Proud to visit India so early in presidency: Obama


New Delhi : It was no coincidence that India was the first stop of his visit, US President Barack Obama said Monday while addressing the joint sitting of parliament during which he recalled the inspirational powers of Mahatma Gandhi and the ancient Indian civilisation.

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“Thank you for the great honour of addressing the representatives of more than one billion Indians of the world’s largest democracy,” Obama said to thunderous applause, adding that he brought “greetings and friendship from the world’s oldest democracy, including three million proud and patriotic Indian Americans”.

He said that during the last three days, he and his wife Michelle had been welcomed at every stop with the hospitality for which Indians are known.

“I am proud to visit India so early in my presidency,” he said, adding that it was no coincidence that India was his first stop in the Asia visit.

“India is not simply emerging, India has emerged,” he reiterated to another round of thunderous applause.

It was his firm belief, he said, that the India-US relationship was one of the “prime partnerships of the 21st century”.

“This is the partnership I have come here to build.”

Stating that India was a civilisation that had been shaping the world for thosuands of years, he said: “Our information age is rooted in Indian innovations including the number zero.”

Obama also recalled the words of Rabindranath Tagore – “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high” — and Mahatma Gandhi’s immortal diktat to be the change that you seek.

“I might not be standing before you as president of the United States had it not been for Gandhi and his message.”