Consulate General of India
The 67th Republic Day of India was celebrated at the Consulate General of India with gaiety and enthusiasm on 26th of January 2016.
In the morning, the National Flag was hoisted at the Consulate by Consul General Nagesh Singh. Members of the Consulate, the Indian and Indian-American communities and other friends of India, who were present at the venue, sang the National Anthem, in patriotic spirit. Consul General also read out the message of the President of India delivered on the eve of the Republic Day, to the gathering.
A Dinner/Reception was hosted in the evening by the Consul General & Mrs. Singh at the JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead. More than 350 guests, including members of the Atlanta Consular Corps, Representatives of Georgia State government, County and City officials from Atlanta & neighboring cities, and representatives of political parties, academia, business, press and civil society attended the reception. Consul General delivered a speech highlighting the importance of Republic Day for India and its people. He spoke about the rapidly growing, multifaceted India-US relations and how it has transformed into a “global strategic partnership”. Full text of the speech of Consul General is available at the website of Consulate General of India Atlanta www.indianconsulateatlanta.org and also attached herewith.
A spectacular dance performance was rendered by very talented, young dance students of Kruti Dance Academy of Duluth Georgia.
Remarks at the 67th Republic Day Reception
January 26, 2016, Atlanta
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this reception to mark the 67th Republic Day of India.
I thank you for having accepted our invite and being with us on this most auspicious of days for the people of India, as we celebrate the 67th anniversary of our Republic.
India won its independence on August 15, 1947. However, on January 26, 1950, the Indian people, acting through their duly elected and representative body- the Constituent Assembly, after more than 2 years of deliberations, gave to themselves a Constitution, by which they solemnly resolved to constitute their ancient land into a sovereign, secular, democratic republic. They also resolved to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY, assuring the dignity of the individual
Our Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government, based on universal adult suffrage. It paved the way for what we marvel at today, as the world’s largest democracy, with a registered electorate of more than 800 million people. In the last General Elections held in May 2014, a staggering 530 million voters (66%) exercised their franchise.
Since its inauguration 67 years ago, the Indian Constitution has been successfully guiding the path and progress of our nation, despite the social, economic and political challenges confronting a country of our size, diversity and complexity.
India is a land of almost 1.3 billion people of every ethnic extraction known to humanity. No other country in the world embraces the extraordinary mixture of ethnic groups, the profusion of mutually incomprehensible languages, the varieties of topography and climate, the diversity of religions and cultural practices, and the range of levels of economic development that India does.
The Constitution recognizes 23 languages, but in fact there are 35 Indian languages that are each spoken by more than a million people – and these are languages with their own scripts, grammatical structures and cultural assumptions, not just dialects (and if we are to count dialects, there are more than 22,000).
Eight great religions flourish in our land, if we don’t count the animists. We are the birthplace of four of these major religions. A dozen different traditions of classical dance, seventeen hundred political parties (big and small), and three hundred ways of cooking the potato, exist in India !!! Just to give you a flavor of our diversity.
We have educated the world’s second largest pool of trained scientists, doctors and engineers; and happily shared a large number of them with our close friend, the United States. We build our own super computers. We have reached the Moon and Mars through our space programe. These are testaments of our scientific and technological prowess. At the same time, 20% of our population still remains below the poverty line of less than $2 a day. A slightly higher percentage is afflicted with the curse of illiteracy. I can cite such contradictions in every walk of life.
At independence, conventional wisdom was against the viability of a large, diverse and poor nation state, such as ours. Sir Winston Churchill, opposing Indian independence, famously said “India is merely a geographical expression. It is no more a single country than the Equator.” Obviously the great man was totally off the mark on this one !
So what makes India tick? What is the secret of its unity in such diversity? At a philosophical level, India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru best explained that the country is held together “by strong but invisible threads…. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive.” To this, I would add our liberal democracy, inclusive society and a plural ethos, beautifully codified in our Constitution, which gives every citizen of every race, caste, creed, linguistic group or economic strata, a stake in India’s success.
Since independence, we have travelled a long way. From being categorized in popular perception as a land of poverty, illiteracy, disease and hunger, India today is rising power; a country fast emerging as a global leader in science, technology, innovation and startups. From being a famine ridden land, we are fast becoming the food basket for the world. This year we have become the fastest growing large economy on the planet, the largest recipient of FDI. According to most informed estimates, we are likely to continue on this high growth trajectory in the years ahead, eliminating poverty from our midst in the next 10 to 15 years.
I say all this with utmost humility, as we are conscious that we still have some distance to cover before we can fully attain our desired objectives of uplifting each and every citizen of ours, from poverty to prosperity, from ignorance to knowledge, from disease to good health and from homelessness to shelter.
Towards realization of these goals, the important role of our global partnerships is well appreciated by us. The United States of America has been a steadfast friend since pre-independence, despite us being described as ‘estranged democracies’ during the cold war.
The linkages between India and the United States go back to the time of our freedom struggle when successive US administrations supported Indian independence. In the early days of our Republic, the drafters of our Constitution were deeply influenced by the US Constitution, and took from it ideas such as Republicanism, Independence of Judiciary, Judicial Review and Bill of Rights. The Green revolution, which gave comprehensive food security for our large population and took us beyond it making India a prominent global exporter of agricultural products, was aided by American agricultural scientists. So was the setting up of the Indian Institutes of Technology in the 1950s & 60s. These institutions became the cradle of our engineering and scientific achievements in the decades that followed. (including the CEOs of Pepsi, Google, Microsoft etc.)
Since the turn of this century, India US relations have transformed to a degree which was unimaginable a few decades ago. We now have a “global strategic partnership”, based on shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule of law. Both are multi-religious, multi-ethnic & multi-lingual societies which aim to continuously improve and uplift the social and economic status of our citizens, with dignity and fundamental freedoms.
We have increasing convergence of interests on most bilateral, regional and global issues. Our geopolitical interests in shaping a sustainable balance of power in Asia-Pacific region and lifting economic growth at a time of global economic uncertainty also converge. We have a series of common priorities that both governments have identified around economic growth, creation of jobs and progress for our peoples.
From our perspective, the US is and will remain a key partner and a vital source for capital, technology and knowledge to enable us to realize our inclusive socio-economic growth and development agenda.
In turn, India’s robust economic growth and its mega market, within a framework of a democratic polity, market economy and plural society, has encouraged voices in the U.S. who are arguing with much success for greater investment in, and attention to India.
An important element propelling this change has been the presence of a highly successful and influential Indian-American community, its achievements, and a growing circle of connections between Indians and Americans at a non-formal level. Many of them are present here today and I thank them for their services to both our countries.
The changed relationship is best reflected in growing India-U.S. bilateral cooperation, which today is broad-based and multi-sectoral covering, trade and investment; defence and security; education and skill development; science and technology; cyber security; high-technology commerce; civil nuclear energy; space technology and applications, clean energy; environment; agriculture and health.
Today, it is natural for India and the U.S. to consult regularly on all major policy issues of the day — be it security of the global commons, reform of the international economic and financial architecture or creation of an open, balanced and inclusive architecture in Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region.
We have taken our global partnership to third countries where our expertise and resources are valued, including in e-governance, food security, and capacity-building in election management, in several African countries, and women empowerment projects and agriculture capacity-building in Afghanistan.
Going forward, we see the U.S. continuing to play a role in India’s transformation, and also see India and the U.S. joining hands to make the world a better place for our two nations and the rest of the world.
The Consulate General of India in Atlanta which covers Southeast United States is committed to playing its modest role in furthering this rapidly growing relationship, which President Obama has often described as “the defining partnership of the 21st century”. In this endeavor, I seek the cooperation of all our friends and well-wishers who are present here today.
Let me conclude by saying that for me personally, celebrating this important day in the calendar of the world’s largest democracy, in this land of the world’s oldest democracy is something special. Your presence here today makes it even more special.
I thank you !