Today is the last day of my tenure as the United States ambassador to India and as I leave my post, I want to thank the people of India who have made the past two years the highlight of my professional life. In my travels across India, I have been inspired by the potential of this land of my forefathers and the potential of the relationship between India and the United States. I depart with a deep satisfaction that our shared effort over the past two years has fixed the course of a partnership that will benefit the lives of billions.
Many great thinkers have understood and celebrated the positive aspects of the shared India-US experience that have brought us to where we are today. At the beginning of the 20th century Rabindranath Tagore saw the US as an emerging country that would guide a riven world through looming crises and he appealed to leaders to stay true to the ideals and commitments in which our republic was born. During his 1959 visit to India, Martin Luther King encouraged Indians growing uncertain about their trajectory to cleave to Gandhian ideals and urged Americans to “help India preserve her soul and thus help to save our own.”
The path the world’s oldest and largest democracies were destined to walk together has further converged under the visionary leadership of US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are few other times in history when the leaders of two world powers met each other nine times in the space of two years as they have. Energised by this extraordinary relationship, our governments have rolled up their sleeves to work at a pace few might have thought possible. This common intensity of purpose has resulted in more than one hundred bilateral cooperation initiatives spanning the range of human endeavour.
As often happens when two friends set out on a journey together, we have changed each other in small but important ways. The US has a better understanding of India’s needs and aspirations; and we now proudly and openly support India’s rise as a global power. And India has, as Modi said, “overcome the hesitations of history” – as we came together to secure a historic agreement to combat climate change, we deepened our defence relationship, and established a new shared network to exchange information on terrorists. We don’t agree on everything — no two countries do. But when we don’t agree, we now have the mechanisms, relationships, and most importantly, trust necessary to resolve common challenges.
The past two years represent a milestone in a long path, one tread over millennia, which continues to lead the people of India and the US towards our most cherished goals, rooted in our common ideals. It is a journey well worth making, and one to which my family and I will forever remain dedicated.
Richard R Verma is outgoing US ambassador to India
The views expressed are personal