
QUESTIONER: My name is [inaudible.] I represent the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, as well as CASI from Philadelphia. I have a simple question. Honorable Prime Minister, in your address you mentioned that the uneducated, the poor, and some disenfranchised electorate voted, and made a popular choice of voting out the elitist policy of development of— [inaudible]--as well as—
HAASS: Can we quickly get to the question?
QUESTIONER: --India Shining slogan. And you mentioned it was for agricultural economy. My question to you, yourself an elitist, what is your future plan for development of the masses, as well as education?
SINGH: Well— [inaudible]--element of India’s development performance in the last decade was relative neglect of agriculture, where 65 percent of our population lives. And in the last five years in particular, since our government went out of office, the rate of growth of agricultural production has declined very sharply, and that’s one reason which contributed a great deal to distress and anger among the rural masses of our country, which led to the old regime being voted out. At the same time, we haven’t done as much as we ought to be doing in the field of basic education, in the field of primary health care, in the field of environment protection layers, in the field of providing adequate social safety nets, so that the burden of economic and social change does not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the poorest sections of the society.
These were three important gaps in our reform program which I believe were partly responsible for the electoral verdict in May. And it will be our sincere effort to attend to these tasks with our— the resources that we can muster.
HAASS: Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Good afternoon. My name is Ed Hightower from Kuja Moto. I’m a small-business owner from Detroit, Michigan.
Mr. Prime Minister, in your remarks, you stated that, in your view, the volume of U.S. investment in India is modest. I wanted to ask you, sir, what sectors is your country looking to increase foreign direct investment from the U.S. into India? Is it energy, is it more in information technology, or are there other sectors that you’re interested in?
HAASS: I’m actually going to add to this question. Why do you think it is so modest, and what can India do to increase it?
SINGH: Well, I know that we— the primary responsibility for creating an atmosphere conducive to the growth of— growth of the spirit of adventure and enterprise is our own responsibility, and I know that there have been, in the past, weaknesses in infrastructure, in excessive bureaucratic regulation, and also, I think to some extent, of the corruption in public life which have affected the inflow of foreign direct investment. It will be our sincere effort to address, I think, these problems in an effective manner.
Now as far as the areas, I think governments are notoriously very poor in picking the winners. [Laughter.] We have opened up our economy to widespread participation by the private sector, both domestic and foreign. With the exception of a few sectors, nearly all sectors of our economy today are open to participation both by domestic private sector and the foreign sector.
But if you ask me this question, I would like, for example, large inflows of direct investment into infrastructure, where we are going to develop new public-private sector models where the two sectors can work together to give a big push to our infrastructures. At the same time, I would like to see lot more investment in agricultural processing, particularly the food-processing industry, where there is enormous scope for expanding the opportunities for productive growth of enterprise.
HAASS: I’ve got time for just one, or at most two, more questions. Let me apologize in advance to all the enemies I’m about to make, but it comes with the turf.
People are getting awfully shy here.
Yes, ma’am, in the back. If you would just wait for the microphone, and please keep it as short as you can so we can maybe squeeze in one more.
QUESTIONER: Sure. Moushumi Khan, Law Offices of Moushumi Khan.
May I ask you to please comment on civil society, because all that you spoke on really is underpinned by having a strong civil society. And in particular, could you comment on how to avoid the cult of personality that plays out in South Asian politics, like, for example, the ping-pong between Sheik Hasina [leader of the opposition Awami League Party] and [Prime Minister] Khaleda Zia in neighboring Bangladesh.
SINGH: I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.
HAASS: Well, basically about civil society, your views of it— [laughter]--and what you plan— if I get more specific, it was what you might do to discourage the emergence of a cult of personality in your country, as one sometimes sees in some of your neighbors. I think that’s the diplomatic way of rephrasing the question. [Laughter.]
SINGH: Well, I think—
SINGH: --the best thing to discourage the growth of cult of personality is to promote the growth of democratic values, democratic institutions at all levels. And we have in the last 10, 12 years, taken the methods of democracy from the central government— from the state governments— to grass-roots level in villages, in cities, and today we have millions and millions of people at the grass-roots level who are involved in processes of governance. We have a very large number of women who, for the first time, have become active in our public life.
At the same time, India has a flourishing NGO [non-governmental organization] movement, and this NGO movement is a source of great strength. It enables the institutions of civil society to make their presence felt in all arenas of public policy. But what we have taken special steps, after coming into power, to enlist their cooperation in a more purposeful, more direct way.
The Congress president, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, she is the chairperson of a national advisory committee which brings together some of the most fertile brains in our civil society, in the NGO governments, and we have, I think, their valuable inputs drawn from their grass-roots experiences as a valuable input into processes of our government. Our government has been in office for exactly four months, but in these four months, I think this national advisory committee, on which we have representatives of some of the most influential and most active NGOs, has provided very valuable input for planning of our environment policies, our planning— for planning of our educational policy, and for planning of our health policy.
I see an expanding role for cooperation between our government and the NGO sector in the years to come. I think that really keeps our government constantly on its toes. It will keep us in touch with the grass-roots reality. And I believe that’s the way to keep leaders on their toes as well.
HAASS: One last short question. Farooq, do you want to, and we will—
QUESTIONER: Farooq Kathwari from Ethan Allen, [and] the Kashmir Study Group.
Sir, your press release was great news. I’m originally from Kashmir, and for the people of Kashmir, they cannot have peace unless India and Pakistan get together. And it’s great, great news, and I pray and urge that this initiative be taken, because a tremendous amount of losses have taken place. And my question is whether there is any— you know, any specific timetable in terms of confidence-building measures or timetable of further discussions that were also discussed?
SINGH: I think we have now sorted out the workload and the program of work. Our ministers of foreign affairs have met in the last few months. Officials at the level of foreign secretary have met, also officials, experts of various groups have met.
And we have for the next four or five months laid down a timetable. There will be a visit of Pakistan and Indian foreign secretaries in the month of December. Before that, next month, I look forward to the privilege of welcoming the new prime minister of Pakistan during his visit to Delhi in connection with the Techsummit. He’s coming there in October. And then I will have another opportunity to interact with President Musharraf in Dakar in January. And in February, we have agreed that at the culmination of this, we must conduct another review of the progress that we have made at the meetings of the two foreign ministers [that] will take place.
So, we are moving as fast as we can under the circumstances. And we are committed to finding mutually acceptable solutions to these problems, difficult though they are. Though they have, I think, the burden of history behind them, but I sincerely believe that we can make— and we should make— a new beginning.
HAASS: As a citizen of the world’s second-largest but oldest democracy, I’d like to thank the leader— the new leader— of the world’s largest democracy for spending this time here today. And I think I’m speaking not simply for myself, but obviously also for the Asia Society, for Columbia, and for the University of Pennsylvania, but I think everyone who has had the privilege of being here today. We thank you for coming, sir. And our only request is that you return [to] this country frequently, because you’ve got an awful large number of friends here. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
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