MRS. OBAMA: Hello, everyone. Namaste. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here inIndia. Everyone, please sit, who can sit. Rest. It’s warm. We are thrilled to be here and tohave a chance to spend time with so many outstanding young people from St. Xavier’sCollege and so many other schools across Mumbai.
Now, this is my first trip to India, but it is not my first exposure to India’s wonderfulculture and people. See, I grew up in Chicago, which is a city with one of the largestIndian-American communities in our country. And of course, last year, as you know, wewere proud to host Prime Minister Singh and Mrs. Kaur for our very first state visit anddinner. It was a beautiful evening under a tent on the South Lawn of the White House,and we got to hear some pretty great Bhangra as well. I danced there, too. (Laughter.)So I have really been looking forward to this trip for a very long time. The time that wespend with young people during our travel is very special to both me and to the President.When I was your age, I never dreamed of traveling to countries like this and meeting withyoung people like all of you. In fact, there were a lot of things that I had never imaginedfor myself growing up, including having the honor of serving as my county’s First Lady.My family didn’t have a lot of money. My parents never went to college. I grew up in alittle bitty apartment in a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Myparents worked hard to pay the bills and to keep a roof over our heads. But even thoughmy parents couldn’t give us material things, they gave us something much more precious– they gave me and my brother strong values. They taught us to treat others with dignityand respect. They taught us to push for excellence in every single thing we did. Theytaught us to be humble and to be grateful for everything we had. They taught us to putevery last bit of effort into our education and to take pride in our work. They taught usthat our circumstances didn’t define us, and that if we believed in ourselves, if we madethe most of every single opportunity, we could build our own destinies and accomplishanything we put our minds to.
And I try every single day to take those lessons to heart. And the fact that all of you arehere today tells me that we all share these same values, that we all learn these samelessons. You’re here today because, like me and my husband, you believe in your dreamsand you’re working hard every single day to fulfill them. More importantly, you’re herebecause you’ve committed to something greater than yourselves. You’re here not justbecause of your academic and extracurricular activities and achievements, but because ofwhat you’ve done to give back to your schools and to your communities.
Your willingness to serve is critical for all that lies ahead once you finish your education.Because the truth is pretty soon the responsibilities for building our future will fall to allof you. Soon we’re going to be looking to your generation to make the discoveries andbuild the industries that will shape our world for decades to come.
We’ll be looking to you to protect our planet. We’re going to be looking to you to lift upour most vulnerable citizens. We’re going to be looking to you to heal the divisions thattoo often keep us apart. And I believe that you and your peers around the world are morethan up to the challenge, because I’ve seen it firsthand right here in India.Just yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to visit an organization called Make ADifference. It’s an amazing program designed and run by young adults who recruit otheryoung people, outstanding college students like themselves, to mentor and teach childrenwho, as the founder said, haven’t had the same chances in life as many of the mentorshave had.
These young volunteers understand and believe in something very simple, that allchildren, regardless of their circumstances, deserve the same chance to get educated andto build productive and successful lives. And I know that many of you here today aredoing equally important work in your communities and your schools — everything fromholding camps for kids in need to teaching computer literacy skills, to finding new waysto conserve energy.
And let me tell you, this work is amazing, and it is vitally important. And that is why, asFirst Lady, I have tried my best to engage young people not just in the United States butaround the world, letting them know that we believe in them, but more importantly, thatwe need them. We need you. We need you to help solve the great challenges of our time.And that’s also why when my husband travels abroad, he doesn’t just meet with heads ofstate in parliaments and in palaces. He always meets with young people like all of you.That’s why he’s been working to expand educational exchanges and partnerships betweenthe United States, India, and countries around the world.
Right now, more Indian students like you come to study in the United States than fromany other country. And I’m proud to see that so many American students are doing thesame thing right here in India, building the types of friendships and relationships that willlast a lifetime. Our hope is to provide more Indian and American young people with thesetypes of opportunities to continue to connect and share ideas and experiences.
And finally, my husband is also working to encourage young entrepreneurs everywhereto start businesses, to improve the health of our communities and to empower our youngwomen and girls because it is never too late or too early to start changing this world forthe better.
So I want to end today by congratulating you all — congratulating you on everything youdo. We are so proud of you. I want to encourage you to keep dreams — keep dreaming bighuge, gigantic dreams — not just for yourselves, but for your communities and for ourworld.
And finally, I want to urge you today to ask my husband some tough questions, all right?(Laughter.) Be tough. He loves doing events like this. This brightens his days. But yougot to keep him on his toes, all right?
So if you promise me that, without further ado, I would like to introduce my husband, thePresident of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you.
(Applause.) Thank you very much. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Namaste.
THE PRESIDENT: It is such a pleasure to be here. Now, I have to say, first of all, I don’tlike speaking after Michelle. (Laughter.) Because she’s very good. Also because sheteases me. You notice how she said for you to all ask tough questions. If you want to askeasy questions, that’s fine. (Laughter.)
But on behalf of Michelle and me I want to thank St. Xavier’s University. I want to thankRector DeSouza. I want to thank Principal — I want to get this right — Mascarenhas.(Laughter.) But it’s a little smoother than that, when you say it. I want to thank VicePrincipal Amonka and all of you for being such gracious hosts.
And I know it’s hot out here today. For you to be so patient with me, I’m very grateful toyou. I also want to thank the city of Mumbai and the people of India for giving us such anextraordinary welcome.
In a few minutes, I’ll take some questions. I come here not just to speak, but also tolisten. I want to have a dialogue with you. And this is one of the wonderful things that Ihave a chance to do as President of the United States. When I travel, we always try to setup a town hall meeting where we can interact with the next generation, because I want tohear from you. I want to find out what your dreams are, what your fears are, what yourplans are for your country.
But if you will indulge me, I also want to say a few words about why I’m so hopefulabout the partnership between our two countries and why I wanted to spend some of mytime here in India speaking directly to young people like yourselves.
Now, as Michelle said, we have both looked forward to this visit to India for quite sometime. We have an extraordinary amount of respect for the rich and diverse civilizationthat has thrived here for thousands of years. We’ve drawn strength from India’s 20thcentury independence struggle, which helped inspire America’s own civil rightsmovement. We’ve marveled at India’s growing economy and it’s dynamic democracy.And we have personally enjoyed a wonderful friendship with Prime Minister Singh andMrs. Kaur, over the last two years.
But of course, I’m not just here to visit. I’m here because the partnership between Indiaand the United States I believe has limitless potential to improve the lives of bothAmericans and Indians, just as it has the potential to be an anchor of security andprosperity and progress for Asia and for the world.
The U.S.-India relationship will be indispensible in shaping the 21st century. And thereason why is simple: As two great powers and as the world’s two largest democracies,the United States and India share common interests and common values — values of selfdeterminationand equality; values of tolerance and a belief in the dignity of every humanbeing.
Already on this trip, I’ve seen those shared interests and values firsthand. We share acommitment to see that the future belongs to hope, and not fear. And I was honored tostay at the Taj Hotel, the site of the 26/11 attacks, and yesterday, in meetings with someof the survivors, I saw firsthand the resilience of the Indian people in overcomingtragedy, just as I reaffirmed our close cooperation in combating terrorism and violentextremism in all of its forms.
We also share struggles for justice and equality. I was humbled to visit Mani Bhavan,where Gandhi helped move India and the world through the strength and dignity of hisleadership.
We share a commitment to see that this era after globalization leads to greateropportunity for all our people. And so yesterday, at a summit of business leaders andentrepreneurs, we discussed the potential for greater economic cooperation between ourtwo countries — cooperation that could create jobs and opportunity through increasedtrade and investment, unleashing the potential of individuals in both our countries. Andeven as we are countries that look to the future with optimism, Americans and Indiansdraw strength from tradition and from faith.
This morning, Michelle and I enjoyed the chance to join young people here in Mumbai tocelebrate Diwali — a holiday that is observed not just here in India but also in the UnitedStates, where millions of Indian-Americans have enriched our country. I have to pointout, by the way, those of you who had a chance to see Michelle dance, she was moving.(Laughter.) And it was just an extraordinary gift for these young people to perform andshare this wonderful tradition with us.
Tomorrow in New Delhi, I’ll have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Singh andmany other leaders, and I’ll have the privilege to address your parliament. And there Iwill discuss in greater detail our efforts to broaden and deepen our cooperation and makesome specific announcements on important issues like counterterrorism and regionalsecurity, on clean energy and climate change, and on the advance of economic growthand development and democracy around the globe.
Just as the sites I’ve seen and the people I’ve met here in Mumbai speak to our commonhumanity, the common thread that runs through the different issues that our countriescooperate on is my determination to take the partnership between our two countries to anentirely new level. Because the United States does not just believe, as some people say,that India is a rising power; we believe that India has already risen. India is taking itsrightful place in Asia and on the global stage. And we see India’s emergence as good forthe United States and good for the world.
But India’s future won’t simply be determined by powerful CEOs and political leaders –just as I know that the ties among our people aren’t limited to contacts between ourcorporations and our governments. And that’s why I wanted to speak to all of you today,because India’s future will be determined by you and by young people like you acrossthis country. You are the future leaders. You are the future innovators and the futureeducators. You’re the future entrepreneurs and the future elected officials.In this country of more than a billion people, more than half of all Indians are under 30years old. That’s an extraordinary statistic and it’s one that speaks to a great sense ofpossibility — because in a democracy like India’s — or America’s — every single childholds within them the promise of greatness. And every child should have the opportunityto achieve that greatness.
Most of you are probably close to 20 years old. Just think how the world has changed inthose 20 years. India’s economy has grown at a breathtaking rate. Living standards haveimproved for hundreds of millions of people. Your democracy has weatheredassassination and terrorism. And meanwhile, around the globe, the Cold War is a distantmemory and a new order has emerged, one that’s reflected in the 20 members of the G20that will come together in Seoul next week, as countries like India assume a greater roleon the world stage.
So now the future of this country is in your hands. And before I take your questions, Iwant you to consider three questions I have for you — questions about what the next 20years will bring. First, what do you want India to look like in 20 years? Nobody else cananswer this question but you. It’s your destiny to write. One of the great blessings ofliving in a democracy is that you can always improve the democracy. As our FoundingFathers wrote in the United States, you can always forge a more perfect union.
But if you look at India’s last 20 years, it’s hard not to see the future with optimism. Youhave the chance to lift another several hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,grow even more this enormous middle class that can fuel growth in this country andbeyond. You have the chance to take on greater responsibilities on the global stage whileplaying a leading role in this hugely important part of the world.
And together with the United States, you can also seize the opportunities afforded by ourtimes: the clean energy technologies that can power our lives and save our planet; thechance to reach new frontiers in outer space; the research and development that can leadto new industry and a higher standard of living; the prospect of advancing the cause ofpeace and pluralism in our own countries but also beyond our borders.
Which brings me to a second question. Twenty years from now, what kind of partnershipdo you want to have with America? Just before I came to speak to all of you today, Ivisited two expos right in another courtyard here that underscore the kind of progress wecan make together. The first focused on agriculture and food security, and I was able tosee innovations in technology and research, which are transforming Indian farming.A farmer showed me how he can receive crop information on his cell phone. Anothershowed me how tools appropriately sized and weighted for women are helping her andother female farmers increase their productivity. Many of these innovations are the resultof public and private collaborations between the United States and India, the samecollaboration that helped produce the first Green Revolution in the 1960s.
And tomorrow, I will be discussing with Prime Minister Singh how we can advance thecooperation in the 21st century — not only to benefit India, not only to benefit the UnitedStates, but to benefit the world. India can become a model for countries around the worldthat are striving for food security.
The second expo I toured focused on the ways that innovation is empowering Indiancitizens to ensure that democracy delivers for them. So I heard directly from citizens in avillage hundreds of miles away, through e-panchayat. I saw new technologies andapproaches that allow citizens to get information, or to fight corruption, monitorelections, find out whether their elected official is actually going to work, holdinggovernment accountable.
And while these innovations are uniquely India’s, their lessons can be applied around theworld. So earlier this year, at the U.N., I called for a new focus on open societies thatsupport open government and highlighted their potential to strengthen the foundation offreedoms in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world. Andthat’s what India is starting do with some of this innovation.
We must remember that in some places the future of democracy is still very much inquestion. Just to give you an example, there are elections that are being held right now inBurma that will be anything but free and fair based on every report that we’re seeing.And for too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their owndestiny.
So even as we do not impose any system of government on other countries, we,especially young people, must always speak out for those human rights that are universal,and the right of people everywhere to make their own decisions about how to shape theirfuture, which will bring me to my final question, and then you guys can start sendingquestions my way.
How do you — how do each of you want to make the world a better place? Keep in mindthat this is your world to build, your century to shape. And you’ve got a powerfulexample of those who went before you. Just as America had the words and deeds of ourFounding Fathers to help chart a course towards freedom and justice and opportunity,India has this incredible history to draw on, millennia of civilization, the examples ofleaders like Gandhi and Nehru.
As I stood in Mani Bhavan, I was reminded that Martin Luther King made his ownpilgrimage to that site over 50 years ago. In fact, we saw the book that he had signed.After he returned home, King said that he was struck by how Gandhi embodied in his lifecertain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, andthese principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.
You have that power within you. You, too, must embody those principles. For evenwithin this time of great progress, there are great imperfections, the injustice ofoppression, the grinding punishment of poverty, the scourge of violent extremism andwar. King and Gandhi made it possible for all of us to be here today — me as a President,you as a citizen of a country that’s made remarkable progress. Now you have theopportunity and the responsibility to also make this plant a better place.
And as you do, you’ll have the friendship and partnership of the United States, becausewe are interested in advancing those same universal principles that are as inescapable asthe law of gravitation.
The lives that you lead will determine whether that opportunity is extended to more of theworld’s people — so that a child who yearns for a better life in rural India or a familythat’s fled from violence in Africa, or a dissident who sits in a Burmese prison, or acommunity that longs for peace in war-torn Afghanistan — whether they are able toachieve their dreams.
And sometimes the challenges may be incredibly hard, and in the face of darkness, wemay get discouraged. But we can always draw on the light of those who came before us. Ihope you keep that light burning within you, because together the United States and Indiacan shape a century in which our own citizens and the people of the world can claim thehope of a better life.
So thank you very much for your patience. And now you can take Michelle’s advice andask me some tough questions. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
So we have I think people in the audience with microphones, and so when they come up,if you could introduce yourself — love to know who you are. And we’ll start with thatyoung lady right over there.
Q: Hi, good day, sir. Hi, my name is Anna and I’m from St. Davis College. My questionto you is, what is your take on opinion about jihad, or jihadi? Whatever is your opinion,what do you think of them?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the phrase jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and issubject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that, first, Islam is one of theworld’s great religions. And more than a billion people who practice Islam, theoverwhelming majority view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peaceand justice and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion inthe hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocentpeople that is never justified.
And so I think one of the challenges that we face is how do we isolate those who havethese distorted notions of religious war and reaffirm those who see faiths of all sorts –whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or any other religion, oryour don’t practice a religion — that we can all treat each other with respect and mutualdignity, and that some of the universal principles that Gandhi referred to — that those arewhat we’re living up to, as we live in a nation or nations that have very diverse religiousbeliefs.
And that’s a major challenge. It’s a major here in India, but it’s a challenge obviouslyaround the world. And young people like yourselves can make a huge impact inreaffirming that you can be a stronger observer of your faith without putting somebodyelse down or visiting violence on somebody else.
I think a lot of these ideas form very early. And how you respond to each other is goingto be probably as important as any speech that a President makes in encouraging thekinds of religious tolerance that I think is so necessary in a world that’s getting smallerand smaller, where more and more people of different backgrounds, different races,different ethnicities are interacting and working and learning from each other.And those circumstances — I think all of us have to fundamentally reject the notion thatviolence is a way to mediate our differences.
All right. Yes, I may not get to every question. I’ll call on this young man right here.Right there, yes.
Q: Good morning, sir. My name is Jehan (phonetic). I’m from H.R. College. So myquestion is more about spirituality and moral values. We see today in today’s world, theremore of a materialistic frame of thought when it comes to generations — buddinggenerations. So what do you believe is a possible methodology which governments,rather yours or any other governments in the world, they can adopt to basicallyincorporate the human core values, the moral values of selflessness, brotherhood, overthe materialistic frame of thought which people work by today?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a terrific question and I’m glad you’re asking it. India is makingenormous progress in part because, like America, it has this incredible entrepreneurialtalent, entrepreneurial spirit. And I think we should not underestimate how liberatingeconomic growth can be for a country.
In the United States, I used to work with a lot of churches when I was still a communityorganizer, before I went to law school. And one of the common phrases among thepastors there was, it’s hard to preach to an empty stomach. It’s hard to preach to an emptystomach. If people have severe, immediate material needs — shelter, food, clothing — thenthat is their focus. And economic growth and development that is self-sustaining canliberate people, allow them — it forms the basis for folks to get an education and toexpand their horizons. And that’s all for the good.
So I don’t want any person here to be dismissive of a healthy materialism because in acountry like India, there’s still a lot of people trapped in poverty. And you should beworking to try to lift folks out of poverty, and companies and businesses have a huge rolein making that happen.
Now, having said that, if all you’re thinking about is material wealth, then I think thatshows a poverty of ambition. When I was visiting Gandhi’s room, here in Mumbai, it wasvery telling that the only objects in the room were a mat and a spinning wheel and somesandals and a few papers. And this is a man who changed history like probably no oneelse in the 20th century in terms of the number of lives that he affected. And he hadnothing, except an indomitable spirit.
So everyone has a role to play. And those of you who are planning to go into business, Ithink it’s wonderful that you’re going into business and you should pursue it with all yourfocus and energy. Those of you, though, who are more inclined to teach or more inclinedto public service, you should also feel encouraged that you are playing just as critical arole. And whatever occupation you choose, giving back to the community and makingsure that you’re reaching back to help people, lift up people who may have been leftbehind, that’s a solemn obligation.
And by the way, it’s actually good for you. It’s good for your spirit. It’s good for yourown moral development. It will make you a happier person, knowing that you’ve givenback and you’ve contributed something.
Last point I would make — I think this is another thing that India and the United Statesshare, is there’s a healthy skepticism about public servants, particularly electoral politics.In the United States, people generally have — hold politicians in fairly low esteem –sometimes for good reason, but some of it is just because the view is that somehowgovernment can’t do anything right. And here in India, one of the big impediments todevelopment is the fact that in some cases the private sector is moving much faster thanthe public sector is moving.
And I would just suggest that I hope some of you decide to go ahead and get involved inpublic service — which can be frustrating. It can be, at times, slow — you don’t seeprogress as quickly as you’d like. But India is going to need you not just as businessmenbut also as leaders who are helping to reduce bureaucracy and make government moreresponsive and deliver services more efficiently. That’s going to be just as important inthe years to come. Because otherwise you’re going to get a imbalance where some aredoing very well but broad-based economic growth is not moving as quickly as it could.Excellent question.
I’m going to go boy-girl-boy-girl, or girl-boy-girl-boy, just to make sure it’s fair. Let’ssee. This young lady right there — yes.
Q: Hello. I actually wanted to ask you — you mention Mahatma Gandhi a lot usually inyour speeches. So I was just wondering how exactly do you implement his principles andhis values in your day-to-day life, and how do you expect the people in the U.S. to live inthose values? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a terrific question. Let me say, first of all, that he, like Dr.King, like Abraham Lincoln, are people who I’m constantly reading and studying, and Ifind myself falling woefully short of their example all the time. So I’m often frustrated byhow far I fall short of their example.
But I do think that at my best, what I’m trying to do is to apply principles thatfundamentally come down to something shared in all the world’s religions, which is tosee yourself in other people; to understand the inherent worth and dignity of everyindividual, regardless of station, regardless of rank, regardless of wealth, and toabsolutely value and cherish and respect that individual; and then hopefully, try to takethat principle of treating others as you would want to be treated and find ways where thatcan apply itself in communities and in cities and in states and ultimately in a country andin the world.
As I said, I often find myself falling short of that ideal. But I tend to judge any particularpolicy based on, is this advancing that spirit; that it’s helping individuals realize theirpotential; that it’s making sure that all children are getting an education — so that I’m notjust worrying about my children; that I’m thinking, first and foremost, about the UnitedStates of America, because that’s my responsibility as President, but I’m also recognizingthat we are in an interrelationship with other countries in the world and I can’t ignore anabuse of human rights in another country. I can’t ignore hardships that may be suffering — that may be suffered by somebody of a different nationality.
That I think more than anything is what I carry with me on a day-to-day basis. But it’snot always apparent that I’m making progress on that front.
One of the other things I draw from all great men and women, like a Gandhi, though, isthat on this journey you’re going to experience setbacks and you have to be persistent andstubborn, and you just have to keep on going at it. And you’ll never roll the boulder allthe way up the hill but you may get it part of the way up.
This gentleman in the blue shirt. Do we have a microphone? Oh, here we go. Thanks.
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.
Q: It’s an honor to question you. What my question would be is, when you were beingelected as President, one of the words you used a lot was “change.” After your midtermelection, the midterm — it seems that the American people have asked for a change. Thechange that you will make, how exactly is it going to affect young India, people from mygeneration?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s an interesting question.
Q: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: The United States has gone through probably the toughest two yearseconomically as we’ve gone through since the 1930s. I mean, this was a profoundfinancial crisis and economic shock, and it spilled over to most of the world. Indiaweathered it better than many countries. But most of the work that I did with PrimeMinister Singh in the first two years in the G20, we were focused on making sure that theworld’s financial system didn’t collapse.
And although we’ve now stabilized the economy, unemployment in the United States isvery high now relative to what it typically has been over the last several decades. And sopeople are frustrated. And although we’re making progress, we’re not making progressquickly enough.
And one of the wonderful things about democracy is that when the people are not happy,it is their right, obligation, and duty to express their unhappiness, much to the regretsometimes of incumbents. But that’s a good thing. That’s a healthy thing.
And my obligation is to make sure that I stick to the principles and beliefs and ideas thatwill move America forward — because I profoundly believe that we have to invest ineducation, that that will be the primary driver of growth in the future; that we’ve got toinvest in a strong infrastructure; that we have to make sure that we are taking advantageof opportunities like clean energy.
But it also requires me to make some midcourse corrections and adjustments. And howthose play themselves out over the next several months will be a matter of me being indiscussions with the Republican Party, which is now going to be controlling the House ofRepresentatives. And there are going to be areas where we disagree and hopefully thereare going to be some areas where we agree.
Now, you asked specifically, how do I think it will affect policy towards India. I actuallythink that the United States has a enormous fondness for India, partly because there are somany Indian-Americans and because of the shared values that we have. And so there is astrong bipartisan belief that India is going to be a critical partner with the United States inthe 21st century. That was true when George Bush was President. That was true whenBill Clinton was President. It was true under Democratic and Republican control ofCongress.
So I don’t think that fundamental belief is going to be altered in any significant way. I dothink that one of the challenges that we’re going to be facing in the United States is at atime when we’re still recovering from this crisis, how do we respond to some of thechallenges of globalization? Because the fact of the matter is, is that for most of mylifetime — I’ll turn 50 next year — for most of my lifetime, the United States was such adominant economic power, we were such a large market, our industry, our technology,our manufacturing was so significant that we always met the rest of the worldeconomically on our terms. And now, because of the incredible rise of India and Chinaand Brazil and other countries, the United States remains the largest economic and thelargest market but there’s real competition out there.
And that’s potentially healthy. It makes — Michelle was saying earlier I like toughquestions because it keeps me on my toes. Well, this will keep America on its toes. AndI’m positive we can compete because we’ve got the most open, most dynamicentrepreneurial culture; we’ve got some of the finest universities in the world; incredibleresearch and technology. But it means that we’re going to have to compete.
And I think that there’s going to be a tug of war within the United States between thosewho see globalization as a threat and want to retrench, and those who accept that we livein a open, integrated world which has challenges and opportunities and we’ve got tomanage those challenges and manage those opportunities, but we shouldn’t be afraid ofthem.
And so what that means, for example, is on issues of trade, part of the reason I’mtraveling through Asia this week is I believe that the United States will grow and prosperif we are trading with Asia. It’s the fastest-growing region in the world. We want accessto your markets. We think we’ve got good products to sell; you think that you’ve gotgood products to sell us. This can be a win-win situation.
So I want to make sure that we’re here because this will create jobs in the United Statesand it can create jobs in India. But that means that we’ve got to negotiate this changingrelationship. Back in the 1960s or ‘70s, the truth is the American economy could be openeven if our trading partners’ economies weren’t open. So if India was protecting certainsectors of its economy, it didn’t really have such a big effect on us. We didn’t neednecessarily reciprocity because our economy was so much larger.
Well, now, things have changed. So it’s not unfair for the United States to say, look, ifour economy is open to everybody, countries that trade with us have to change theirpractices to open up their markets to us. There has to be reciprocity in our tradingrelationship. And if we can have those kinds of conversations, fruitful, constructiveconversations about how we produce win-win situations, then I think we’ll be fine.If the American people feel that trade is just a one-way street, where everybody is sellingto the enormous U.S. market but we can never sell what we make anywhere else, thenpeople in the United States will start thinking, well, this is a bad deal for us. And thatcould end up leading to a more protectionist instinct in both parties — not just amongDemocrats, but also among Republicans. So that’s what we have to guard against.All right, it’s a young lady’s turn. This young lady with the glasses — yes.Q: A very warm welcome to you to India, sir. ]
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Q: I’m from H.R. College of Commerce and Economics. We were the privileged collegeto host Mr. Otis Moss this January. Sir, my question to you is why is Pakistan soimportant an ally to America, so far as America has never called it a terrorist state?THE PRESIDENT: Well — no, no, it’s a good question. And I must admit I wasexpecting it. (Laughter.) Pakistan is an enormous country. It is a strategically importantcountry not just for the United States but for the world. It is a country whose people haveenormous potential, but it is also, right now, a country that within it has some of theextremist elements that we discussed in the first question. That’s not unique to Pakistan,but obviously it exists in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government is very aware of that. And what we have tried to do over thelast several years, certainly — I’ll just speak to my foreign policy — has been to engageaggressively with the Pakistani government to communicate that we want nothing morethan a stable, prosperous, peaceful Pakistan, and that we will work with the Pakistanigovernment in order to eradicate this extremism that we consider a cancer within thecountry that can potentially engulf the country.
And I will tell you that I think the Pakistani government understands now the potentialthreat that exists within their own borders. There are more Pakistanis who’ve been killedby terrorists inside Pakistan than probably anywhere else.
Now, progress is not as quick as we’d like, partly because when you get into, forexample, some of the Northwest Territories, these are very — this is very difficult terrain,very entrenched. The Pakistani army has actually shifted some of its emphasis and focusinto those areas. But that’s not originally what their armed forces were designed to do,and so they’re having to adapt and adjust to these new dangers and these new realities.I think there is a growing recognition — but it’s something that doesn’t happen overnight– of what a profound problem this is. And so our feeling has been to be honest andforthright with Pakistan, to say we are your friend, this is a problem and we will help you,but the problem has to be addressed.
Now, let me just make this point, because obviously the history between India andPakistan is incredibly complex and was born of much tragedy and much violence. And soit may be surprising to some of you to hear me say this, but I am absolutely convincedthat the country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan’s success is India. I think that ifPakistan is unstable, that’s bad for India. If Pakistan is stable and prosperous, that’s good.Because India is on the move. And it is absolutely in your interests, at a time when you’restarting to succeed in incredible ways on the global economic stage, that you [don’t] wantthe distraction of security instability in your region. So my hope is, is that over time trustdevelops between the two countries, that dialogue begins — perhaps on less controversialissues, building up to more controversial issues — and that over time there’s a recognitionthat India and Pakistan can live side by side in peace and that both countries can prosper.That will not happen tomorrow. But I think that needs to be our ultimate goal.
And by the way, the United States stands to be a friend and a partner in that process, butwe can’t impose that on India and Pakistan. Ultimately, India and Pakistan have to arriveat their own understandings in terms of how the relationship evolves.
Okay. I’ve got time for one more question. It’s a guy’s turn. This young man right here, inthe striped shirt.
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. President. It’s an absolute honor to hear you, and I must say this,that one day I hope I be half as good as a leader as you are today.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re very kind. Thank you.
Q: Mr. President, my question relates to your Afghanistan policy. In light of yourstatements that the troop withdrawal would start in 2011, there have been recentdevelopments that would indicate that USA has been in talks with Taliban so as to strikeout a stable government in Afghanistan as when you withdraw. Now, does this point tothe acceptance of the inevitability of the U.S. to fulfill the vision which they had, withwhich they invaded Afghanistan in 2001? Does it point out to their inability to take amilitary control of all the southern regions so that we can install a stable government?You notice that in Iraq where there’s a lot of instability now. So does it point to a sort oftacit acceptance of U.S. inability to create harmony in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I want to just unpack some of the assumptions inside thequestion because they were broadly based in fact, but I want to be very precise here.I have said that starting in the summer of next year, July 2011, we will begin drawingdown our troop levels, but we will not be removing all our troops. Keep in mind that weramped up significantly because the idea was that for seven years we had just been in aholding pattern; we’d had just enough troops to keep Kabul intact but the rest of thecountryside was deteriorating in fairly significant ways. There wasn’t a real strategy. Andmy attitude was, I don’t want to, seven years from now, or eight years from now, be in theexact same situation. That’s not a sustainable equilibrium.
So I said, let’s put more troops in to see if we can create more space and stability andtime for Afghan security forces to develop, and then let’s begin drawing down our troopsas we’re able to stand up Afghan security forces.
Now, in fact, it turns out that in Iraq — you mentioned Iraq as a parallel — in Iraq, wehave been relatively successful in doing that. The government is taking way too long toget formed, and that is a source of frustration to us and I’m sure to the Iraq people.Having said that, though, if you think about it, it’s been seven months since the election,and violence levels are actually lower in Iraq than they’ve been just about any time sincethe war started — at a time when we pulled back our forces significantly. So it shows thatit is possible to train effective, indigenous security forces so that they can provide theirown security. And hopefully politics then resolves differences, as opposed to violence.Now, Afghan, I think is actually more complicated, more difficult, probably because it’sa much poorer country. It does not have as strong a tradition of a central government.Civil service is very underdeveloped. And so I think that the pace at which we’re drawingdown is going to be determined in part by military issues, but it’s also going to bedetermined by politics. And that is, is it possible for a sizeable portion of the Pashtunpopulation in Afghanistan that may be teetering back and forth between Taliban or acentral government, is it possible for them to feel that their ethnicity, their culture, theirnumerical position in the country is adequately represented, and can they do that withinthe context of a broader constitutional Afghan government.
And I think that’s a worthy conversation to have. So what we’ve said to President Karzai– because this is being initiated by him — what we’ve said is if former Taliban membersor current Taliban members say that they are willing to disassociate themselves with alQaeda, renounce violence as a means of achieving their political aims, and are willing torespect the Afghan constitution so that, for example, women are treated with all the rightthat men are afforded, then, absolutely, we support the idea of a political resolution ofsome of these differences.
Now, there are going to be some elements that are affiliated to the Taliban that are alsoaffiliated with al Qaeda or LT or these other organizations, these extremists that areirreconcilable. They will be there. And there will need to be a military response to thosewho would perpetrate the kind of violence that we saw here in Mumbai in a significantongoing way — or the kind that we saw on 9/11 in New York City.
But I think a stable Afghanistan is achievable. Will it look exactly as I might design ademocracy? Probably not. It will take on an Afghan character.
I do think that there are lessons that India has to show not just countries like Afghanistanbut countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I mean, some of the incredible work that I saw beingdone in the agricultural sector is applicable to widely dispersed rural areas in a place likeAfghanistan and could — I promise you, if we can increase farmers’ yields in Afghanistanby 20 percent or 25 percent, and they can get their crops to market, and they’re cuttingout a middleman and they’re ending up seeing a better standard of life for themselves,that goes a long way in encouraging them to affiliate with a modern world.
And so India’s investment in development in Afghanistan is appreciated. Pakistan has tobe a partner in this process. In fact, all countries in the region are going to be partners inthis process. And the United States welcomes that. We don’t think we can do this alone.But part of our — and this is probably a good way to end — part of my strong belief is thataround the world, your generation is poised to solve some of my generation’s mistakesand my parents’ generation’s mistakes. You’ll make your own mistakes, but there’s suchincredible potential and promise for you to start pointing in new directions in terms ofhow economies are organized, in terms of how moral precepts and values and principlesare applied, in how nations work together to police each other so that they’re not — sothat when there’s genocide or there is ethnic cleansing, or there are gross violations ofhuman rights, that an international community joins together and speaks with one voice;so that economic integration isn’t a source of fear or anxiety, but rather is seen asenormous promise and potential; where we’re able to tackle problems that we can’t solveby ourselves.
I went to a lower school — do you call them high schools here? It’s sort of a high school.And Michelle and I saw this wonderful exhibit of global warming and the concerns thatthese young people have — they were 14, 15. And their energy and their enthusiasm wasinfectious. And I asked them, which one of you are going to be scientists who are goingto try to solve this problem? And all of them raised their hands. And I said, well, this ishugely important for India. And they said, no, not for India — for the world.
You see, their ambitions were not just to be great scientists for India. Their ambition wasto be a great scientist for the world — because they understood that something likeclimate change or clean energy, that’s not an American problem or an Indian problem –that’s a human problem. And all of us are going to have to be involved in findingsolutions to it.
And as I listen to all of you, with your wonderful questions, I am incredibly optimisticand encouraged that you will help find those solutions in the years to come.So, thank you very much for your hospitality. Thank you, everybody.
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