The Indian American community has been a bridge between the United States and India; it has with its creativity, knowledge, entrepreneurship and work ethic transformed the image of India in American minds. And now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told approximately 1,500 community leaders assembled in the Ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Tuesday evening, it is time to do more.
'You could become a veritable highway for the flow of ideas, technology and capital,' Singh said. 'You embody the knowledge partnership between us, whose broadening will surely make Indo-US ties one of the principal relationships of the world.'
The speech was short, succinct, and pretty much to the point. The PM briefed the community about the threefold purpose of his visit: To enhance American understanding of the dramatic changes taking place in India; to underline that the US could contribute to this process of change and accelerate India's already-dramatic growth rate; and to convince the US that it is in its strategic interests to help India's economy expand.
Mission accomplished, the PM told the community, listing the various accomplishments of his first ever official visit to the US; this part of his speech was pretty much a précis of the joint statement put out by Singh and President George Bush Monday and the address he had delivered to the joint session of Congress earlier today
Singh defined the challenge facing India today to meet the increasing aspirations of the upwardly mobile while simultaneously addressing the basic needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. The community, he said, has done much to help India meet these challenges; in the coming years, it needs to do more.
'I believe the 21st century will be a global one, belonging to global citizens. It will be a century of freedom, of democracy, of multi-culturalism and of knowledge. These are the very values you represent, values we admire. Through your commitment and efforts, India and the Indo-US partnership will grow together.'
Rounding off his speech, Singh quickly walked the rope separating the dais and the audience, shook as many hands as he could and, almost before the applause had completely died down, was ushered out along with External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and the members of the Indian delegation.
The function was organized by the Indian Embassy, under the auspices of Ambassador Ronendra Sen; besides community leaders of every possible stripe. The event drew the likes of Tata Sons chairman Rattan Tata and HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, both members of the newly-created CEOs forum; Teresita Schaffer, former ambassador and director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Karl Inderfurth, professor of international affairs at George Washington University; the Hinduja brothers Srichand and Gopichand, and the like.
Complete coverage: Manmohan Singh in Washington
Prior to the PM's arrival shortly after 8 pm, the community had, after running the gamut of registration desks, metal detectors and body frisking, networked over a buffet spread in the annexe to the main ballroom.
The PM, who returned to his Blair House residence after a half-hour appearance at the reception, will begin tomorrow with a breakfast meeting with the editorial board of the Washington Post. He will then attend lunch hosted in his honor by the National Press Club, where he is scheduled to speak. He will then be interviewed by Wolf Blitzer for CNN, an interview that will air on that channel at 1700 EDT; after last minute meetings with Administration officials and think tank heads, he will leave for Andrews Air Force Base, where he will be given a ceremonial send off ahead of his 2300 hrs departure for New Delhi via Geneva.