Address by Consul General S.R. Tayal at the 56th Republic Day Function
Despite the pall of gloom over all of us caused by the calamitous Tsunami, one must summon up enough courage to look at the future with hope. And, India enters our 56th year as a Republic with optimism and confidence.
The Tsunami disaster of 26 December affected thousands of my countrymen. Our Government, our armed forces and the entire country rose as one to provide relief and rehabilitation to the affected. Massive international relief has been mobilized. Houston community, many among you, have donated generously for relief. As we pray for the departed, I thank the Government, the people and the humanitarian agencies of the United States for their generosity, for their concern and for their sympathy.
In this hour of grief, we also extended the hand of assistance to our neighbours. Ships, planes, helicopters and medical teams were immediately dispatched to Sri Lanka and Maldives. A package of assistance of more than $25 million has been sent to these two countries and a medical ship to Indonesia in Sumatra.
In the wake of tsunami, Kusum and I wrestled with the thought whether to go ahead with today's reception. We decided to go ahead as 26 January is our National Day. It is a historic date when India became a Republic 55 years ago. As we gather here, we remember and recognize the sacrifices and sufferings of millions during India's freedom struggle.
Today, we also reflect over the progress made by our young Republic.
Last one year has been eventful. The Government changed in my country, the largest democracy in the world, through free and fair elections. The UPA Government led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is resolutely steering the country on a path of rapid economic growth and social welfare. India's GDP is rising at the annual rate of more than 7%. We now have a surplus in food grains.
In Information Technology, India's experts have earned a formidable global reputation. There was good news on energy front when a major gas field was discovered on the East Coast of India.
Today, we salute the steady growth in the friendship between our countries. Indo-US relations are witnessing a new strength, a new maturity at this time when both our democracies face the common danger of terrorism. There is a new strategic partnership emerging between our countries. Our defense forces are regularly exercising together. Numerous bilateral groups meet annually to deepen the contacts between our civilian establishments.
Today, we recognize and thank the 2 million Indian-Americans - visible symbol of the strong bonds between our two countries. I hail their tireless efforts to bring our two democracies even closer both economically and politically.
The election of U.S. Congressman Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, the participation of Mohini Bhardwaj in U.S. Olympic gymnastic team and the silent work of tens of thousands of Indian doctors, nurses, engineers, businessmen in this country contributes everyday to the rising profile of India. Today, we also remember Astronaut Kalpana Chawla and I thank the University of Texas, Arlington for dedicating a Hall in her name at their campus.
Last year was a landmark for your city. On 2nd October, Mahatma Gandhi's statue was unveiled in the Hermann Park. I congratulate the Houston Civic authorities and the community led by the Indian Culture Center for making this happen. Last October, for the first time a series of events were organized by the Gandhi Library to spread the message of Mahatma Gandhi. I thank all who conceived of those creative programmes and then worked hard to make them a reality.
This year, end-April, India is proud to be the partner country in the Houston International Festival. I invite you all to visit the Festival and witness a spectacular presentation of India's culture in all its magnificence and diversity. This year the long awaited "India House" project would also get off the ground with a very broad-based community support.
Friends, India is on the move. Steadily and gradually, the economic future of our more than 1 billion citizens is now brighter. And we need peace - the world needs peace for an era of greater progress and prosperity.
As we together celebrate our National Day, I wish and pray for global peace.
I pay a tribute to the people and Government of the United States for their steadfast efforts to promote democracy and freedom; and
I thank you all for contributing in your own individual ways to enhance the friendship between India and the United States.
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