Obama Visit Will Be a Celebration of Diversity: Pranab Mukherjee

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Oct 8 (IANS) Downplaying their row over outsourcing, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said US President Barack Obama's upcoming India visit would be a coming together of the world's largest and oldest democracies in a celebration of diversity.

"In any growing relationship there will be issues which are to be addressed through dialogue," he said in response to a question on India's expectations from the Obama visit after an address at Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars here Thursday.

The issues of outsourcing and financial relationship and arrangements were being addressed through dialogue at various appropriate forums, Mukherjee said without elaborating.

"As far as President Obama's visit is concerned it will not only be important outstanding visit, it will also be, as the president himself pointed out, a 'defining moment in history'," he said. "It cannot be categorised in one, two, three, four items."

"The overall message would be that two large democracies...are coming together to convey the message that in democracies there should be diversity," he said. "And we should not oppose diversity; we should celebrate diversity that strengthens."

"I do hope that President Obama's visit to India will convey to the world that message very clearly and distinctly."

Mukherjee said he shared Obama's sentiment that the US-India partnership would be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century and "our country is ready to take this friendship forward."

"I am sure that his visit will strengthen cooperation between India and the United States and lay out a vision for our strategic partnership based on our shared values and our shared interests," he said.

Stressing the "need for greater international cooperation to manage global challenges" that "can not be tackled by any single country alone", Mukherjee said: "A strong partnership between India and the United States would be vital in this process."

The friendship between the two nations was "built on deep, shared values, and the commitment to democracy and secularism" and "we now have important economic inter-connections, based on trade, investment and the movement of people."

Noting that with gradual economic reforms, "India is now an open, competitive market economy, Mukherjee said: "As Indian companies seek to position themselves better in the global market place, they have invested over $25 billion between 2004 and 2009 in the US, creating jobs and prosperity, just as US companies have been doing in India."

With the Indian economy expected to grow between 8 to 10 percent over the coming decade, the opportunities for business engagement with India will multiply manifold, he said.

"The nuclear agreement between our nations and what it can do to alleviate the demand for greater energy and electricity is a significant symbol of our collaboration," Mukherjee said.

Suggesting that there is also a lot of scope for collaboration between India and the US in the area of education, he said: "I do want India to be a hub of global education and to have many more American students coming to India for education."

"Cooperation between India and the United States in this sector will be mutually beneficial, building expanding and durable links between our peoples which will be the connecting tissue of our relationship," Mukherjee said.



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