Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India at the State Dinner
The President. It's been a personal pleasure for me to welcome Prime Minister Gandhi back to this city and to this house today.
The Prime Minister and I and Secretary Shultz and other members of our government have had a long and meaningful discussion on a wide range of subjects. Often we came at these subjects from different perspectives born of different national experiences and roles in the world. But throughout I have been struck by the strength, the intelligence, and the determination of the Prime Minister, not only in explaining her views but in seeking a clear understanding of ours. The dialog of discovery that we began at Cancun matured in our discussions today and will, I trust, bear important fruit in the days and years ahead.
During our recent visit to Europe I had the honor of addressing a joint session of the British Parliament. It seemed fitting to build my speech around the concept of democracy which that "Mother of Parliaments" represents. We sought to articulate the deep and abiding faith of the American people placed in our democratic institutions and the idea that an immutable bond draws democratic countries together.
One of the nations I singled out was India. I chose India in that speech for two reasons. India's experience since independence exemplifies the gathering strength of the democratic revolution. And India stands in eloquent refutation of all those who argue that democratic institutions are not equal to the task of dealing with today's problems, or are irrelevant to the needs of today's developing nations. For these reasons, India serves as a beacon not only to developing nations which seek to emulate its experience but to all of us who seek renewal of our faith in democracy.
You can understand, Madam Prime Minister, why we are honored to have you here. It's not only because you're the leader of a great nation, one whose history, civilization, size, and influence on the world command our attention and respect, but also because you're the representative of a family which has been in so many ways the architect of that nation.
The contributions which your family has made to India most closely parallel in our history the Adams family. They came from Massachusetts, not Kashmir. They came—by coincidence they were often referred to as Boston Brahmins. [Laughter] And theirs, too, was a tradition of scholarship, sacrifice, and public service. Successive generations of Adamses contributed to our national development, first by struggling for independence and articulating our national ideals, then through years of selfless effort toward their attainment. So you, Madam Prime Minister, your father, and each of your sons have served India.
Lord Bolingbroke's description of the Adams family is equally appropriate for your family's contribution to India. "They are the guardian angels of the country they inhabit, studious to avert the most distant evil and to procure peace, plenty, and the greatest of human blessings, liberty."
The recent summit at Versailles proved once again, as I told the British Parliament, that even in times of severe economic strain, free peoples can work together freely and voluntarily to address problems as serious as inflation, unemployment, trade, and economic development in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity. In our bilateral relationship as well, democratic principles are the foundation on which we can build the framework of a lasting and durable friendship. The day-to-day reality of our close ties, whether in the fields of education, the arts, science, or commerce, all flow from the same basic understanding that although our countries may travel separate paths from time to time, our destination remains the same.
For my part, Madam Prime Minister, our talks today were particularly useful in reaffirming the inherent strength of our relationship. Our frank discussions have contributed greatly to the stripping away of stereotypes which have sometimes surrounded our relations. We look forward now to a renewal of cooperation based on the shared understanding of our common values and our common aspirations.
In this spirit, Madam Prime Minister, I raise my glass to you as the distinguished leader of a great sister democracy and to the friendship between our two proud, free peoples.
The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished guests:
Entering the White House, one cannot but think of the men of vision and energy and the women of character and grace who have lived here, who have influenced people's minds and the course of world events. Awesome indeed are the responsibilities of the United States and its President. In far-off India, at a time when communications were not as satisfactory, our own freedom struggle drew inspiration from the makers of your nation. How farseeing and wise they were, and how well they built.
The first President, who chose this site, had a simple wish, and I quote: "I hope ever to see America amongst the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality." Since those words were uttered, the United States has become the world's foremost country in wealth, in technology, and in vigor of intellect. The combination of these qualities is indeed something of which you can be justifiably proud.
America has grown through challenge, not conformism. To quote a historian: "America was born of revolt, flourished in dissent, and became great through experimentation."
Our challenges in India have not been less. We have charted our own course, fortunate in leaders who took sustenance from our timeless philosophy, as well as modern concepts, putting them to work as instruments of action.
Our national movement reinforced the age-old unity which had held our country together through the ups and downs of history, across the shifting borders of hundreds of kingdoms, and bridging succeeding dynasties. After independence it was our task to usher in a more egalitarian society which would ensure social and economic justice to all regardless of religion, caste, language, or sex. For us economic progress means not only material well-being but moving nearly 500 million from one age to another, with the minimum dislocation or alienation from their roots.
Few things are good or bad in themselves. Their effect and importance lies in what one makes of them. Tradition, especially ours, which has been a factor for unity, for tolerance, and harmony, and for our people's cultural literacy, can be used as a tool, paradoxical though it may sound, for change and modernity. Life for a person or a country is a series of choices, not between the correct and the incorrect, which a computer can make, but in terms of opting for a course which will be consistent with our ethos and individuality, our past history and future aspirations.
Our struggle for independence was nonviolent. We chose democracy based on the British system but with some modifications, and the American Constitution influenced the shaping of our own Constitution. Our planning is not for regimentation, but to help us to take rational decisions and meet the competing demands of different sections of society and regions.
In India, as in the U.S.A., we have a private sector as well as a public sector. I see no conflict between the two. We have persevered in the face of criticism, of aggression, of different types of interferences. We are not satisfied with our success; we could have done better. Yet, notwithstanding the tremendous odds, we have moved forward.
There has been significant progress in agriculture and industry, in science and technology, and in the social services. The very fact that life expectancy has gone up by 20 years indicates improvement in living and working conditions. We aim at self-reliance. So, it is befitting that 90 percent of the resources needed for this gigantic endeavor of modernizing the country have come from our own people, impoverished though they are thought to be. But the remaining 10 percent or so is important, for that represents the inflow of modern technology.
In this we have been helped by the United States, by countries of Western and Eastern Europe, and several international institutions. We particularly appreciate American technical assistance. In consonance with our independent stand, we take cooperation in science, trade, or defense requirements from wherever it suits our national interest.
If India were considered in economic or military terms, it would not count. Yet our voice is heard, because in spite of our poverty and economic backwardness and often looking beyond our immediate interests, we have fearlessly spoken up for the rights of the underprivileged and the threatened and have championed the cause of peace and freedom. We have always viewed our problems in the much larger perspective of global problems.
Our foreign policy is one of friendship for all, hence our nonalignment. We are against the involvement of foreign troops or any other interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We believe in negotiations rather than the use of arms in settling disputes.
India is a large area of stability in South Asia. Undoubtedly its strengthening will help to stabilize and strengthen the entire region.
It is good that meetings between heads of state and government, individually and at conferences, are taking place more often. They do take us away from urgent tasks at home, but national and international problems are increasingly interlinked. Cancun dealt with various global issues, Versailles with the economic and other problems of the North, touching also on North-South questions. At the New Delhi Meeting of Developing Countries, the focus was on cooperation between themselves.
On earlier occasions I have pointed out that the future of advanced and developing countries is so closely intertwined that cooperation would benefit both. This is not merely a question of social justice and equity. My own view is that developing countries can contribute significantly to the emerging world economic order. Theirs are the potentially large markets which would help developed countries like the United States to maintain higher profitability on their investment, higher rates of growth, and to generate more employment.
To our minds there are three main causes of the present disturbing situation: the growth of armaments; the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, both between and within nations; and the thoughtless wounding of our Earth.
The world is one, yet we treat it as many, giving different names to the segments. As they are politically used, the words, East and West, North and South, are not even geographically apt. More than 3,000 years ago, when the world was greener, the sages of my country wrote an ode to the Earth. It is so pertinent today that I should like to share some lines with you.
"Do not push me from the west or from the east, or from the north or the south;
Be gracious to us, O Earth; let not those find us who waylay people on the road;
Take deadly weapons far away from us."
Mr. President, may I say how much I appreciate your invitation to me. In a world where crises so swiftly follow one another, it is important to keep in touch and exchange views even if one cannot agree on all points.
We have had, as you have just told us, discussions which have been important and useful to us and, I think, which have created better understanding. I thank you once again, and Mrs. Reagan, for your gracious hospitality, for this delightful evening in such elegant and impressive surroundings.
May I now ask you all, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in a toast to the health of the President and the gracious First Lady, to the well-being of the American people, and to friendship between our two countries.
Note: The President spoke at 9:37 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.
Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/246214