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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 17, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                    The South Lawn, The White House

8:03 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: And Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of the American people, let me welcome you again to the White House, along with all your party from India.

I hope that in your time with us we have at least come close to repaying the warm hospitality with which you and the Indian people greeted me, my family and our fellow Americans on my visit in March.

One of the most remarkable things to me about our relationship is its scope and its increasing interdependence. There are hundreds of American businesses, foundations and universities with long commitments to India. When Americans call Microsoft for customer support today, they're as likely to be talking to someone in Bangalore or Hyderabad as to someone in Seattle.

There are more than 1 million Indians here in America now. And I think more than half of them are here tonight. (Laughter and applause.) And I might say, Prime Minister, the other half are disappointed that they're not here. (Laughter.)

Indian Americans now run more than 750 companies in Silicon Valley alone. In India, the best information available on maternal health and agriculture can now be downloaded by a growing number of villages with Internet hook-ups. And Indian Americans can now get on line with people across the world who speak Telugu or Gujarati or Bengali.

Americans have fallen in love with Indian novels. I'm told that Prime Minister Vajpayee, when he's not writing Hindi poetry actually likes to read John Grisham. (Laughter.) You might be interested to note, Mr. Prime Minister, that he's a distant relative of mine. All the Grishams of money are distant relatives of mine. (Laughter.)

And, don't forget, whether we're in California or Calcutta, we all want to be a crore pati. Now, for the culturally challenged Americans among us, that's from India's version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." (Laughter and applause.)

Of course, our interdependence is about more than commerce and culture. We are also vulnerable to one another's problems, to the shock of economic turmoil, to the plague of infectious diseases, to the spread of deadly military technology, and as we have all too painfully seen, to the terrorists, drug traffickers and criminals who take advantage of the openness of societies and boarders.

The simple lesson of all this to me, Mr. Prime Minister, is that if we're already all in the same boat together, we had better find a way to steer together. We must overcome the fear some people in both our countries sometimes have, for different historical reasons, that if we meet our friends halfway, somehow it will threaten our own independence or uniqueness.

That is why I am so gratified that with your leadership, and the efforts of so many people in this room, we have together built the strongest, most mature partnership India and America have ever known. (Applause.)

We have so very much more to learn from each other. In both our societies you can find virtually every challenge humanity knows. And in both our societies you can find virtually every solution to those challenges: confidence in democracy, tolerance for diversity, a willingness to embrace economic and social change.

So it is more than a slogan for Americans to say that India's success will be our success, and that together India and America can change the world. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you now to join me in a toast to Prime Minister Vajpayee, to the government and people of India and the enduring partnership between our two great democracies.

(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: Your Excellency, President Clinton and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues.

I owe my presence here today principally to two persons, widely separated in time and also in space. One was the explorer, Christopher Columbus, who set sail for India but landed in America. (Laughter and applause.) I sometimes wonder where you would be, or where we would be, if he had actually reached India. (Laughter.)

The other to whom I owe a personal debt is the President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton. (Applause.) Had you, Mr. President, not rediscovered India, I would truly not have the honor of enjoying your gracious hospitality, or replying to your most generous toast. (Applause.)

The light that radiates above our two nations is off of a respect to the struggles for freedom, for liberty, for individual excellence, and enterprise. This today brings us together as two great democracies. I am particularly grateful to Mrs. Clinton for having taken the time out from the middle of an election campaign. (Applause.) As a parliamentarian of 40 years standing, and speaking from the experience of many elections, I applaud your presence here today. (Laughter and applause.)

We are greatly moved, Mr. President, by your joining me in the dedication of the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington. (Applause.) Trust me, the people of India shall always value this. This memorial in the heart of your capital is a profound symbol of the unity of values of our two societies.

The century that we leave behind saw many ideas compete for the soul of this world. We know today that it is ideas of Gandhi and Woodrow Wilson that will triumph. We know, too, that America and India stand on the right side of history. (Applause.)

Mr. President, it is a reflection of your statesmanship that you saw the simple truth. It is a testimony of your courage and leadership that you dare to cross the territory of doubts to reach out to the hearts of the Indian people. And it is tribute to your efforts that the manner in which we approach each other is being fundamentally transformed.

I'm delighted to share this evening with many people from India and the United States who have lent their enterprise, expertise and energy to building a closer partnership between us. I salute you, Congressmen and the Senators, diplomats and officials, scientists and entrepreneurs, thinkers and scholars, academics and artists, and this league of Americans of Indian heritage, of your good will -- for your good will and your efforts.

Excellencies, ladies and gentleman, I would now like to invite you to raise a toast to the good health and well being of President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton, to the close and abiding friendship between our two peoples, to the vision of this new relationship between India and the United States of America.

(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)

END 8:15 P.M. EDT