'India is a powerhouse'
India is "a powerhouse" in today's world and indispensable to "the conduct of global affairs", believes Senator John F Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.
Kerry, who was speaking at a Capitol Hill reception honouring India's new Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao, co-hosted by the Senate India Caucus co-chairs, Senators Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat and John Cornyn, Texas Republican, also lauded India's impeccable nuclear nonproliferation track record.
He noted that India's record was in stark contrast to that of its immediate neighbours, although he did not name any of these countries.
"It is simply a reality that India is a powerhouse," the influential Massachusetts Democrat said, adding that it is "an extraordinary country, a place of the most vibrant debate, remarkable cultural diversity, great political diversity and increasingly critical to the conduct of global affairs."
Reportage: Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
Image: John Kerry
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
'Indians love to debate just about anything'
Kerry said, "Our relationship on the nuclear issue is obviously one that is expanding and growing," and asserted, "India's remarkable sense of responsibility with respect to the stewardship of nuclear power -- even though the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) has always been something outside of that guide-post -- has nevertheless been exemplary and stands as an example to near neighbours and others in the world about where the future really lies with respect to the exercise of that responsibility."
He reminisced, "It's a place where each time I go, I am stunned by the level of debate," and quipped, "One thing I've learned is Indians love to debate just about anything and if you want to have a good discussion, there is no better place than India."
Kerry gushed, "It is as exciting and as vibrant and as interesting a place as I could think of anywhere on the face of this planet. But most importantly, because we share this foundation of democracy and this excitement for the possibilities of human behaviour, we have a great partnership ahead of us -- a lot to do together."
He said that as he had informed Ambassador Rao, he would be visiting India shortly within the next one or two months "and continuing to dialogue about how we work together to deal with some very, very complex, challenging issues across the planet."
Image: A file photo of US Senator John Kerry with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
'India's role will grow at the United Nations'
Kerry predicted, "India's role will grow at the United Nations. I am confident that it will grow in terms of South Asia and the rest of the world, and I just simply look forward to being part of this exciting moment in history."
"We look forward to working with your extraordinary ambassador in helping all of this to be the way we want it to be," he added.
Earlier, Kerry showered heaps of praise on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and recalled that "back in the 1990s, when the current prime minister was finance minister, I had the privilege of traveling to India when the first economic reforms were put in place."
While acknowledging that even at that time India "was already growing," Kerry argued that "it was a far cry from where we have come in some 15 years."
He pointed out that "I took the first Senate business trade mission to India and have since been back a number of times and have had the privilege of addressing World Economic Forum meetings with India and meeting a number of times with the prime minister and other members of the government.
Image: India's envoy to America Nirupama Rao
Photographs: Adrees Latif/Reuters