United States President George W Bush has hailed India's independence as "one of the great moments in the story of freedom." Bush was addressing the audience at the inaugural Indian and American Achiever Awards at the Kennedy Centre Concert Hall in Washington, DC on Thursday.
Speaking about India celebrating the 60th anniversary of its independence this year, Bush said, "For many years and through numerous struggles, the Indian people maintained their belief in the promise of liberty."
The American president also paid tribute to Mahathma Gandhi. "Indians were empowered by Mahatma Gandhi's message of hope and justice and on August 15, 1947, they achieved their independence."
Bush said that in its 60-year-old journey as an Independent nation, India has set an example for other countries. "India has offered a compelling example of how a country's unique culture and heritage can be preserved while guaranteeing the universal freedoms that are the foundation of true democracies," he said.
Bush added that, "The bonds between the United States and India have never been stronger and we remain united in our belief that the best way to ensure peace is to advance freedom. We will continue to strengthen the ties between our two democracies and work together to build a future of prosperity and opportunity for both our people."
In her message to the audience, President Pratibha Patil said that such award functions were significant as, "Such a recognition not only strengthens ties between the people of our two vibrant democracies, but these awards also honour and celebrate the achievements of Indians and
"It is significant that these awards have been launched during the worldwide celebration of the 60th anniversary of India's independence," she added.
"In science and technology, arts and media, business entrepreneurship and industry, India and the United States have proved that multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and pluralistic democracies generate the most conducive atmosphere for creativity, progress and development," said Patil.
"I take this occasion to pay a tribute to the Indian American community that symbolises the people to people contact between India and the United States. This community carries the legacy of the great civilizational heritage of India while contributing to the advancement of the country they have adopted," she added.
The awards for Innovations in Science and Technology went to Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Music director A R Rahman and Hollywood actor Richard Gere won the award in the Arts, Entertainment, and Media category.
The Tata Group and insurance company New York Life were the recipients of the award for outstanding multinational companies.
However, Rehman was the only winner present at the award function. The other awards were collected by representatives of the corporate sponsors of the awards.
The award ceremony was interspersed with performances by the bigwigs of Hindustani classical music and dance including Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Dr Balamurali Krishna, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty and Yogesh Samsi.