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Press Release on the party hosted by Ambassador Ronen Sen for National Press Club Members

Washington, DC
August 12, 2006 

Ambassador and Mrs. Ronen Sen hosted a party at their residence on August 12, for around 300 members of the National Press Club. Speaking on the occasion, Sen said that the purpose of the event was to salute the role of journalists in India and the United States in safeguarding democracy and promoting international understanding. He pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi was not only an apostle of peace and nonviolence and the leader of India’s freedom struggle, but an active journalist associated with six journals. Gandhi had founded and edited his first journal in South Africa in 1903, and continued its publication for over a decade, except for what he described were “intervals of enforced rest in prison”. Gandhi saw his role as a journalist as a proponent of independent thinking, without fear or malice, and as a seeker of truth and justice. Sen also recalled that Jawaharlal Nehru had promoted freedom of the press as an essential aspect of our democracy. Nehru held long and inter-active press conferences every month, with the agenda for each conference determined by journalists present. While inaugurating the publication of “Shankar’s Weekly” in 1949, Nehru told the famous cartoonist “don’t spare me, Shankar”. Years later this was the title of a bulky compilation on Shankar’s cartoons mostly featuring Nehru, who had the capacity to tolerate barbs and laugh at himself.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Myron Belkind, Chairman of the International Correspondents Committee of the National Press Club, pointed out how things had changed since he went to India in 1966 on his first assignment as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. Foreign correspondents in India during that era wrote about food shortages, economic stagnation and deteriorating relations between India and the US. Today, foreign correspondents write about the food self-sufficiency of a population of 1.1 billion people, the second fastest growing economy in the world and the closest ever relations between US and India in many areas, including economic, scientific and technological, defence and nuclear cooperation. Belkind said the common threads that knit together the themes of foreign correspondents based in India over the last six decades are its rich diversity, its free and active press as well as the fact that it is the world’s largest democracy. He pointed out that when once confronted with an enquiry from an irate US Secretary of State as to what India had ever done for the US, the response given by Chester Bowles, former US Ambassador to India, was, “India has survived as a democracy.”

Vice President Jerry Zremski proposed a toast to the 60th Independence Day of India (which falls on August 15, 2006) and thanked Sen and his wife, Kalpana, on behalf of the National Press Club for their hospitality. In his words, “I have been a member of the Press Club since 1989 and I cannot remember any Embassy ever showing this level of hospitality.”