Town Hall with Students in Mumbai


Mrs. Obama:
Hello, everyone. Namaste. It is a pleasure and an honor to
be here in India. Everyone, please sit, who can
sit. Rest. It’s warm. We are thrilled to be here and
to have a chance to spend time with so many outstanding young
people from St. Xavier’s College and so many other schools across
Mumbai. Now, this is my first trip to
India, but it is not my first exposure
to India’s wonderful culture and people. See, I grew up in Chicago, which
is a city with one of the largest Indian-American
communities in our country. And of course, last year, as you
know, we were proud to host Prime
Minister Singh and Mrs. Kaur for our very first state visit and
dinner. It was a beautiful evening under
a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, and we got to hear
some pretty great Bhangra as well. I danced there, too. (laughter) So I have really been looking
forward to this trip for a very long time. The time that we spend with
young people during our travel is very special to both me and
to the President. When I was your age, I never
dreamed of traveling to countries like this and meeting
with young people like all of you. In fact, there were a lot of
things that I had never imagined for myself growing up, including
having the honor of serving as my county’s First Lady. My family didn’t have a lot of
money. My parents never went to
college. I grew up in a little bitty
apartment in a working-class neighborhood on the south side
of Chicago. My parents worked hard to pay
the bills and to keep a roof over our heads. But even though my parents
couldn’t give us material things, they gave us something
much more precious — they gave me and my brother
strong values. They taught us to treat others
with dignity and respect. They taught us to push for
excellence in every single thing we did. They taught us to be humble and
to be grateful for everything we had. They taught us to put every last
bit of effort into our education and to take pride in our work. They taught us that our
circumstances didn’t define us, and that if we believed in
ourselves, if we made the most of every
single opportunity, we could build our own destinies
and accomplish anything we put our minds to. And I try every single day to
take those lessons to heart. And the fact that all of you are
here today tells me that we all share these same values, that we
all learn these same lessons. You’re here today because, like
me and my husband, you believe in your dreams and
you’re working hard every single day to fulfill them. More importantly, you’re here
because you’ve committed to something greater than
yourselves. You’re here not just because of
your academic and extracurricular activities and
achievements, but because of what you’ve done
to give back to your schools and to your communities. Your willingness to serve is
critical for all that lies ahead once you finish your education. Because the truth is pretty soon
the responsibilities for building our future will fall to
all of you. Soon we’re going to be looking
to your generation to make the discoveries and build the
industries that will shape our world for decades to come. We’ll be looking to you to
protect our planet. We’re going to be looking to you
to lift up our most vulnerable citizens. We’re going to be looking to you
to heal the divisions that too often keep us apart. And I believe that you and your
peers around the world are more than up to the challenge,
because I’ve seen it firsthand right here in India. Just yesterday I had the
wonderful opportunity to visit an organization called Make A
Difference. It’s an amazing program designed
and run by young adults who recruit other young people,
outstanding college students like themselves, to mentor and
teach children who, as the founder said, haven’t had
the same chances in life as many of the mentors have had. These young volunteers
understand and believe in something very simple, that all
children, regardless of their
circumstances, deserve the same chance to get
educated and to build productive and successful lives. And I know that many of you here
today are doing equally important work in your
communities and your schools — everything from holding camps
for kids in need to teaching computer literacy skills, to
finding new ways to conserve energy. And let me tell you, this work
is amazing, and it is vitally important. And that is why, as First Lady,
I have tried my best to engage young people not just in the
United States but around the world, letting them know that we
believe in them, but more importantly, that we
need them. We need you. We need you to help solve the
great challenges of our time. And that’s also why when my
husband travels abroad, he doesn’t just meet with heads
of state in parliaments and in palaces. He always meets with young
people like all of you. That’s why he’s been working to
expand educational exchanges and partnerships between the United
States, India, and countries around the world. Right now, more Indian students
like you come to study in the United States than from any
other country. And I’m proud to see that so
many American students are doing the same thing right here in
India, building the types of
friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. Our hope is to provide more
Indian and American young people with these types of
opportunities to continue to connect and share ideas and
experiences. And finally, my husband is also
working to encourage young entrepreneurs everywhere to
start businesses, to improve the health of our
communities and to empower our young women and girls because it
is never too late or too early to start changing this world for
the better. So I want to end today by
congratulating you all — congratulating you on everything
you do. We are so proud of you. I want to encourage you to keep
dreams — keep dreaming big huge, gigantic
dreams — not just for yourselves, but for
your communities and for our world. And finally, I want to urge you
today to ask my husband some tough questions, all right? (laughter) Be tough. He loves doing events like this. This brightens his days. But you got to keep him on his
toes, all right? So if you promise me that,
without further ado, I would like to introduce my
husband, the President of the United
States, Barack Obama. (applause) The President:
Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you. (applause) Thank you very much. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Namaste. Audience:
Namaste. The President:
It is such a pleasure to be here. Now, I have to say, first of
all, I don’t like speaking after
Michelle. (laughter) Because she’s very good. Also because she teases me. You notice how she said for you
to all ask tough questions. If you want to ask easy
questions, that’s fine. (laughter) But on behalf of Michelle and me
I want to thank St. Xavier’s University. I want to thank Rector DeSouza. I want to thank Principal — I want to get this right — Mascarenhas. (laughter) But it’s a little smoother than
that, when you say it. I want to thank Vice Principal
Amonka and all of you for being such gracious hosts. And I know it’s hot out here
today. For you to be so patient with
me, I’m very grateful to you. I also want to thank the city of
Mumbai and the people of India for giving us such an
extraordinary welcome. In a few minutes, I’ll take some
questions. I come here not just to speak,
but also to listen. I want to have a dialogue with
you. And this is one of the wonderful
things that I have a chance to do as President of the United
States. When I travel, we always try to
set up a town hall meeting where we can interact with the next
generation, because I want to hear from you. I want to find out what your
dreams are, what your fears are, what your plans are for your
country. But if you will indulge me, I
also want to say a few words about why I’m so hopeful about
the partnership between our two countries and why I wanted to
spend some of my time here in India speaking directly to young
people like yourselves. Now, as Michelle said, we have
both looked forward to this visit to India for quite some
time. We have an extraordinary amount
of respect for the rich and diverse civilization that has
thrived here for thousands of years. We’ve drawn strength from
India’s 20th century independence struggle, which
helped inspire America’s own civil rights movement. We’ve marveled at India’s
growing economy and it’s dynamic democracy. And we have personally enjoyed a
wonderful friendship with Prime Minister Singh and Mrs. Kaur,
over the last two years. But of course, I’m not just here
to visit. I’m here because the partnership
between India and the United States I believe has limitless
potential to improve the lives of both Americans and Indians,
just as it has the potential to be an anchor of security and
prosperity and progress for Asia and for the world. The U.S.-India relationship will
be indispensible in shaping the 21st century. And the reason why is simple: As
two great powers and as the world’s two largest democracies,
the United States and India share common interests and
common values — values of self-determination and
equality; values of tolerance and a belief
in the dignity of every human being. Already on this trip, I’ve seen
those shared interests and values firsthand. We share a commitment to see
that the future belongs to hope, and not fear. And I was honored to stay at the
Taj Hotel, the site of the 26/11 attacks,
and yesterday, in meetings with some of the
survivors, I saw firsthand the resilience
of the Indian people in overcoming tragedy, just as I
reaffirmed our close cooperation in combating terrorism and
violent extremism in all of its forms. We also share struggles for
justice and equality. I was humbled to visit Mani
Bhavan, where Gandhi helped move India
and the world through the strength and dignity of his
leadership. We share a commitment to see
that this era after globalization leads to greater
opportunity for all our people. And so yesterday, at a summit of
business leaders and entrepreneurs, we discussed the
potential for greater economic cooperation between our two
countries — cooperation that could create
jobs and opportunity through increased trade and investment,
unleashing the potential of individuals in both our
countries. And even as we are countries
that look to the future with optimism, Americans and Indians
draw strength from tradition and from faith. This morning, Michelle and I
enjoyed the chance to join young people here in Mumbai to
celebrate Diwali — a holiday that is observed not
just here in India but also in the United States, where
millions of Indian-Americans have enriched our country. I have to point out, by the way,
those of you who had a chance to see Michelle dance, she was
moving. (laughter) And it was just an extraordinary
gift for these young people to perform and share this wonderful
tradition with us. Tomorrow in New Delhi, I’ll have
the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Singh and many
other leaders, and I’ll have the privilege to
address your parliament. And there I will discuss in
greater detail our efforts to broaden and deepen our
cooperation and make some specific announcements on
important issues like counterterrorism and regional
security, on clean energy and climate
change, and on the advance of economic
growth and development and democracy around the globe. Just as the sites I’ve seen and
the people I’ve met here in Mumbai speak to our common
humanity, the common thread that runs
through the different issues that our countries cooperate on
is my determination to take the partnership between our two
countries to an entirely new level. Because the United States does
not just believe, as some people say, that India
is a rising power; we believe that India has
already risen. India is taking its rightful
place in Asia and on the global stage. And we see India’s emergence as
good for the United States and good for the world. But India’s future won’t simply
be determined by powerful CEOs and political leaders — just as I know that the ties among our people aren’t limited to contacts between our corporations and our governments. And that’s why I wanted to speak
to all of you today, because India’s future will be
determined by you and by young people like you across this country. You are the future leaders. You are the future innovators
and the future educators. You’re the future entrepreneurs
and the future elected officials. In this country of more than a
billion people, more than half of all Indians
are under 30 years old. That’s an extraordinary
statistic and it’s one that speaks to a great sense of
possibility — because in a democracy like
India’s — or America’s — every single child holds within
them the promise of greatness. And every child should have the
opportunity to achieve that greatness. Most of you are probably close
to 20 years old. Just think how the world has
changed in those 20 years. India’s economy has grown at a
breathtaking rate. Living standards have improved
for hundreds of millions of people. Your democracy has weathered
assassination and terrorism. And meanwhile, around the globe,
the Cold War is a distant memory and a new order has emerged, one
that’s reflected in the 20 members of the G20 that will
come together in Seoul next week, as countries like India
assume a greater role on the world stage. So now the future of this
country is in your hands. And before I take your
questions, I want you to consider three
questions I have for you — questions about what the next 20
years will bring. First, what do you want India to
look like in 20 years? Nobody else can answer this
question but you. It’s your destiny to write. One of the great blessings of
living in a democracy is that you can always improve the
democracy. As our Founding Fathers wrote in
the United States, you can always forge a more
perfect union. But if you look at India’s last
20 years, it’s hard not to see the future
with optimism. You have the chance to lift
another several hundreds of millions of people out of
poverty, grow even more this enormous
middle class that can fuel growth in this country and
beyond. You have the chance to take on
greater responsibilities on the global stage while playing a
leading role in this hugely important part of the world. And together with the United
States, you can also seize the
opportunities afforded by our times: the clean energy
technologies that can power our lives and save our planet; the
chance to reach new frontiers in outer space; the research and
development that can lead to new industry and a higher standard
of living; the prospect of advancing the
cause of peace and pluralism in our own countries but also
beyond our borders. Which brings me to a second
question. Twenty years from now, what kind
of partnership do you want to have with America? Just before I came to speak to
all of you today, I visited two expos right in
another courtyard here that underscore the kind of progress
we can make together. The first focused on agriculture
and food security, and I was able to see
innovations in technology and research, which are transforming
Indian farming. A farmer showed me how he can
receive crop information on his cell phone. Another showed me how tools
appropriately sized and weighted for women are helping her and
other female farmers increase their productivity. Many of these innovations are
the result of public and private collaborations between the
United States and India, the same collaboration that
helped produce the first Green Revolution in the 1960s. And tomorrow, I will be
discussing with Prime Minister Singh how we can advance the
cooperation in the 21st century — not only to benefit India, not only to benefit the United States, but to benefit the
world. India can become a model for
countries around the world that are striving for food security. The second expo I toured focused
on the ways that innovation is empowering Indian citizens to
ensure that democracy delivers for them. So I heard directly from
citizens in a village hundreds of miles away, through
e-panchayat. I saw new technologies and
approaches that allow citizens to get information, or to fight
corruption, monitor elections, find out whether their elected
official is actually going to work, holding government
accountable. And while these innovations are
uniquely India’s, their lessons can be applied
around the world. So earlier this year, at the
U.N., I called for a new focus on open societies that support
open government and highlighted their potential to strengthen
the foundation of freedoms in our own countries, while living
up to the ideals that can light the world. And that’s what India is
starting do with some of this innovation. We must remember that in some
places the future of democracy is still very much in question. Just to give you an example,
there are elections that are being held right now in Burma
that will be anything but free and fair based on every report
that we’re seeing. And for too long the people of
Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny. So even as we do not impose any
system of government on other countries, we, especially young
people, must always speak out for those
human rights that are universal, and the right of people
everywhere to make their own decisions about how to shape
their future, which will bring me to my final
question, and then you guys can start
sending questions my way. How do you — how do each of you want to make the world a better place? Keep in mind that this is your
world to build, your century to shape. And you’ve got a powerful
example of those who went before you. Just as America had the words
and deeds of our Founding Fathers to help chart a course
towards freedom and justice and opportunity, India has this
incredible history to draw on, millennia of civilization, the
examples of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. As I stood in Mani Bhavan, I was
reminded that Martin Luther King made his own pilgrimage to that
site over 50 years ago. In fact, we saw the book that he
had signed. After he returned home, King
said that he was struck by how Gandhi embodied in his life
certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral
structure of the universe, and these principles are as
inescapable as the law of gravitation. You have that power within you. You, too, must embody those
principles. For even within this time of
great progress, there are great imperfections,
the injustice of oppression, the grinding punishment of
poverty, the scourge of violent extremism
and war. King and Gandhi made it possible
for all of us to be here today — me as a President, you as a citizen of a country that’s made remarkable progress. Now you have the opportunity and
the responsibility to also make this plant a better place. And as you do, you’ll have the
friendship and partnership of the United States, because we
are interested in advancing those same universal principles
that are as inescapable as the law of gravitation. The lives that you lead will
determine whether that opportunity is extended to more
of the world’s people — so that a child who yearns for a
better life in rural India or a family that’s fled from violence
in Africa, or a dissident who sits in a
Burmese prison, or a community that longs for
peace in war-torn Afghanistan — whether they are able to achieve
their dreams. And sometimes the challenges may
be incredibly hard, and in the face of darkness, we
may get discouraged. But we can always draw on the
light of those who came before us. I hope you keep that light
burning within you, because together the United
States and India can shape a century in which our own
citizens and the people of the world can claim the hope of a
better life. So thank you very much for your
patience. And now you can take Michelle’s
advice and ask me some tough questions. Thank you very much. (applause) So we have I think people in the
audience with microphones, and so when they come up, if you
could introduce yourself — love to know who you are. And we’ll start with that young
lady right over there. Audience Member:
Hi, good day, sir. Hi, my name is Anna and I’m from
St. Davis College. My question to you is, what is
your take on opinion about jihad, or jihadi? Whatever is your opinion, what
do you think of them? The President:
Well, the phrase jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different
interpretations. But I will say that, first,
Islam is one of the world’s great religions. And more than a billion people
who practice Islam, the overwhelming majority view
their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm
peace and justice and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that
this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been
distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is
never justified. And so I think one of the
challenges that we face is how do we isolate those who have
these distorted notions of religious war and reaffirm those
who see faiths of all sorts — whether you are a Hindu or a
Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or any other religion, or your
don’t practice a religion — that we can all treat each other
with respect and mutual dignity, and that some of the universal
principles that Gandhi referred to — that those are what we’re living up to, as we live in a nation or
nations that have very diverse religious beliefs. And that’s a major challenge. It’s a major here in India, but
it’s a challenge obviously around the world. And young people like yourselves
can make a huge impact in reaffirming that you can be a
stronger observer of your faith without putting somebody else
down or visiting violence on somebody else. I think a lot of these ideas
form very early. And how you respond to each
other is going to be probably as important as any speech that a
President makes in encouraging the kinds of religious tolerance
that I think is so necessary in a world that’s getting smaller
and smaller, where more and more people of
different backgrounds, different races, different
ethnicities are interacting and working and learning from each
other. And those circumstances — I think all of us have to fundamentally reject the notion that violence is a way to mediate our differences. All right. Yes, I may not get to every
question. I’ll call on this young man
right here. Right there, yes. Audience Member:
Good morning, sir. My name is Jehan [phonetic]. I’m from H.R. College. So my question is more about
spirituality and moral values. We see today in today’s world,
there more of a materialistic frame of thought when it comes
to generations — budding generations. So what do you believe is a
possible methodology which governments, rather yours or any
other governments in the world, they can adopt to basically
incorporate the human core values, the moral values of
selflessness, brotherhood, over the materialistic frame of
thought which people work by today? The President:
It’s a terrific question and I’m glad you’re asking it. India is making enormous
progress in part because, like America, it has this
incredible entrepreneurial talent, entrepreneurial spirit. And I think we should not
underestimate how liberating economic growth can be for a
country. In the United States, I used to
work with a lot of churches when I was still a community
organizer, before I went to law school. And one of the common phrases
among the pastors there was, it’s hard to preach to an empty
stomach. It’s hard to preach to an empty
stomach. If people have severe, immediate
material needs — shelter, food, clothing — then that is their focus. And economic growth and
development that is self-sustaining can liberate
people, allow them — it forms the basis for folks to
get an education and to expand their horizons. And that’s all for the good. So I don’t want any person here
to be dismissive of a healthy materialism because in a country
like India, there’s still a lot of people
trapped in poverty. And you should be working to try
to lift folks out of poverty, and companies and businesses
have a huge role in making that happen. Now, having said that, if all
you’re thinking about is material wealth, then I think
that shows a poverty of ambition. When I was visiting Gandhi’s
room, here in Mumbai, it was very telling that the
only objects in the room were a mat and a spinning wheel and
some sandals and a few papers. And this is a man who changed
history like probably no one else in the 20th century in
terms of the number of lives that he affected. And he had nothing, except an
indomitable spirit. So everyone has a role to play. And those of you who are
planning to go into business, I think it’s wonderful that
you’re going into business and you should pursue it with all
your focus and energy. Those of you, though, who are
more inclined to teach or more inclined to public service, you
should also feel encouraged that you are playing just as critical
a role. And whatever occupation you
choose, giving back to the community and
making sure that you’re reaching back to help people, lift up
people who may have been left behind, that’s a solemn
obligation. And by the way, it’s actually
good for you. It’s good for your spirit. It’s good for your own moral
development. It will make you a happier
person, knowing that you’ve given back
and you’ve contributed something. Last point I would make — I think this is another thing that India and the United States share, is there’s a healthy skepticism about public servants, particularly electoral politics. In the United States, people
generally have — hold politicians in fairly low
esteem — sometimes for good reason, but
some of it is just because the view is that somehow government
can’t do anything right. And here in India, one of the
big impediments to development is the fact that in some cases
the private sector is moving much faster than the public
sector is moving. And I would just suggest that I
hope some of you decide to go ahead and get involved in public
service — which can be frustrating. It can be, at times, slow — you don’t see progress as quickly as you’d like. But India is going to need you
not just as businessmen but also as leaders who are helping to
reduce bureaucracy and make government more responsive and
deliver services more efficiently. That’s going to be just as
important in the years to come. Because otherwise you’re going
to get a imbalance where some are doing very well but
broad-based economic growth is not moving as quickly as it
could. Excellent question. I’m going to go
boy-girl-boy-girl, or girl-boy-girl-boy, just to
make sure it’s fair. Let’s see. This young lady right there — yes. Audience Member:
Hello. I actually wanted to ask you — you mention Mahatma Gandhi a lot usually in your speeches. So I was just wondering how
exactly do you implement his principles and his values in
your day-to-day life, and how do you expect the people
in the U.S. to live in those values? Thank you. The President:
Well, it’s a terrific question. Let me say, first of all, that
he, like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, are people
who I’m constantly reading and studying, and I find myself
falling woefully short of their example all the time. So I’m often frustrated by how
far I fall short of their example. But I do think that at my best,
what I’m trying to do is to apply principles that
fundamentally come down to something shared in all the
world’s religions, which is to see yourself in
other people; to understand the inherent worth
and dignity of every individual, regardless of station,
regardless of rank, regardless of wealth, and to
absolutely value and cherish and respect that individual; and
then hopefully, try to take that principle of
treating others as you would want to be treated and find ways
where that can apply itself in communities and in cities and in
states and ultimately in a country and in the world. As I said, I often find myself
falling short of that ideal. But I tend to judge any
particular policy based on, is this advancing that spirit;
that it’s helping individuals realize their potential; that
it’s making sure that all children are getting an
education — so that I’m not just worrying
about my children; that I’m thinking, first and
foremost, about the United States of
America, because that’s my responsibility
as President, but I’m also recognizing that we
are in an interrelationship with other countries in the world and
I can’t ignore an abuse of human rights in another country. I can’t ignore hardships that
may be suffering — that may be suffered by somebody
of a different nationality. That I think more than anything
is what I carry with me on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not always apparent
that I’m making progress on that front. One of the other things I draw
from all great men and women, like a Gandhi, though, is that
on this journey you’re going to experience setbacks and you have
to be persistent and stubborn, and you just have to keep on
going at it. And you’ll never roll the
boulder all the way up the hill but you may get it part of the
way up. This gentleman in the blue
shirt. Do we have a microphone? Oh, here we go. Thanks. Audience Member:
Good afternoon, Mr. President. The President:
Good afternoon. Audience Member:
It’s an honor to question you. What my question would be is,
when you were being elected as President, one of the words you
used a lot was “change.” After your midterm election, the
midterm — it seems that the American
people have asked for a change. The change that you will make,
how exactly is it going to affect young India, people from
my generation? The President:
That’s an interesting question. Audience Member:
Thank you. The President:
The United States has gone through probably the toughest two years economically as we’ve
gone through since the 1930s. I mean, this was a profound
financial crisis and economic shock, and it spilled over to
most of the world. India weathered it better than
many countries. But most of the work that I did
with Prime Minister Singh in the first two years in the G20, we
were focused on making sure that the world’s financial system
didn’t collapse. And although we’ve now
stabilized the economy, unemployment in the United
States is very high now relative to what it typically has been
over the last several decades. And so people are frustrated. And although we’re making
progress, we’re not making progress
quickly enough. And one of the wonderful things
about democracy is that when the people are not happy, it is
their right, obligation, and duty to express their
unhappiness, much to the regret sometimes of
incumbents. But that’s a good thing. That’s a healthy thing. And my obligation is to make
sure that I stick to the principles and beliefs and ideas
that will move America forward — because I profoundly believe that we have to invest in education, that that will be the
primary driver of growth in the future; that we’ve got to invest
in a strong infrastructure; that we have to make sure that
we are taking advantage of opportunities like clean energy. But it also requires me to make
some midcourse corrections and adjustments. And how those play themselves
out over the next several months will be a matter of me being in
discussions with the Republican Party, which is now going to be
controlling the House of Representatives. And there are going to be areas
where we disagree and hopefully there are going to be some areas
where we agree. Now, you asked specifically, how
do I think it will affect policy towards India. I actually think that the United
States has a enormous fondness for India, partly because there
are so many Indian-Americans and because of the shared values
that we have. And so there is a strong
bipartisan belief that India is going to be a critical partner
with the United States in the 21st century. That was true when George Bush
was President. That was true when Bill Clinton
was President. It was true under Democratic and
Republican control of Congress. So I don’t think that
fundamental belief is going to be altered in any significant
way. I do think that one of the
challenges that we’re going to be facing in the United States
is at a time when we’re still recovering from this crisis, how
do we respond to some of the challenges of globalization? Because the fact of the matter
is, is that for most of my lifetime
— I’ll turn 50 next year — for most of my lifetime, the
United States was such a dominant economic power, we were
such a large market, our industry, our technology,
our manufacturing was so significant that we always met
the rest of the world economically on our terms. And now, because of the
incredible rise of India and China and Brazil and other
countries, the United States remains the
largest economic and the largest market but there’s real
competition out there. And that’s potentially healthy. It makes — Michelle was saying earlier I like tough questions because it keeps me on my toes. Well, this will keep America on
its toes. And I’m positive we can compete
because we’ve got the most open, most dynamic entrepreneurial
culture; we’ve got some of the finest
universities in the world; incredible research and
technology. But it means that we’re going to
have to compete. And I think that there’s going
to be a tug of war within the United States between those who
see globalization as a threat and want to retrench, and those
who accept that we live in a open, integrated world which has
challenges and opportunities and we’ve got to manage those
challenges and manage those opportunities, but we shouldn’t
be afraid of them. And so what that means, for
example, is on issues of trade, part of the reason I’m traveling
through Asia this week is I believe that the United States
will grow and prosper if we are trading with Asia. It’s the fastest-growing region
in the world. We want access to your markets. We think we’ve got good products
to sell; you think that you’ve got good
products to sell us. This can be a win-win situation. So I want to make sure that
we’re here because this will create jobs in the United States
and it can create jobs in India. But that means that we’ve got to
negotiate this changing relationship. Back in the 1960s or ’70s, the
truth is the American economy could be open even if our
trading partners’ economies weren’t open. So if India was protecting
certain sectors of its economy, it didn’t really have such a big
effect on us. We didn’t need necessarily
reciprocity because our economy was so much larger. Well, now, things have changed. So it’s not unfair for the
United States to say, look, if our economy is open to
everybody, countries that trade with us
have to change their practices to open up their markets to us. There has to be reciprocity in
our trading relationship. And if we can have those kinds
of conversations, fruitful, constructive conversations about
how we produce win-win situations, then I think we’ll
be fine. If the American people feel that
trade is just a one-way street, where everybody is selling to
the enormous U.S. market but we can never sell what we make anywhere else, then people in the United States
will start thinking, well, this is a bad deal for us. And that could end up leading to
a more protectionist instinct in both parties — not just among Democrats, but also among Republicans. So that’s what we have to guard
against. All right, it’s a young lady’s
turn. This young lady with the glasses
— yes. Audience Member:
A very warm welcome to you to India, sir. The President:
Thank you so much. Audience Member:
I’m from H.R. College of Commerce and Economics. We were the privileged college
to host Mr. Otis Moss this January. Sir, my question to you is why
is Pakistan so important an ally to America, so far as America
has never called it a terrorist state? The President:
Well — no, no, it’s a good question. And I must admit I was expecting
it. (laughter) Pakistan is an enormous country. It is a strategically important
country not just for the United States but for the world. It is a country whose people
have enormous potential, but it is also, right now, a
country that within it has some of the extremist elements that
we discussed in the first question. That’s not unique to Pakistan,
but obviously it exists in Pakistan. The Pakistani government is very
aware of that. And what we have tried to do
over the last several years, certainly — I’ll just speak to my foreign policy — has been to engage aggressively
with the Pakistani government to communicate that we want nothing
more than a stable, prosperous, peaceful Pakistan, and that we
will work with the Pakistani government in order to eradicate
this extremism that we consider a cancer within the country that
can potentially engulf the country. And I will tell you that I think
the Pakistani government understands now the potential
threat that exists within their own borders. There are more Pakistanis who’ve
been killed by terrorists inside Pakistan than probably anywhere
else. Now, progress is not as quick as
we’d like, partly because when you get
into, for example, some of the Northwest
Territories, these are very — this is very difficult terrain,
very entrenched. The Pakistani army has actually
shifted some of its emphasis and focus into those areas. But that’s not originally what
their armed forces were designed to do, and so they’re having to
adapt and adjust to these new dangers and these new realities. I think there is a growing
recognition — but it’s something that doesn’t
happen overnight — of what a profound problem this
is. And so our feeling has been to
be honest and forthright with Pakistan, to say we are your
friend, this is a problem and we will
help you, but the problem has to be
addressed. Now, let me just make this
point, because obviously the history
between India and Pakistan is incredibly complex and was born
of much tragedy and much violence. And so it may be surprising to
some of you to hear me say this, but I am absolutely convinced
that the country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan’s
success is India. I think that if Pakistan is
unstable, that’s bad for India. If Pakistan is stable and
prosperous, that’s good. Because India is on the move. And it is absolutely in your
interests, at a time when you’re starting
to succeed in incredible ways on the global economic stage, that
you want the distraction of security instability in your
region. So my hope is, is that over time
trust develops between the two countries, that dialogue begins
— perhaps on less controversial
issues, building up to more
controversial issues — and that over time there’s a
recognition that India and Pakistan can live side by side
in peace and that both countries can prosper. That will not happen tomorrow. But I think that needs to be our
ultimate goal. And by the way, the United
States stands to be a friend and a partner in that process, but
we can’t impose that on India and Pakistan. Ultimately, India and Pakistan
have to arrive at their own understandings in terms of how
the relationship evolves. Okay. I’ve got time for one more
question. It’s a guy’s turn. This young man right here, in
the striped shirt. Audience Member:
Good afternoon, Mr. President. It’s an absolute honor to hear
you, and I must say this, that one day I hope I be half as
good as a leader as you are today. The President:
Well, you’re very kind. Thank you. Audience Member:
Mr. President, my question relates to your Afghanistan policy. In light of your statements that
the troop withdrawal would start in 2011, there have been recent
developments that would indicate that USA has been in talks with
Taliban so as to strike out a stable government in Afghanistan
as when you withdraw. Now, does this point to the
acceptance of the inevitability of the U.S. to fulfill the vision which they had, with which they invaded
Afghanistan in 2001? Does it point out to their
inability to take a military control of all the southern
regions so that we can install a stable government? You notice that in Iraq where
there’s a lot of instability now. So does it point to a sort of
tacit acceptance of U.S. inability to create harmony in
Afghanistan? The President:
First of all, I want to just unpack some of the assumptions inside the question because they
were broadly based in fact, but I want to be very precise
here. I have said that starting in the
summer of next year, July 2011, we will begin drawing down our
troop levels, but we will not be removing all
our troops. Keep in mind that we ramped up
significantly because the idea was that for seven years we had
just been in a holding pattern; we’d had just enough troops to
keep Kabul intact but the rest of the countryside was
deteriorating in fairly significant ways. There wasn’t a real strategy. And my attitude was, I don’t
want to, seven years from now, or eight years from now, be in
the exact same situation. That’s not a sustainable
equilibrium. So I said, let’s put more troops
in to see if we can create more space and stability and time for
Afghan security forces to develop, and then let’s begin
drawing down our troops as we’re able to stand up Afghan security
forces. Now, in fact, it turns out that
in Iraq — you mentioned Iraq as a parallel
— in Iraq, we have been relatively
successful in doing that. The government is taking way too
long to get formed, and that is a source of
frustration to us and I’m sure to the Iraq people. Having said that, though, if you
think about it, it’s been seven months since the
election, and violence levels are actually
lower in Iraq than they’ve been just about any time since the
war started — at a time when we pulled back
our forces significantly. So it shows that it is possible
to train effective, indigenous security forces so
that they can provide their own security. And hopefully politics then
resolves differences, as opposed to violence. Now, Afghan, I think is actually
more complicated, more difficult, probably because
it’s a much poorer country. It does not have as strong a
tradition of a central government. Civil service is very
underdeveloped. And so I think that the pace at
which we’re drawing down is going to be determined in part
by military issues, but it’s also going to be
determined by politics. And that is, is it possible for
a sizeable portion of the Pashtun population in
Afghanistan that may be teetering back and forth between
Taliban or a central government, is it possible for them to feel
that their ethnicity, their culture, their numerical
position in the country is adequately represented, and can
they do that within the context of a broader constitutional
Afghan government. And I think that’s a worthy
conversation to have. So what we’ve said to President
Karzai — because this is being initiated
by him — what we’ve said is if former
Taliban members or current Taliban members say that they
are willing to disassociate themselves with al Qaeda,
renounce violence as a means of achieving their political aims,
and are willing to respect the Afghan constitution so that, for
example, women are treated with all the
right that men are afforded, then, absolutely, we support the
idea of a political resolution of some of these differences. Now, there are going to be some
elements that are affiliated to the Taliban that are also
affiliated with al Qaeda or LT or these other organizations,
these extremists that are irreconcilable. They will be there. And there will need to be a
military response to those who would perpetrate the kind of
violence that we saw here in Mumbai in a significant ongoing
way — or the kind that we saw on 9/11
in New York City. But I think a stable Afghanistan
is achievable. Will it look exactly as I might
design a democracy? Probably not. It will take on an Afghan
character. I do think that there are
lessons that India has to show not just countries like
Afghanistan but countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I mean, some of the incredible
work that I saw being done in the agricultural sector is
applicable to widely dispersed rural areas in a place like
Afghanistan and could — I promise you, if we can
increase farmers’ yields in Afghanistan by 20% or 25%, and
they can get their crops to market, and they’re cutting out
a middleman and they’re ending up seeing a better standard of
life for themselves, that goes a long way in
encouraging them to affiliate with a modern world. And so India’s investment in
development in Afghanistan is appreciated. Pakistan has to be a partner in
this process. In fact, all countries in the
region are going to be partners in this process. And the United States welcomes
that. We don’t think we can do this
alone. But part of our — and this is probably a good way to end — part of my strong belief is that
around the world, your generation is poised to
solve some of my generation’s mistakes and my parents’
generation’s mistakes. You’ll make your own mistakes,
but there’s such incredible potential and promise for you to
start pointing in new directions in terms of how economies are
organized, in terms of how moral precepts
and values and principles are applied, in how nations work
together to police each other so that they’re not — so that when there’s genocide or there is ethnic cleansing, or there are gross violations of human rights, that an international community joins together and speaks with one voice; so that economic integration isn’t a source of fear or anxiety, but rather is seen as enormous promise and potential; where we’re able to tackle problems that we can’t solve by ourselves. I went to a lower school — do you call them high schools here? It’s sort of a high school. And Michelle and I saw this
wonderful exhibit of global warming and the concerns that
these young people have — they were 14, 15. And their energy and their
enthusiasm was infectious. And I asked them, which one of
you are going to be scientists who are going to try to solve
this problem? And all of them raised their
hands. And I said, well, this is hugely
important for India. And they said, no, not for India
— for the world. You see, their ambitions were
not just to be great scientists for India. Their ambition was to be a great
scientist for the world — because they understood that
something like climate change or clean energy, that’s not an
American problem or an Indian problem — that’s a human problem. And all of us are going to have
to be involved in finding solutions to it. And as I listen to all of you,
with your wonderful questions, I am incredibly optimistic and
encouraged that you will help find those solutions in the
years to come. So, thank you very much for your
hospitality. Thank you, everybody. (applause)

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