South and Central Asia: Secretary Kerry Meets With Embassy New Delhi Staff
SECRETARY KERRY: Hi, everybody. How are you? (Applause.)
MS. STEPHENS: Well, good morning, Mission India. It’s great to see you all here. It is my great privilege and honor to welcome back to India our Secretary of State, John Kerry. Secretary Kerry, your energy, your endurance is legendary, I have to say, not least because you come to India in the summers. (Laughter.) But I have to say, yesterday I saw you lead what I know was one of our broadest and deepest strategic dialogues ever, and at the same time, stay so heavily engaged in a negotiation that bore fruit very early this morning I discovered when I got up. Some of us got some sleep last night. And I congratulate you for that, and I thank you for your leadership. We are inspired by it.
One of the things you said yesterday at the strategic dialogue was that we have a lot of homework from the work that you and the minister did yesterday. Mr. Secretary, we do homework very well here. We have a mission that has – is – that has over 37 U.S. government agencies represented. When I was growing up, I didn’t know we had that many agencies. It does show the breadth and depth of our relationship, and we’re ready to carry forward the agenda that you identified yesterday.
We also have over 100 American families. Some of our youngest and most charming diplomats are represented here today. Over 1,000 Indian employees. It is this group, Mr. Secretary, and our four constituent posts throughout India who also, I think, underpin the kind of people-to-people ties that you spoke so eloquently about yesterday.
So we look forward to carrying on the work that you moved forward so well yesterday, as we will in the future at this important time in our relationship. We welcome you to India and we thank you for coming.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Kathleen.
MS. STEPHENS: Welcome.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Well, Kathleen, thank you very, very much. My stamina, or whatever you called it, may be legendary, but my brain is obviously addled. (Laughter.)
Good morning. How are you? Everybody good? Where’s the energy? Come on, guys. (Cheers.) All right. Get you bucked up here. Anyway, how old is this brilliant young diplomat?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Eleven months.
SECRETARY KERRY: Eleven months. Congratulations to you. And what’s her name?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Kristie.
SECRETARY KERRY: Kristie.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My – her name’s Dhruva.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, Drua.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Dhruva.
SECRETARY KERRY: Dhruva. Outstanding. Fantastic. She’s taking it all in. (Laughter.) Big eyes. Anyway.
Well, listen, it’s really a great pleasure for me to be here with all of you. Thank you. I really appreciate Embassy Delhi so much. Yesterday, we had a marathon session with the new government, and it was exciting because there was a lot of thinking and new ideas on the table, things that we can do to take the U.S.-India relationship to new heights, and I’m looking forward to that in a big way.
I want to thank – I want you all to join me in a very, very special thank you to Kathleen Stephens, who I think does just an extraordinary job. (Applause.) She is a diplomat’s diplomat. She’s really a professional. Came back out of retirement happily to take on the major responsibility of this post. And as you all know, she’s a career minister, ambassador, has held very important posts around the world, going way back in time to Yugoslavia when it actually was called that, which is pretty amazing, and Korea, Portugal; she served in Washington as a principal deputy assistant, a deputy assistant secretary, and so many other things. So we’re really, really fortunate to have her here in this very important post. And you can tell, we kind of had to reach out and find somebody with the stature and the ability to be able to do it, and she does it, and we’re very, very grateful to you. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
Now, I want to know, how are you guys doing? Are you on vacation or are you – are you? How is that working for you? (Laughter.) Pretty good? Are you guys – are you at school here?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am.
SECRETARY KERRY: You are, and the others aren’t. Where are you at school?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Colgate.
SECRETARY KERRY: Colgate, cool.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tufts.
SECRETARY KERRY: Tufts. Yay, (inaudible). (Laughter.) Sorry for Tufts. Anybody else?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m going to school in (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Whereabouts?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Santa Barbara (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. Gosh, that’s beautiful out there. And you?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Georgetown.
SECRETARY KERRY: Georgetown. Wow. Impressive. So you’re all just here for the summer? Are you able to – you’re working in the Embassy? You’re – intern program? Outstanding. Well, lucky you. I would have loved to have done that. I didn’t know anybody back then. I didn’t have any way of finding out how you do it, but anyway. (Laughter.)
I want to thank every single one of you. This – I know you’ve been going through some transition and tough times. It’s been a difficult process, and I want to thank you for making me feel right at home. The humidity is about as thick as Washington. The only difference is when it rains, in my office, I don’t get flooded in the basement. Isn’t that right? Somebody gets flooded? From what I’ve heard, anyway.
Let me just add a couple of quick words. I think we have a few people here I want to just single out for a minute. I don’t know if they’re here, because I know it’s early in some respects. But is Vikram Jit Mahajan here? There, Vikram. More than 30 years working for the Embassy, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very, very much. Thank you, sir. (Applause.) And what about Anudradha Chakravarthy? Is she here or is she not here? All right, will you tell her I wanted to single her out and I appreciate it. And Harsh? No Harsh here either? Okay. I’m striking out on two. Christine Chugh? Again not here. Okay. What?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: She’s not well.
SECRETARY KERRY: She’s not here? She’s not there either, is she? (Laughter.) She’s not here. Okay. Well, anyway, thank you.
I want everybody to recognize something that I recognize in every embassy that I visit and every post I’ve visited. We can’t do the job without the local hires, and everybody knows that. So I want to say a special thank you for those of you who take on not just the responsibility of working with the American Embassy, but if people don’t like us or they get mad at us or something, they probably take it out on you too, and therefore we are particularly grateful to you for your loyalty, your friendship to our country. There is no way for us to represent ourselves properly in any nation without those people who come and work with us in that endeavor, and every American says thank you to all of you very, very much. We appreciate it. (Applause.)
So I’m not going to make a long speech, but I do – let me just say to all of you, first of all, it was a privilege to be here for this dialogue. We really did cover a lot of territory. And Christine is not exaggerating when she says that there’s a lot of homework, because the prime minister is coming to Washington in September. We want that to be a good visit; we want to try to really take the relationship to a new place. And I’ve seen this relationship through the years. I first came here in the early 1990s when I was a Senator, and there was a lot of lingering suspicion from the Cold War period where India remained non-aligned, so to speak, and people in Washington resented that. So it took a while for us to be able to sort of get past that period of time. And India then started to go through a transition.
Ironically, it was then-Finance Minister Singh who became prime minister, who started the process of the economic reforms and the opening up. I think some people’s anticipation for all of that got ahead of the ability of the system to make some changes. So now we’re kind of in a restart, if you will, with a majority government for the first time, that is really ready to start to say: How do we tame the worst parts of globalization and harness the best parts in order to attract capital, invest, and do exciting things in innovation, technology, science, climate change, energy – all these opportunities that we have to work together.
And that’s where we’re going to put you all to work pretty heavily in these next months, because we really want to try to take this relationship to the place it ought to be. There’s a fundamental reason why we believe so deeply in this capacity. For all of its diversity and all of the complications of life in a country that has many people where they admittedly are challenged because of poverty and the effort to try to bring people into modernity, this is a democracy – an incredible, resounding, pulsating democracy – with the most amazing elections and energy in the process. People in India love to debate; they love to engage in the tug of public discourse. And so it’s harder sometimes to get things done, but we have that in common, more so than many other countries with whom we deal in the region and to the east of here.
So that is something enormous to build on – common kind of judicial system; common sense of law; common – in fact, our constitutions both begin with the same three words: “We the people.” And there is nowhere I can think of that there is a more vibrant practice of democracy than here in India. And by the way, they count votes faster and better than we do sometimes. (Laughter.) So we could learn a lesson or two. (Laughter.)
I just want to thank everybody. I remember when I was their age, my dad was in the Foreign Service for a period of time, and I remember what it was like to pack up and leave home and go to school in another place, and live abroad, and feel the culture, and have a sense of adventure. And it was wonderful; it was very, very exciting. You miss a few things? Sure, automatically. You’re not being raised – there’s no Little League usually, and other things. But on the other hand, you get a diversity of experience and exposure to the world that is so valuable. And the world is not going to change – not going to go backwards. We’re never going to return to the time where you had to log a phone call 12 hours ahead of time, and go to the post office to make it. I remember that. We’re in instant communications, instant touch with everybody in the world, all the time, every day – it’s a different world.
And so everybody knows what everybody else has and what they’re doing, and what kind of rights they get to exercise. And that’s changing things. Isn’t going to be easy in a lot of places, but it’s going to happen over time. And there’s an inexorable move, I believe, towards people being able to exercise their rights to have respect and dignity and be able to get an education, get a good job, and hopefully have a family and live a life the way so many people in the world are blessed to be able to do. There are too many people living in abject poverty, too many people oppressed, too many people hungry, too many people in the world who just don’t have that shot, and that’s part of what’s going on. And if we don’t offer them an opportunity, there are a lot of bad influences around who are ready to grab those minds and turn them to ill intent.
So that’s the challenge. And I’m so proud that all of you are engaged in it, you’re embracing it, and I thank you for that very, very much.
So I want to have a chance to say hello to you, and I don’t want to go on and on, give a speech. We were up to about 4:00 in the morning last night, and we were up to about 4:00 in the morning the night before, because we were woken up at 3:30 by the prime minister of Israel who wanted to tell me something at 3:30 in the morning, I don’t know why. (Laughter.) But anyway, it seems to have worked out, for the moment, and hopefully we can get something moving. It’s – the alternative, obviously, is this horrible violence – kids being blown up in schools and terrible things happening, Israel living in fear and daily terror by rockets. It’s just not really the choice that any of us want to offer anybody, and we’re working to try to change that.
So thanks for coming out this morning. I’m deeply appreciative. I hope you didn’t give up anything really better. (Laughter.) What could be better than this? No, I’m joking. (Laughter.) Thank you all very, very much. Good to be with you. Thank you. (Applause.)