"I am happy to join all of you at the iconic Art Institute of Chicago. I am also honoured and privileged to have the opportunity of addressing my countrymen from the same stage where Swami Vivekananda delivered his historic speech 125 years ago.
It was this famous speech which drew the world’s attentions towards India and its rich heritage. He spoke about the antiquity of our culture and civilization including its numerous achievements and remarkable contributions. It was also Swami Vivekananda who propagated the importance of the ancient Indian philosophy of Vedanta and the spirit of universality, tolerance and acceptance that underpins ancient Indian thought.
Swami Vivekananda’s journey to Chicago in the winter of 1893 is also symbolic of the journey that the Hindu philosophical thoughts have made across the World and have brought enlightenment in lands, far and diverse.
I am proud that my fellow countrymen who despite being far away from their land, many of them since generations before, have created a name for India on the world stage and have enhanced its glory and honour.
Swami Vivekananda was among the pioneers who brought the rich philosophical and civilizational ethos of India to the western world and beyond. Today, Indians living abroad, have become the spiritual and cultural ambassadors for India. We consider the whole world as one family, we say: “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and for us these are not just words, this is our inherent character, our intrinsic approach rooted in our culture. This is not merely a thought, but also a way of life for us. This is the reason why you would see people who have emigrated from India living in harmony with diverse religious, ethnic and linguistic communities across the world.
I take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation for the warm greetings from the Governor of Illinois, Mr Bruce Rauner and to the Mayor of Chicago, Mr. Rahm Emanuel. I am also happy to learn that the Delhi-Chicago sister city partnership is continuing in a strong and vibrant manner like the partnership between our countries.
The friendship between India and the United States is based on our shared values of individual liberty, freedom, democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and justice. These ties have witnessed considerable deepening and strengthening in the recent years. Our natural affinity based on shared values has become stronger due to the growth in convergences between our two countries on an increasing number of bilateral and regional issues.
About two decades ago, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had described India and the U.S. as “natural allies”. Since then we have witnessed the multifaceted development of this relationship, and we can now confidently say that we are not only rapidly realizing the true potential of our strategic partnership, but also working as global partners more closely than ever before.
Our relationship today is broad-based and multi-sectorial. It covers many new areas such as defence, security, energy, science and technology, and civil aviation. Both India and U.S. have worked continuously to bring the relationship to the current level.
India’s emergence as the world’s fastest growing major economy and the revival of economic growth in the US create mutually beneficial opportunities for both countries. Speaking at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, therefore, stated that “India’s global strategic partnership with the United States has overcome the hesitations of history and continues to deepen across the extraordinary breadth of our relationship. It has assumed new significance in the changing world.”
Earlier this afternoon I addressed the concluding session of the Second World Hindu Congress. I was very happy to see the presence of people from all walks of life from nearly 60 countries.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to address another large gathering of Indians living in the United States. Both these events were focused on the large Indian Diaspora which has expanded through several centuries of migration and co-existence all over the world.
We in India are extremely proud of this Diaspora, and I am happy that my visit to Chicago involves outreach to our compatriots living abroad. We have a series of programmes and initiatives to strengthen our ties with members of the Indian Diaspora, and my current visit is only a part of the broader efforts in this regard. I understand that many of you present here have travelled from different states in the US to be here at this event, and I would like to thank you all for this kind gesture.
In this distinguished gathering, we have Indians from different walks of life -- businessmen, entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers, professors and students. Many of you are citizens of the USA but are deeply attached to your country of origin. This is because we are bound by a common thread of goodwill, kinship, and mutual understanding which is inherent to our cultural and spiritual heritage. I am very happy to know that you have preserved your traditions and festivals in this country while assimilating American values and ethics. I am also very happy to see the way our American friends appreciate and participate in your festivities and cultural events. You have worked hard to bring the peoples of our two countries closer.
You also represent one of the strongest and most vibrant Indian diasporas anywhere in the world. Your excellence in various fields including medicine, engineering, business, academia, are a matter of pride to us.
You contribute not just through your professions but also through your active commitment to political and social discourse. It is heartening to see that many Indian-Americans are playing a positive and influential role in formulating public policy not only in the US Congress, but also at the State and the local level. Through your contributions, you have not only enriched this country but also served as an inspiration for us in India. It has driven us to strive for greater heights and prosperity and the ongoing transformation in India is a reflection of this new found aspiration. In the same way, I am sure that resurgence of India at the global level also gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Sisters and brothers,
You are aware that India is a young country where about 65% of our population is below the age of 35. This richness of human resource and potential has to be harnessed efficiently to produce the desired results. Your continued connect with India and sharing of best practices, expertise and advice will be extremely helpful in shaping our youth and making them better skilled thus contributing to the overall growth and development.
India is undergoing transformation at an unprecedented pace and scale which goes beyond mere economic development. This comprehensive restructuring and change reflects the aspirations of India’s youth. Inclusive development and good governance are essential elements of this endeavour towards imparting a new energy to the country and the economy.
The World Bank has noted that “India’s growth in recent years has been supported by prudent macroeconomic policy: a new inflation targeting framework, energy subsidy reforms, fiscal consolidation, higher quality of public expenditure and a stable balance of payment situation. In addition, recent policy reforms have helped India improve the business environment, ease inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve credit behaviour. India’s long-term growth has become more steady, stable, diversified and resilient.”The IMF, World Economic Forum and other bodies have also been noting the steady growth that India is making on the economic front.
Backed by robust economic growth we are making steady progress towards becoming a 5 trillion-dollar economy and emerge as the third largest consumer market in the world by 2025. India’s foreign exchange reserves have steadily grown to U.S. $ 400 billion. India has been among the world’s foremost countries attracting green field foreign direct investment. It is also among the top two emerging markets in terms of FDI confidence index. India’s rankings have improved from 71 to 40 in the global competitive index of the World Economic Forum.
The most remarkable progress has been registered in the World Bank’s ranking for the Ease of Doing Business, where India has moved up 42 places in just the last three years and is ranked at 100th position. All these indicators reflect the progress that has been made in establishing India as a stable, secure, and attractive destination for business, industry, and investment.
I am here in this iconic building where Swami Vivekananda delivered his memorable speeches. My thoughts go back to his stirring words about India. He had said, “Gifts of political knowledge can be made with the blasts of trumpets and the march of cohorts. Gifts of secular knowledge and social knowledge can be made with fire and sword; but spiritual knowledge can only be given in silence, like the dew that falls unseen and unheard, yet bringing into bloom masses of roses. This has been the gift of India to the world time and again”. Preservation of this great cultural heritage is of paramount importance and I am really pleased that many of you are ensuring that this happens in your homes and communities.
I would like to conclude by saying that there are immense opportunities waiting for you in India. India is changing and the rate of transformation is rapid. There is an extraordinary political commitment and enlightened leadership at all levels that is keen to bring change in people’s lives. You all can be a part of this growth story and accelerate the pace and improve the quality of various initiatives being taken up by the Union Government and the state governments.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which is being organized from 21 to 23 January 2019 at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh would provide a very good opportunity for all of you to come and have a glimpse of the transformative endeavour India is engaged in. We look forward to welcoming you in India for this event.
We hope you would continue to convey the timeless, harmonious vision of India to the world and bring the best ideas and practices from the world to India.