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"What India Means To Me"
Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill
(US Ambassador to India)
A Luncheon Speech
July 29, 2003
New Delhi, India
The form and function of Indian architecture with its
creation, assimilation and adaptation. Magnificent Mughal miniatures. Like
you, I wish I owned two dozen of the originals. Or one.
India's innumerable and distinctive dances, beginning with the classical.
The Vedas and the
Upanishads. They mean so much more when I read them here:
"It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of speech,
the breath of breath, and the eye of the eye. When freed (from the senses)
the wise, on departing from this world, become immortal."
Indian family values, which I admire as essential first principles, and see
in action many times every day in this country. The living symbolic power in
this ancient civilization, the abiding aura, of -- the tree. Of the circle.
Of the triangle.
Arranged marriages. The fourteen hundred years of Islam in India. Friday
prayers. The Indian novel in English. Who is writing better fiction today
than these folks? Mesmerizing Hindustani music whose origins are deeply
spiritual and therefore of particular meaning and comfort to me.
The mighty Himalayas. They humble even Blackwill, at least when he is in
sight of them and it isn't a cloudy day. Can we move them to the Potomac to
give me more balance and perspective? I would not be the only one in
Washington who would be grateful.
Fabulous cuisines. India is unquestionably the only country in the world
where this Kansas lad raised on beefsteaks could happily be a vegetarian.
But please don't tell my relatives back on the mid-West farms.
Holi. Kashmiri carpets. Weavers everywhere capturing India's enveloping
colors. The Bengal tigers in the wild at Ranthambhore. How could they be
more in command? I could use their skills in my new responsibilities back
home, and have sent them an email with a job offer. Haven't yet heard back
from those big cats yet, but I remain hopeful.
The Monsoon that rains life into India. Surely this happens by God's grace.
The singular smell and sound as the drops strike the parched earth. Like so
much of India for me, absolutely unforgettable.
And more than any of this, the remembrances of the character of the people
of India, which I will take back to America with me - of countless
individuals over these two years who have taught me, counseled me, guided
me, and protected me - who were generous to me beyond imagination. I could
not repay their kindnesses to Wera and me no matter how many times I was
Before I close these, my final Ambassadorial remarks in India, I want to
deal briefly with another subject.
Many in this country have remarked upon my strong views against terrorism.
In these feelings, to a considerable extent I draw on the white hot
anti-terrorist convictions of my President, George W. Bush -- and on the
September 11 attacks on the American homeland. But on this subject, like so
many others, India has left its dominant and enduring imprint on me.
While I was preparing for my Senate confirmation hearing in early 2001 in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, I started to read regularly the Indian press. It
was then that for the first time I encountered the devastating fact of
terrorism against India. Sitting in my office at Harvard, I began to keep a
daily count of those killed here by terrorists. Three on Monday. Seven on
Tuesday. Fourteen on Wednesday. Five on Thursday. Two on Friday. Day after
day. Week after week. Month after month.
India's death toll from terrorism mounted as the snow fell and melted in
Cambridge, and that New England winter turned to spring. And I became more
and more angry. Innocent human beings murdered as a systemic instrument of
twisted political purpose. Terror against India that rose and fell with the
seasons, year after year after year.
By the time that I left the United States for India in the summer of 2001,
this very personal death count that I was keeping had reached hundreds. And,
for me, these were not abstract and antiseptic numbers in a newspaper story.
Each death, I forced myself to remember, was a single person -- an
individual man, woman, child -- with family, loved ones, friends. They each
have a name. Just like us, they each had a life to lead. These are our
mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our babies, and our
friends. Each had laughs to laugh. Tears to shed. Loves to love. Meals to
eat. Accomplishments to record. Setbacks to overcome. Places to go. Things
to do. Prayers to offer. All snuffed out by the killing hand of terror. On
September 11 in America. Nearly every day in India.
No respectable religion could excuse these merciless acts. No moral
framework could sanction these abominations. No political cause could
justify these murders of innocents. And yet, they go on.
But, my friends, these terrorist outrages against my country and against
yours will not continue indefinitely. We know this from the Ramayana, and
many other holy books. Good does triumph over evil, although it sometimes
takes more time than we would like.
We will win the war on terrorism, and the United States and India will win
it together - because we represent good, and terrorists are evil incarnate.
God will make it so.
In this context, let me conclude with a word about India's religious
beliefs. Someone once said, "the most sublime purpose of religion is to
teach how to know God." India has been working on that challenge from a
variety of perspectives for several millennia. It has been my immense
privilege during these two years to experience, and to profit from, these
profound wellsprings of Indian spirituality.
I will return to India. How could it be otherwise?
Thank you, my friends, for listening to these, my personal musings.
And, thank you India for every single thing that I have discovered here.
Mother India has changed my life -- forever.