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Toasts of the President and President N.S. Reddy at a State Dinner in New Delhi, India

January 02, 1978

PRESIDENT REDDY. We are happy to have you with us this evening. My people associate America as a land of liberty, and they look upon you, Mr. President, as a leader who has sought to restore the relevance of moral and spiritual values.

The year just ended will long be remembered in the annals of our two nations. The people of the United States of America elected you to the White House to heal the wounds of a decade of conflicts and divisions. In India, our general elections gave proof that in a democracy the will of the people is the ultimate arbiter of power. Your visit provides the opportunity to establish closer personal contacts between the newly elected and like-minded leaders of our two countries and to strengthen the deep affinities between us. I welcome you on behalf of my people and my government.

Notwithstanding the ideals which we share, we have varied emphasis in our priorities and in our international preoccupations. Paradoxically, the very adherence to similar political systems has at times exaggerated our misunderstandings and blurred our affinities.

The world situation as it appears has materially changed. Many new countries have attained independent nationhood. Detente, coexistence, and even cooperation between countries with different political and social systems have come to be recognized as having an inexorable logic for our interdependent planet. Ideologies are in the process of being domesticated, and pluralism amongst nations is seen as a factor of stability, rather than a threat to international peace. The prospect of nuclear war has given a new meaning to the search for peace on Earth. Nonalignment is much less misunderstood. If there is a bipolarity today, it is between forces seeking stability and cooperation and those which seek to obstruct orderly and progressive solutions to world problems.

The growing chasm between the developing and developed world may in the future lead to increasing, dangerous tensions. The world of the rich and the poor face a common doom if we cannot act together to protect the earth, the air, and water from plunder and pollution.

What we have admired in the short period of your Presidency is your sensitivity not just to the problems of your own country but to the dark shadows on peace and international stability. You have made the international community aware of the rights of individuals, be they at home or in other distant lands, and the responsibilities we have to uphold of the common man's inherent demand for liberty, equality, and justice.

Mr. President, the world today commands the resources, the technology, and also, I believe, the wisdom to fashion a stabler and just international order. The time has come for the United States and India, along with like-minded countries, to work together so that overriding, narrow national interests may be persuaded to see the wisdom of making necessary adjustments and sacrifices to help establish a new international economic order. The dangerous imbalances which exist must be corrected, the specter of poverty removed, and the creeping despondency in cooperative solutions banished.

Mr. President, we recognize that the role we in India can play in the resolution of international problems can only come from dynamic economic growth and the establishment of an equitable society in our own land. Our people have demonstrated the capacity to learn and to innovate, but to fulfill their modest expectations is, in itself, a gigantic task. Our achievements, however, give us courage and confidence.

We have laid the foundations for our progress on a wide front covering principally agriculture, industry, and more important, the indigenization of scientific and technological know-how. Our economy has been relieved of the endemic anxieties arising from the paucity of food production and difficulties in balance of payments. We are in the process of reviewing our priorities so that a greater share of the benefits of planned socio-economic development reach the economically weaker sections of society. We have recognized the dangers from uncontrolled urbanization and are determined to make our villages economically resilient.

Social and economic transformation through democratic methods may at times appear slow. Certainly in a democratic setup, failure attracts more attention, both at home and abroad, than progress actually made towards social and economic goals. We seek neither to minimize our tasks nor conceal our failures. We are fully convinced that, in the end, a democracy gathers vigor from open dissent, and a consensus makes for firmer foundations. What we ask of the international community, and that too as a supplement to our own national efforts, is constructive cooperation or at least a benign understanding of our endeavors.

On the wider canvas, my government remains faithful to the fundamental principles of our foreign policy. The remnants of colonialism and racialism, where they still exist, must go. Racialism, which certainly persists in Africa in defiance of international opinion, must give way to governments representative of the majority.

We believe this is no time for increasing but, rather, arresting and eliminating great power deployment in the hitherto tension-free areas such as the Indian Ocean.

We welcome the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on the limitations of strategic weapons and efforts to consolidate detente.

Faithful to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, India will always be on the side of the peaceful resolution of international disputes. We are determined to be true to the friendships which have served our national interests. We are equally convinced that in keeping with contemporary realities, we can widen and intensify our relations, to mutual advantage, with many countries.

In the final instance, peace will remain fragile if nuclear weapons, capable of such annihilative destruction, are kept and multiplied. We appreciate the concern and sincerity which you have expressed at these dangers and the efforts you are making to arrest the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

For our part, we have unilaterally abjured the development of such means of mass destruction. But, Mr. President, we hope that you will agree with the dangers of nuclear war, by accident or design, will remain, until such time as all nations, without arbitrary distinctions, join in a firm commitment for the progressive reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons from all parts of the world. The challenge demands not just restraints from nuclear weapons but pledges by the nuclear "haves" to turn away from the use of this instrument of modern science for military purposes. But, in the meanwhile, must countries who have no nuclear weapons be inhibited from using nuclear science as an instrument for economic transformation? I would like to emphasize with a full sense of responsibility that India, for her part, will not indulge in the perverse use of nuclear science.

Mr. President, our bilateral cooperation has been rich in range and content. My government acknowledges the debt of gratitude we owe to the United States, which has provided us generous aid when we were in need. Your assistance has been an important factor in our development and in the progress towards the diversification of our economy.

Of all the many-sided links between us, I would particularly like to recall that students and technologists trained in American institutions have, on return, grafted their acquired knowledge and skills to our national development.

Multifaceted and beneficial as has been our bilateral relationship, the range and sophistication has a wide scope for further development. It is for these reasons that we believe that the Indo-U.S. Joint Commission and its three subcommissions merit fuller encouragement and support.

The real cement of our relations goes beyond politics, economics, and technology. It is in the values and emotional involvement of our people. Both for Americans and India, man's communion with God, tolerance and compassion towards his fellow beings are respected as the highest virtues.

The present revulsion from the tensions of modern life and its unending search for material comforts has, we notice, led to a new burst of interest in our spiritual and philosophic heritage.

On another plane, many volunteers-like your esteemed mother—have built bonds of kinship between individuals and families across the oceans. This deep commitment to things of the mind and spirit, the sustained exchanges in the field of art, education, and culture, along with personal relationships, make for strong but invisible bonds which are only possible between open societies.

Mr. President, the rich texture of our relationship should make it immune to misunderstanding and distrust in the future. The quality of our friendship is such that no nation which cherishes international peace and cooperation need fear its potential and suspect it of malevolence.

With shared faith and complementary objectives, Mr. President, the word could go forth from this ancient capital that the friendship between our two large democracies, one rich and powerful and the other underdeveloped but resurgent, is to serve the hopes and aspirations of all mankind and that our objectives are not only relevant now but will remain valid through time.

Our vision must be of a world which would safeguard nations in their diversity and where man may achieve social justice, dignity, and fulfillment.

It is with a sense of historic significance on this occasion that I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to raise your glasses to the health of the President of the United States of America and Mrs. Carter, to the high ideas and enlightened interests which bind India and the United States. To your health.

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Reddy and Prime Minister Desai, great leaders of the government of India, beautiful women and friends who have made our visit here so enjoyable and productive:

This afternoon in your Parliament I spelled out in quite a lengthy speech the details about relationships which we have as a mutual interest. So, this evening in my brief remarks I would like to comment in a more personal way.

Today was fulfilled in my life a long ambition to visit the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. As I stood there I thought about India and about my own country and about the personal feelings that all of us share as we come to an ancient land which in recent years, with the birth of your hopes and dreams for freedom, has been an inspiration to us all.

This morning your Prime Minister gave me a book that he had written analyzing the Bhagavad-Gita. One passage from that great book stood out in my mind. I can't quote it exactly, Mr. Prime Minister, and I can't interpret it well, but it said when a country is flooded, the reservoirs become superfluous. Sri Krishna went on to explain what he meant in this message, that when one's heart is filled completely with an awareness of our love for God, the other considerations in life are incidental. And one need not worry about the outcome of an action, but should worry on a momentary basis about the purposes and the attitudes and one's relation to the eternal.

There is no way to describe in overall terms my feeling about India. So I will have to describe my thoughts in specifics.

My first impression on leaving Air Force One, my plane, was the extreme friendship exhibited to me by the leaders who are assembled at this table. It was a remarkable expression of deference and respect on your part for the country I represent. When all your ministers, many of the members of your Parliament, and the diplomatic corps came to meet us, and the beautiful words that you expressed, Mr. President, to me then, will always be cherished in my heart.

On the drive into the city from the airport, the overwhelming welcome that I received from the hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens assembled on the side of the road was indeed a remarkable experience for me. There was a genuine expression of happiness and good will and friendship on their faces, and their raised hands and smiles made me feel, indeed, that I was welcome.

I also had a sense of belonging. I didn't feel that I was in an alien land. I think the reason for this is that my family has grown to respect and to love India in the last 10 years. When my mother was 68 years old, she became a member of the Peace Corps and requested that she be sent to India. She is a registered nurse, and she worked in a small clinic in a village of Vikhroli, just north of Bombay. One of the reasons that she requested India—perhaps the most important reason—was tier awareness of what your nation represents as expressed by the commitment and the courage and the humility of Mahatma Gandhi.

So, our family, although this is my first visit, has felt a part of your life. When your former great President Ahmed died, I had just become President of our country. And my mother and my son, who has the same name as I, came to represent the United States during that sorrowful time. So I felt a sense of belonging this afternoon.

In the presence of the members of your Parliament, the welcome that I received there, the attention that was given to my words, a sense of political ties was very strong. Again, I felt that I was in a place which shared commitments and not in a strange place where the form of government was unknown to me; a sense of democracy, a sense that everyone in that assembly hall indeed represented the people of India was something very similar to a person who has served in the government in our own country as well.

I had a thought this morning, too, about the beauty of India, as I stood at the memorial to Gandhi. This is a lovely time of year. And the flowers are bursting forth. I walked for an hour or so this afternoon in the Mortal Garden outside this palace and was impressed by the quietness and a sense of peace, and even in your busy streets and alongside the highways there is a sense of inward beauty among the people, a sense of inward peace in their hearts, and also outward beauty in your buildings, in your trees, and in your flowers.

I also felt a common purpose with you in the principles which we all represent: freedom of speech, a free press, a right to criticize, a right to disagree, open debate, issues thoroughly discussed, changes welcomed, even in a nation which is ancient in its customs and in its traditions.

We share a common measurement of greatness, not power or pomp or ceremony or uniforms or outward show of greatness, but we recognize that greatness is present when the least of those in our nations are treated well and cared for, when their afflictions are eased, and when they have food and education and a healthy life.

I also, Mr. President, shared your words a few moments ago in a hunger for peace, not only in individuals but as a nation and as leaders in the world.

India sets a moral standard for many of us to emulate. And the judgment that is spoken by the leaders of your country makes a great impact on those of us who sometimes have been criticized. We think twice before we incur the disapproval of India and your leaders, because we realize that your standards of morality and justice are very deeply felt.

You have an ability to bridge the gap between those who have a developed society, and you understand in personal terms the hungers and the needs and the yearnings and the unmet aspirations of those who live in nations which are still developing.

The last thing I would like to say is that there has been somewhat of a circle of influence between our country and yours. I'm very proud of my Nation, although most of my words have been in praise of your own. I have read some of the works of Mahatma Gandhi, and I know that he was greatly impressed by our poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and by a man who loved God's world, Henry David Thoreau. I brought your Prime Minister a gift of the collected works of Thoreau because of Ghandi's respect for him.

And when Gandhi learned even more and gave his life in the cause for which he stood, many of our own people learned from him and were inspired by him.

This afternoon, I just mentioned one of our leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., who studied the works of Gandhi and adopted nonviolence and the force of truth as the essence of his own beliefs. And although he never carried a weapon and never struck another human being, but turned his face when he was beaten and suffered many times in jails, he remembered the teachings of Gandhi.

So, from our country to you, and from you back to our country, there is a circle of learning, a circle of mutual trust, a circle of friendship, a circle of respect, and also a circle of shared responsibilities and shared commitments.

The quality of our life is not yet what we would hope. We have many things to learn. We have many grievances to redress. We have many degrees of freedom still left to enhance. We are far short of our dream of peace. But in a democratic society like our own, when the yearnings of every person can make an impact upon the decisions of the leaders, there is always a sure sense that progress will be ever upward.

I would like to propose a toast on behalf of my own Nation and the American citizens who are here tonight, Mr. President: To President Reddy, to Mrs. Reddy, to the distinguished leaders of India, to the great people of India, and to peace throughout the world.

Note: The exchange began at 8:55 p.m. in Ashoka Hall at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts of the President and President N.S. Reddy at a State Dinner in New Delhi, India Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245543

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