About the Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton serves as the U.S. Secretary of State.
Early last Friday morning, I returned from a whirlwind trip through India and Thailand.
I went to India with the goal of strengthening the ties between our two governments, but I also hoped to deepen the connections between the American people and the people of India. As I wrote in an op-ed for the Times of India, “Our people share common interests, common values, and a common stake in the 21st century.”
Despite arriving in the middle of monsoon season in Mumbai, I was warmly welcomed by Indian Ambassador-designate Tim Roemer, Chargé Peter Burleigh, and Consul General Paul Folmsbee. In Mumbai we chose to stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel in order to send a clear message that we stand in solidarity with the people of Mumbai and all those who were affected by the tragic 26/11 terrorist attacks. The Taj today represents a rebuke to those who failed to destroy the spirit and the resilience of the people of India. On the first morning of our stay I had the honor to commemorate those who died in the attacks and meet with some of the victims' families and survivors, as well as those who bravely assisted in the rescue efforts.
Later, I sat down with Indian business leaders to discuss a number of topics, including how Indian and American businesses can use innovation and entrepreneurship to spread prosperity more broadly across our two countries.
That afternoon, I toured the Hansiba retail shop, which sells goods through the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a micro-finance organization that gives women in rural businesses loans to make crafts. I first visited SEWA in 1995 in Gujarat and could not be more pleased that more than a dozen years later it is now considered a true world leader in the empowerment of women.
The first day ended with an education and service-oriented town hall with Bollywood star Aamir Khan where we had a chance to discuss the education systems of our two countries and the extraordinary value of programs like Teach for America and Teach India.
The next morning I flew to New Delhi where I was greeted by the Indian Ambassador to the United States Meira Shankar and Gaitri Kumar, the Joint Secretary for the Americas. Following our arrival, Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and I toured one of the only two buildings in India to be honored for meeting the U.S. Business Council's highest standards of environmentally conscious building design and operation. In a conversation with the Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, we shared our different perspectives but also our firm common commitment to work to a successful outcome later this year at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I then toured the National Agricultural Research Institute's Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, a joint venture between the U.S. and Indian governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other public and private sector entities, where some of India's top scientists are working to solve one of the most difficult challenges we face as a global community: the problem of chronic hunger and malnutrition, which affect nearly a billion people in the world.
The next morning, I delivered remarks at a town hall we held at Delhi University, describing how India is emerging as a global leader for the 21st century. The energy, dynamism and vitality of India was palpable throughout my visit -- it’s in the faces of those who get up every day and work hard for a better future, and in the hope that they carry inside their hearts for their children.
Following "DU," I joined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lunch. On President Obama's behalf, I invited the Prime Minister to Washington for the Administration’s first State Visit, and he warmly accepted. Later in the afternoon, I also met with Opposition Leader LK Advani; Chairwoman of the Congress Party Sonia Ghandi and MP Rahul Ghandi; and in the evening, with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
External Affairs Minister Krishna and I announced the Strategic Dialogue, an agreement between India and the U.S. that will focus on five primary pillars: strategic cooperation; energy and climate change; education and development; economics, trade, and agriculture; science and technology; and health and innovation.
We then headed to Bangkok, Thailand. It gave me great joy to return to Thailand as I have very fond memories of my previous visits. I met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and then with Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu. I reiterated that President Obama and I are committed to a broader, stronger, and deeper relationship with Thailand. We are historic treaty allies, fellow democracies, strategic partners, and above all, we are friends. Our friendship has stood the test of time (more than 175 years) and I’m confident that it will stand the tests of the 21st century.
Wednesday, I sat down with The Nation’s Suttichai Yoon and Veenarat Laohapakakul for an interview before a live studio audience of about 250 students, young leaders, bloggers, and celebrities. We discussed a range of issues including North Korea, Burma, Iran, India, and human trafficking.
The last stop on the tour was the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket, Thailand where I hope my message was clear: The United States is back in Southeast Asia. President Obama and I believe that this region is vital to global progress, peace, and prosperity, and we are fully engaged with our ASEAN partners on the wide range of challenges confronting us, from regional and global security to the economic crisis to human rights and climate change.
I also took the opportunity at ASEAN to talk with a number of foreign ministers about our concerns regarding North Korea, including Russian FM Lavrov, Japanese FM Nakasone, South Korean FM Yu, and Chinese FM Yang. Complete and irreversible denuclearization is the only viable path for North Korea. We do not intend to reward North Korea just for returning to the table, nor do we intend to reward them for actions they have already committed to taking and then reneged on. The path is open to them, and it is up to them to follow it. Unless and until they do, they will face international isolation and the unrelenting pressure of global sanctions. Also while at ASEAN, I had the chance to sit down with my Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss the situation in the region.
On August 4, it’s off to Africa and I’ll be sure to send you more updates along the way.