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Remarks by External Affairs Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee at Luncheon in honour of US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Hyderabad House
October 4, 2008

Madam Secretary,
Hon’ble Cabinet Colleagues and my Colleagues in Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you all here. I am particularly happy that the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, is here today with us.

Madam Secretary, you are a true friend of India. Under your stewardship as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, we have transformed our relationship and deepened our strategic partnership. No Secretary of State of the United States has done more for this relationship than you have. You had conceptualized it even before taking office, and have seen your ideas implemented in action. This is a rare achievement in practical politics.

Madam Secretary, you come to India at a special moment. Our relations have never been better. And their prospects continue to improve. The road that we are embarked upon is one of engagement in all the various fields of human endeavour, bringing benefits to our peoples. The civil nuclear initiative which you have personally piloted through the US Congress is the most visible sign of this. We welcome the fact that the Agreement has been approved by the US Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. This outcome would not been possible without the personal commitment of President Bush and your unremitting efforts. We are now in the last lap. We look forward to cooperating with the US in signing and bringing the 123 Agreement into effect, and moving on to the commercial arrangements.

The transformed India-US relationship that we have built includes cooperation in defence, in energy, in agriculture, in education and in high technology. We are also working together on global issues such as counter-terrorism and climate change. The US is today India’s largest trading partner and our largest source of investment. As we attempt to build a knowledge society and economy in India, our links will only grow.

Madam Secretary,

As two democracies and open societies, we share values, bonds and friendships at all levels. It is the vision of President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which has enabled the transformation of our relationship. From the leaders’ level to the individual relationships between our peoples we find a natural synergy and sympathy. Indians are at home in the US and the Indian- American community constitutes a tangible link between us. So do the 84,000 Indian students in the US. It is in recognition of the importance of education to our future that we have recently agreed to expand and improve the Fulbright Nehru Scholarship Programme.

When I look to the future I am confident that our relations will continue to improve, not only because of the tremendous potential of our bilateral relationship but also because our relations have regional and global significance. I am sure that what we have done together in the last few years has not just laid a foundation but has actually built an edifice that our successors can expand and populate.

With these few words allow me Madam Secretary, to welcome you again to New Delhi. I look forward to our talks and wish you a pleasant and productive stay in India during the rest of your visit.