Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi addressed the Joint Meeting of U.S Congress in Washington DC on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Here is the full transcript of the speech.
Paul Ryan – House of Representatives Speaker
Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor in presenting to you His Excellency Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India.
Narendra Modi – Prime Minister of India
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Distinguished Members of the U.S. Congress, ladies and gentlemen.
I am deeply honored by the invitation to address this Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress. Thank you, Mr. Speaker for opening the doors of this magnificent Capitol.
This temple of democracy has encouraged and empowered other democracies the world over. It manifests the spirit of this great nation, which in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
In granting me this opportunity, you have honored the world’s largest democracy and its 1.25 billion people. As a representative of world’s largest democracy, it is indeed a privilege to speak to the leaders of its oldest.
Mr. Speaker, two days ago, I began my visit by going to the Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many brave soldiers of this great land. I honored their courage and sacrifice for the ideals of freedom and democracy. It was also the seventy-second Anniversary of the D-Day. On that day, thousands from this great country fought to protect the torch of liberty. They sacrificed their lives so that the world lives in freedom. I applaud — India applauds, the great sacrifices of the men and women from ‘The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’ in service of mankind.
India knows what this means because our soldiers have fallen in distant battlefields for the same ideals. That is why the threads of freedom and liberty form a strong bond between our two democracies.
Mr. Speaker, our nations may have been shaped by diverse histories, cultures, and faiths. Yet, our belief in democracy for our nations and liberty for our countrymen is common. The idea that all citizens are created equal is a central pillar of the American constitution. Our founding fathers too shared the same belief and sought individual liberty for every citizen of India.
There were many who doubted India when, as a newly independent nation, we reposed our faith in democracy. Indeed, wagers were made on our future. But, the people of India did not waver.
Our founders created a modern nation with freedom, democracy, and equality as the essence of its soul. And, in doing so, they ensured that we continued to celebrate our age old diversity.
Today, across its individuals and institutions, in its villages and cities, in streets and states, are anchored in equal respect for all faiths; and in the melody of hundreds of its languages and dialects. India lives as one; India grows as one; India celebrates as one.
Mr. Speaker, modern India is in its 70th year. For my government, the Constitution is its real holy book. And, in that holy book, freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental rights. 800 million of my countrymen may exercise the freedom of franchise once every five years. But, all the 1.25 billion of our citizens have freedom from fear, a freedom they exercise every moment of their lives.
Distinguished Members, engagement between our democracies has been visible in the manner in which our thinkers impacted one another, and shaped the course of our societies. Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience influenced our political thoughts. And, similarly the call by the great sage of India Swami Vivekananda to embrace humanity was most famously delivered in Chicago. Gandhi’s non-violence inspired the heroism of Martin Luther King.
Today, a mere distance of 3 miles separates the Martin Luther King memorial at Tidal Basin from the statue of Gandhi at Massachusetts Avenue. This proximity of their memorials in Washington mirrors the closeness of ideals and values they believed in. The genius of Dr. Bhimrao — Babasaheb Ambedkar was nurtured in the years he spent at the Columbia University a century ago. The impact of the U.S. constitution on him was reflected in his drafting of the Indian constitution some three decades later.
Our independence was ignited by the same idealism that fuelled your struggle for freedom. No wonder then that former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee called India and the U.S. ‘natural allies’. No wonder that the shared ideals and common philosophy of freedom shaped the bedrock of our ties. No wonder then, that President Obama has called our ties the defining partnership of the 21st century.
Mr. Speaker, more than 15 years ago, Prime Minister Vajpayee stood here and gave a call to step out of the ‘shadow of hesitation’ of the past. The pages of our friendship since then tell a remarkable story. Today, our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history. Comfort, candor and convergence define our conversations.