CONSUL GENERAL HENRY V. JARDINE
for Reception in Honor
of the 231st Anniversary of United States Independence
July 3, 2007
(Embargoed till 7.30 P.M., July 3, 2007)
July 3, 2007
Chief Secretary Mr. Amit Kiran Deb, Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming tonight and joining us as we celebrate the 231st Anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. In reflecting on this anniversary, I think it is important to note, as President Woodrow Wilson commented, that “The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.” Honoring U.S. independence each year provides the opportunity to review our progress as a nation from its beginning 231 years ago, and while it remains a challenge for the United States to fulfill, or in the language of President Wilson “consummate” the ideals of “The Declaration of Independence,” the United States is fundamentally committed to the principles “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The strong and continually developing Indo-U.S. relationship is, I think, a result of the similarities in our two nations’ founding ideals. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, addressing the Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947, expressed the aspiration of India on its independence to “Bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman."
I feel very fortunate to be here in India and Kolkata at a time when our leaders are working so successfully to build on the shared democratic principles of our two nations through an expanding range of ambitious initiatives. Some of these areas include: Enhancing commercial and trade relations, with Indo-U.S. trade now at USD 32 billion and growing; fostering greater scientific cooperation in India’s space program; implementing the Agriculture Knowledge Initiative or (AKI) to create a second green revolution in India; promoting strategic cooperation through more joint military exercises; and working toward a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
In the past year, I think we at the Consulate have made great progress in supporting the growing Indo-U.S. partnership here in Eastern India. To promote our business relationship, we added a new Foreign Commercial Service Officer, Aileen Nandi, and she inaugurated a renovated and expanded Commercial office in the American Center during the visit of Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Richard Boucher.
We supported the newly established American Chamber of Commerce, which has expanded its membership this last year from just 9 starting members to now 26 corporate members. The dynamism of the Kolkata Chamber resulted in the national American Chamber of Commerce Board holding its first meeting in Kolkata earlier in January and I want to thank the many Chamber members for their generous support for tonight’s reception.
To better understand the complex economic, social and political issues in the region we added a new Political and Economic Officer, Rakesh Surampudi. Funds were also provided to address some of the region’s more pressing social issues. For instance, over USD 400,000 was budgeted for efforts to combat trafficking in persons and numerous programs were conducted to highlight the growing problems of HIV/AIDS and the rising rate of polio infection. We also worked to address environmental concerns, providing films to the annual Kolkata Wildlife Film Festival, funding visits by environmental experts and conducting environmental awareness programs such as the Green Business Quiz with the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
Our American Center has had a very busy and productive year, with a few highlights of its over 300 programs including the historic Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter concert, participation in the Kolkata Book Fair as a “guest of honor” country, distribution of English-Language training grants to hundreds of disadvantaged children, book donations to many schools and institutions, screening of the Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth,” and many other great programs. We look forward to the next Kolkata Book Fair, when the United States has the honor of being the Fair’s “theme country.”
In the area of education, our United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) office manages our Fulbright Scholarship program and advises prospective students seeking to study in the United States. The number of Indian students in the United States now stands at over 76,000, representing the largest group of foreign students in the United States. As a result of this trend, USEFI saw a record number of over 60,000 students and parents seeking counseling services. Not content to wait for people to come to it, USEFI also conducted an extensive outreach program traveling throughout Northeast India.
As always, a critical part of the work that we do also involves consular and visa services. The Indo-U.S. relationship is built on person-to-person contact, which can only happen by facilitating the visa process. We have focused on this by expanding our operations to meet the ever increasing demand for visas. Last year we added a new Vice Consul, Ralan Hill, to help manage our workload and with the support of additional officers coming from other posts in France, Hong Kong and the U.S. on temporary assignment here, we were able to reduce the wait for a visa appointment from weeks to just days. We also have been upgrading our facilities to improve access to persons with disabilities.
In the coming year we will see even more progress, in our work to promote the Indo-U.S. relationship in Eastern India. We are very excited about the opening of a new American School in August. The school will start small, with just a few students, but I expect it to grow in much the same way as the American Schools in Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi have expanded. We will do more upgrades to our Consular section to improve our waiting area and to add new visa interviewing windows. Our American Library will set up a new American Corner in Patna, Bihar, at the Bihar Industries Association (BIA) offices. The American Corner will provide publications, resource materials and computer facilities for the public to learn about the United States or specific issues such as education, business and English language training. I mention just a few initiatives that we plan for the future, to give you a sense of our commitment to furthering the Indo-U.S. partnership here in Kolkata and throughout the region.
Every Independence Day celebration offers a chance to appreciate how much we have accomplished over the past year but more importantly, this time is also an opportunity for beginning new efforts to promote the strong and developing relationship between India and the United States – echoing President Wilson’s remarks – today represents a beginning rather than a consummation. I would like to close by offering a toast to our two great democracies and to our shared values – to the United States and India.