Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India

July 29, 1982

The President. Prime Minister Gandhi, Nancy and I are delighted to welcome you to the White House. And let me add a personal note. It is good to see you here again as leader of the great Indian democracy, which provides a unique opportunity for us to broaden and deepen the dialog we began last autumn in Mexico. Through our talks, we can help to reach a renewed recognition of the mutual importance of strong, constructive ties between India and the United States.

In searching for words to describe the focus of your visit to Washington this week, I came upon a statement that you had made in Delhi when Roy Jenkins visited in 1980. And at that time, you said, ``The great need in the world today is to so define national interest that it makes for greater harmony, greater equality and justice, and greater stability in the world.'' Well, that is more than an eloquent description of enlightened national interest. It can also serve to describe the foundation of the relationship between the United States and India, a relationship we seek to reaffirm this week. A strengthening of that relationship, based on better understanding, is particularly important at this time.

Your father once said that the basic fact of today is the tremendous pace of change in human life. The conflicts and the tensions of the 1980's pose new challenges to our countries and to all nations which seek, as India and the United States do, freedom in a more stable, secure, and prosperous world. As leaders of the world's two largest democracies, sharing common ideals and values, we can learn much from one another in discussing concerns and exploring national purposes. From this understanding can come greater confidence in one another's roles on the world's stage and a rediscovery of how important we are to one another.

Prime Minister Gandhi, we recognize that there have been differences between our two countries, but these should not obscure all that we have in common, for we are both strong, proud, and independent nations guided by our own perceptions of our national interests. We both desire the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean area and the early end of the occupation of Afghanistan. We both seek an equitable peace in the Middle East and an honorable settlement of the Iran-Iraq conflict.

We both seek a constructive approach to international economic cooperation, building on the strong links even today being forged between the economies of the United States and India. Beyond that, India and the United States are bound together by the strongest, most sacred tie of all, the practice of democratic freedoms denied to many peoples by their governments.

My devout hope is that, during this visit, we can weave together all these threads of common interest into a new and better understanding between our two countries.

Welcome to the United States.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, to me every journey is an adventure. And I can say that this one is an adventure in search of understanding and friendship.

It is difficult to imagine two nations more different than ours. As history goes, your country is a young one. Over the years, it has held unparalleled attraction for the adventurous and daring, for the talented as well as for the persecuted. It has stood for opportunity and freedom. The endeavors of the early pioneers, the struggle for human values, the coming together of different races have enabled it to retain its elan and dynamism of youth. With leadership and high ideals, it has grown into a great power. Today, its role in world affairs is unmatched. Every word and action of the President is watched and weighed and has global repercussions.

India is an ancient country, and history weighs heavily on us. The character of its people is formed by the palimpsest of its varied experiences. The circumstances of its present development are shadowed by its years of colonialism and exploitation. Yet, our ancient philosophy has withstood all onslaughts, absorbing newcomers, adapting ideas and cultures. We have developed endurance and resilience.

In India, our preoccupation is with building and development. Our problem is not to influence others, but to consolidate our political and economic independence. We believe in freedom with a passion that only those who have been denied it can understand. We believe in equality, because many in our country were so long deprived of it. We believe in the worth of the human being, for that is the foundation of our democracy and our work for development. That is the framework of our national programs.

We have no global interests, but we are deeply interested in the world and its affairs. Yet, we cannot get involved in power groupings. That would be neither to our advantage, nor would it foster world peace. Our hand of friendship is stretched out to all. One friendship does not come in the way of another. This is not a new stand; that has been my policy since I became Prime Minister in 1966.

No two countries can have the same angle of vision, but each can try to appreciate the points of view of the others. Our effort should be to find a common area, howsoever small, on which to build and to enhance cooperation. I take this opportunity to say how much we in India value the help we have received from the United States in our stupendous tasks.

I look forward to my talks with you, Mr. President, and getting to know the charming Mrs. Reagan. I thank you, Mr. President, for your kind invitation, for your welcome, and your gracious words. I bring to you, to the First Lady, and to the great American people the sincere greetings and good wishes of the government and people of India.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where the Prime Minister was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors.

Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met privately in the Oval Office. They then joined U.S. and Indian officials, including Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of the Treasury Donald T. Regan, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs William P. Clark, U.S. Ambassador to India Harry G. Barnes, Jr., Gopalaswamy Parthasarathi, Adviser to the Prime Minister, P. C. Alexander, Principal Secretary, the Prime Minister's Secretariat, and Indian Ambassador to the United States Kocheril Raman Narayanan, in the Cabinet Room for further discussions.