Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's speech after dedicating the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Washington,  D.C.

September 16, 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to be with all of you this morning.

Today is, indeed, a memorable day for all of us. I have arrived here after unveiling a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy.

I am grateful to President Clinton for taking time out of his schedule to join me at the function. This extraordinary gesture, along with the glowing tributes he paid to the Mahatma in his opening remarks at the White House ceremony yesterday, have further endeared America and its President to our people.

With the unveiling of Gandhiji’s statue in Washington, one of the greatest apostles of peace has, in a sense, arrived physically in the capital of the world’s eldest democracy.

But the Mahatma’s spirit has been with the people of America for the greater part of the last century.

Indeed, he was with Americans, not too far from here, 37 years ago. On that occasion, a quarter million Americans marched to Lincoin Memorial to hear Martin Luther King outline his dream of a truly emancipated America.

King’s guiding light was Mahatma Gandhi. As he said:

The Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence, was for me the most potent weapon available to the oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

Gandhiji’s unique method of passive resistance proved to be an enormously active force against colonial oppression.

His use of non-cooperation, civil disobedience and non-violence as instruments in the struggle for freedom touched the American people as much as it did people all over the world.

America’s own struggle for independence had an important influence on India’s freedom movement. Gandhiji has acknowledged that the great American philosopher thoreau was his teacher in "the science of civil disobedience."

Gandhiji’s personality had a magnetic effect on many people in this country. All of us know about the incomparable homage paid to him by Albert Einstein.

But not so well known is the effect he had on ordinary Americans. For example, Samuel Evans Stokes, a wealthy American from Philadelphia, gave up everything to become a soldier in the Mahatma’s army of Satyagrahis in India.

He even changed his name to ‘Satyanand’ Stokes and had the rare honour of being the only American to become a member of the All India Congress Committee.

His recent widely acclaimed biography, American in Khadi, shows how there has always been a natural affinity between India and America.

Friends, what is it about Gandhiji that makes him a man not just of the past, but equally of the present and the future?

What is it about him that makes him not just an Indian, but a man who belonged to the whole humanity?

The answer to these questions is obvious: The universality of the man. And the immorality of his message.

What is more, Gandhiji lived his own message. As he himself famously put it , "My life is my message".

It is the message of truth and non-violence.

Of brotherhood of all human beings.

Of cooperation among nations.

Equally, it is the message of tolerance and respect for diversity, which are the basic tenets of democracy.

Gandhiji saw both these tenets as the art and science of mobilising the physical, economic and spiritual resources of all sections of the people in the service of the common good.

It is the proud privilege of both India and the United States that out two countries are models—one in the East and the other in the West – of democracy as well as unity in diversity.

We both cherish, preserve and promote universal human rights such as freedom of speech, political choice and religious belief.

These are universal values that form the foundation of more tolerant and compassionate societies, a more non-violent world free from tensions and fear.

They form the foundation of a world where the liberty of people living in open societies is not threatened by extremism and terrorism.

These are values enshrined in the American and Indian Constitutions and handed down to us by great men like Abraham Lincon, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It is not a coincidence that all three of them fell to the bullets of assassins.

Inspired by the Mahatma, we believe that non-violence requires faith in God and faith in man. Hence, we remain hopeful of a world where the conscience of humanity will never allow forces of bigotry and violence to succeed.

Gandhiji’s statue here in the heat of Washington will be a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit against oppression, just as the Statue of Liberty in the New York has been the beacon of freedom, for the whole world.

Distinguished guests,

Today is the penultimate day of my visit to this great country. It has been a very satisfying and fruitful visit.

I thank President Clinton for the enormous personal commitment he has brought to bear on the success of the Indo-American dialogue.

Just as his visit to India earlier this year was a memorable one for him, my own visit to America now has been equally momentous.

It has taken a very short time—from March to September – for our two countries to come a long way.

At the same time, it seems that New Delhi and Washington are not a long way off from each other.

I describe this period as "Six Months That Cemented the Natural Alliance Between India and America".

The Vision Document we signed in New Delhi has been translated into a specific forward movement in a number of areas in the Joint Statement adopted in Washington.

It reflects the synergy of our manual interests.

We have laid a solid foundation for stronger and more broad-based economic cooperation between our two countries. I am confident that this foundation will support the attractive architecture of Indo-American relations in the coming years.

But going beyond the mutuality of economic opportunities, our two sides have talked candidly about several important issues that form the texture of our bilateral relations.

We have talked about security matters. We have talked about the situation in South Asia.

We have also talked about threat of terrorism to civilized world order.

Of course, differences are bound to be there between the two countries. But dialogue between democracies, in an atmosphere of candour and trust , never fails to dissolve some if not all differences.

And that is what has happened on account of the continuing dialogue at various levels between out two democracies.

From divergence, we have moved to a convergence of thinking and outlook on a broad range of issues.

I heartily thank all those who have contributed to the success of this dialogue.

I especially applaud the consistent efforts of the Indian-American community. Your patience and hard work are paying off. Keep it up.

I thank all of you for the opportunity of sharing my thoughts with you.

Thank you."