Jimmy Carter photo

New Delhi, India Remarks Before the Indian Parliament.

January 02, 1978

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, distinguished leaders of the Republic of India:

I stand before you in this house, the seat of one of the world's greatest legislatures, with feelings of profound friendship and respect.

I bring with me the warm greetings and good wishes of the people of the second largest democracy on Earth, the United States of America, to the people of the largest democracy, the Republic of India.

Not long ago, both of our people's governments passed through grave crises. In different ways, the values for which so many have lived and died were threatened. In different ways, and on opposite sides of the world, these values have now been triumphant.

It is sometimes argued that the modern industrial state—with its materialism, its centralized bureaucracies, and the technological instruments of control available to those who hold power—must inevitably lose sight of the democratic ideal.

The opposite argument is made even more frequently. There are those who say that democracy is a kind of rich man's plaything, and that the poor are too pre• occupied with survival to care about the luxury of freedom and the right to choose their own government.

This argument is repeated all over the world—mostly, I have noticed, by persons whose own bellies are full and who speak from positions of privilege and power in their own societies.

Their argument reminds me of a statement made by a great President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. He said, "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

The evidence, both in India and in America, is plain. It is that there is more than one form of hunger, and neither the rich nor the poor will feel satisfied without being fed in body and in spirit.

Is democracy important? Is human freedom valued by all people?

India has given her affirmative action and answer in a thunderous voice, a voice heard around the world. Something momentous happened here last March—not because any party in particular won or lost, but rather, I think, because the largest electorate on Earth freely and wisely chose its leaders at the polls. In this sense, democracy itself was the victor in your country.

Together, we understand that in the field of politics, freedom is the engine of progress. India and America share practical experience with democracy.

We in the United States are proud of having achieved political union among a people whose ancestors come from all over the world. Our system strives to respect the rights of a great variety of minorities, including, by the way, a growing and productive group of families from your own country, India.

But the challenge of political union is even greater here in your own country. In the diversity of languages, religions, political opinions, and racial and cultural groups, India is comparable to the continent of Europe, which has a total population about the same size as your own. Yet India has forged her vast mosaic of humanity into a single great nation that has weathered many challenges to survival both as a nation and as a democracy. This is surely one of the greatest political achievements of this century or any other century.

India and the United States are at one in recognizing the right of free speech-which Mahatma Gandhi called "the foundation-stone of Swaraj" or self-government and the rights of academic freedom, trade union organization, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

All these rights are recognized in international covenants. There are few governments which do not at least pay lip service to them. And yet, to quote Gandhi once more, "No principle exists in the abstract. Without its concrete application it has no meaning."

In India, as in the United States, these rights do have concrete application, and they have real meaning, too. It is to preserve these rights that both our nations have chosen similar political paths to the development of our resources and to the betterment of the life of our people.

There are differences between us in the degree to which economic growth is pursued through public enterprise on one hand and private enterprise on the other hand. But more important than these differences is our shared belief that the political structure in which development takes place should be democratic and should respect the human rights of each and every citizen in our countries.

Our two nations also agree that human needs are inseparable from human rights; that while civil and political liberties are good in themselves, they are much more useful and much more meaningful in the lives of people to whom physical survival is not a matter of daily anxiety.

To have sufficient food to live and to work; to be adequately sheltered and clothed; to live in a healthy environment and to be healed when sick; to learn and to be taught—these rights, too, must be the concerns of our governments. To meet these ends orderly economic growth is crucial. And if the benefits of growth are to reach those whose need is greatest, social justice is critical as well.

India is succeeding in this historic task. Your economic challenges are no secret, and their seriousness is well understood in the West.

But what is far less well understood is the degree to which Indian social and economic policy has been such a success. In the single generation since your independence was gained, extraordinary progress has been made.

India is now a major industrial power. Your economy ranks among the 10 largest in the whole world. You are virtually self-assured and self-sufficient in consumer goods and in a wide variety of other products, such as iron and steel.

There have been notable increases in production in nearly every important sector of your economy—increases which reflect an economy of great technological sophistication. This kind of growth is doubly important to try to reduce trade barriers and to promote both bilateral trade and mutual responsibility for the whole world's trading system.

But most important are the advances in human welfare that have touched the lives of ordinary Indians. Life expectancy has increased by 20 years since your independence. The threat of major epidemics has receded. The literacy rate in your country has doubled. While only a third of Indian children went to school in the years just after independence,. nearly 90 percent of primary-age Indian children now receive schooling. Nine times as many students go to universities as they did before.

I mention these gains that we tend to overlook in our preoccupation with the problems that quite properly face and engage our attention.

India's difficulties, which we often experience ourselves and which are typical of the problems faced in the developing world, remind us of the task which lie ahead.

But India's successes are just as important, because they decisively refute the theory that in order to achieve economic and social progress, a developing country must accept an authoritarian or a totalitarian government, with all the damage to the health of the human spirit which comes with it.

We are eager to join with you in maintaining and improving our valuable and mature partnership of political and economic cooperation.

It's a sobering fact, for instance, that in a nation of so many hundreds of millions of people, only a few American business leaders are now involved, on a daily basis, in the economic and commercial life of your country.

We need to identify more areas where we can work together for mutual benefit and, indeed, for the benefit of the whole world.

In the area of development, I am deeply impressed with the creative direction that the Government of India has taken in the new economic statement. You have committed your nation unequivocally to rural improvement and the creation of rural employment. This policy now faces a test of implementation and, especially, the test of bringing its benefits to the very poorest areas of your rural population. The seriousness and the determination, however, of your commitment is a cause for optimism.

We want to learn from you and to work with you however we can.

In agriculture, there are also exciting new areas of technology on which we can work together. After a decade of importing grain, India now stands with a surplus of nearly 20 million tons. This is a tribute to the growing productivity of your agriculture and the competence, also, of your administrative services.

We applaud the grain reserve program that you've begun, and we would welcome the opportunity to share with you our resources and our experience in dealing with storage problems that surpluses bring with them.

Our countries must be in the forefront of the effort to bring into existence the international food reserve that would mitigate the fear of famine in the rest of the world. At the same time, we must recognize that today's surpluses are likely to be a temporary phenomenon. The best estimates indicate that unless new productive capacity is developed, the whole world with its rapidly growing population may be facing large food shortages in the mid-1980's.

The greatest opportunities to increase agricultural productivity exist here in India and elsewhere in the developing world. These opportunities must be seized not just so that Indians can eat better, but so that India can remain self-sufficient and, perhaps, even continue to export food to countries with less agricultural potential than you have.

In the past, America and India have scored monumental achievements in working together in the agricultural field. But there is still a vast, unrealized potential to be tapped.

I would like to see an intensified agricultural research program aimed both at improving productivity in India and at developing processes that could then be used elsewhere. This program could be based in the agricultural universities of our two countries, but would also extend across the whole frontier of research. And beyond research, I would like to identify joint development projects where research can be tested and put to work.

Perhaps Prime Minister Desai and I may now instruct our governments to focus on these matters and to come up with specific proposals within the next few months.

One of the most promising areas for international cooperation, which I have already discussed with your Prime Minister, is in the regions of eastern India and Bangladesh, where alternating periods of drought and flood cut cruelly into food production. Several hundred million people live in this area. They happen to be citizens of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Great progress has already been made between your nations in resolving questions concerning water. And we are prepared to give our support when the regional states request a study that will define how the international community, in cooperation with the nations of South Asia, can help the peoples of this area use water from the rivers and the mountains to achieve the productivity that is inherent in the land and the people.

Sustained economic growth requires a strong base in energy as well as in agriculture. Energy is a serious problem in both our countries, for both of us import oil at levels that can threaten our economic health and expose us, even, to danger if supplies are interrupted. American firms are already working with Indians in developing the oil-producing area off the shores of India, near Bombay.

We also have a long record of cooperation in the development of nuclear power, another important element of India's energy plans. Our work together will continue in this field, as well. This is a cold, technological subject. But Prime Minister Desai and I had warm and productive discussions about this field. We have notified him that shipments of nuclear fuel will be made for the Tarapur reactor.

And because of an accident that did occur in your heavy water production plant, we will make available to India, also, supplies from our reserves of heavy water.

Additionally, we stand ready to work with you in developing renewable energy resources, especially solar energy. There is no shortage of sunlight in India. And the lack of a massive, existing infrastructure tied to fossil fuel use will make the application of solar and solar-related energy vastly easier here than it will be in my own country, where we are so heavily dependent upon other sources of energy. However, the inherently decentralized nature of solar energy makes it ideal as a complement to your government's stress on developing self-reliant villages and communities.

The silent void of space may seem remote from these challenges. But the intricate electronics of a space satellite can be as useful to earthbound farmers as a new plow.

The Indian and American Governments will tomorrow exchange diplomatic notes confirming that the United States will program its Landsat Earth resources satellite to transmit data directly to a ground receiving station that India will own and operate.

This satellite service will provide India with comprehensive topographic and minerals information and timely data on the ever-changing condition of weather, agricultural, water, and other natural resources. Under the terms of the agreement, India will make available to neighboring countries any information that affects them.

Also, India has already reserved space on board the American space shuttle in 1981 to initiate a domestic communications satellite system, using a satellite designed to Indian specifications.

We are very pleased that our space technology, together with India's superb space communications capability, will serve the cause of practical progress in your country.

Our scholarly exchanges have already enriched the lives of Americans who participated in them. And I hope the same has been true of Indian participants. In matters of culture and the arts, we know how much we have to gain. Not only India but also the rest of Asia and Africa and the Middle East have much to offer us. I hope to expand the opportunities for our own citizens to appreciate and to enjoy the strong and varied culture in the nations of your part of the world.

In global politics, history has cast our countries in different roles. The United States is one of the so-called super powers; India is the largest of the nonaligned countries. But each of us respects the other's conception of its international responsibilities, and the values that we do share provide a basis for cooperation in attacking the great global problems of economic justice, human rights, and the prevention of war.

This pursuit of justice and peace and the building of a new economic order must be undertaken in ways that promote constructive development rather than fruitless confrontation. Every country will suffer if the North-South dialog is permitted to founder.

Because India is both a developing country and also an industrial power, you are in a unique position to promote constructive international discussion about trade, energy, investment, balance of payments, technology, and other questions. I welcome your playing this worldwide leadership role.

I know that there will be times when we will disagree on specific issues and even on general approaches to larger problems. But I hope and believe that our shared interests and our common devotion to democratic values will help us to move toward agreement on important global and bilateral issues.

But neither of us seeks to align with the other except in the pursuit of peace and justice. We can even help each other to alleviate differences which might exist between ourselves and other nations.

Our two countries are part of a democratic world that includes nations in all stages of development, from Sweden and Japan to Sri Lanka and Costa Rica.

We share many common problems. But we also share an obligation to advance human rights—not by interfering in the affairs of other nations, not by trying to deny other nations the right to choose their own political and social system, but by speaking the truth as we see it and by providing an admirable example of what democracy can mean and what it can accomplish.

The danger of war threatens everyone, and the United States is trying to help reduce that danger—in the SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union, in talks aimed at a comprehensive ban of the testing of all nuclear explosives anywhere on Earth, and in our own policy of restraint on conventional arms transfers. We are also working hard to restrict the proliferation of nuclear explosives.

We are seeking to help the process of peace in Africa and the Middle East. And we are taking steps to forestall, along with the Soviets, great power rivalry and the escalation of military presence in your own Indian Ocean.

India is pledged to peaceful cooperation with your neighbors, and India is an important part of almost any United Nations peacekeeping force. India is a present and frequent member of the Security Council and has been in the forefront of campaigns against colonialism and against apartheid.

The motto of my country is "In God We Trust;" India's is Satyameva Jayte-"Truth Alone Prevails." I believe that such is the commonality of our fundamental values that your motto could be ours, and perhaps our motto could also be yours.

Our nations share the goals of peace in the world and human development in our own societies. And we share, as well, the conviction that the means that we employ to reach these goals must be as much in keeping with the principles of freedom and human dignity and social justice as are the goals themselves.

This affinity of belief is as strong a tie as there can be between any two nations on Earth. The values that Americans and Indians share have deeply affected my own life. I come to you as a national leader, yes, in the hope that my visit will mark a new and a higher stage in the steadily improving relations between our two countries.

But in a more personal sense—a sense that is very close to my own heart—I come also as a pilgrim.

This morning I had the honor of laying a wreath on the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. In that sacred place, so simple and so serene, I recalled anew the ways in which Gandhi's teachings have touched the lives of so many millions of people in my own country.

When I was growing up on a farm in the State of Georgia, in the heart of the Southern United States, an invisible wall of racial segregation stood between me and my black classmates, schoolmates, playmates, when we were old enough to know what segregation was. But it seemed then as if that wall between us would exist forever.

But it did not stand forever. It crumbled and fell. And though the rubble has not yet been completely removed, it no longer separates us from one another, blighting the lives of those on both sides of it.

Among the many who marched and suffered and bore witness against the evil of racial prejudice, the greatest was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a son of Georgia and a spiritual son of Mahatma Gandhi.

The most important influence in the life and work of Dr. King, apart from his own religious faith, was the life and work of Gandhi. Martin Luther King took Gandhi's concepts of nonviolence and truth-force and put them to work in the American South.

Like Gandhi, King believed that truth and love are the strongest forces in the universe. Like Gandhi, he knew that ordinary people, armed only with courage and faith, could overcome injustice by appealing to the spark of good in the heart, even, of the evil-doer.

Like Gandhi, we all learned that a system of oppression damages those at the top as surely as it does those at the bottom. And for Martin Luther King, like Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolence was not only a political method, it was a way of life and a spiritual path to union with the ultimate.

These men set a standard of courage and idealism that few of us can meet, but from which all of us can draw inspiration and sustenance.

The nonviolent movement for racial justice in the United States, a movement inspired in large measure by the teachings and examples of Gandhi and other Indian leaders—some of whom are here today—changed and enriched my own life and the lives of many millions of my countrymen.

I am sure you will forgive me for speaking about this at some length. I do so because I want you all to understand that when I speak of friendship between the United States and India, I speak from the heart as well as the head. I speak from a deep, firsthand knowledge of what the relationship between our two countries has meant in the past and how much more, even, it can mean for all of us in the future.

For the remainder of this century and into the next, the democratic countries of the world will increasingly turn to each other for answers to our most pressing common challenge: how our political and spiritual values can provide the basis for dealing with the social and economic strains to which they will unquestionably be subjected.

The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself—always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent, and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity.

We share that experience with you, and we draw strength from it. Whatever the differences between my country and yours, we are moving along the path of democracy toward a common goal of human development. I speak for all Americans when I say that I am deeply grateful that you and I travel that road together. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:33 p.m. at Parliament House. In his opening remarks, he referred to B. D. Jatti, Vice President of India, Prime Minister Desai, who had introduced him, and K. S. Hegde, Speaker of the House of the People.

Jimmy Carter, New Delhi, India Remarks Before the Indian Parliament. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244953

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