Defense minister Rajnath Singh said India and the U.S. are both democratic powers that can help to maintain peace and stability and bring prosperity to the world.
He was speaking at a community reception hosted by India’s consulate in San Francisco, California, at the University of Silicon Andhra in Milpitas Thursday, April 14, on the final leg of his five-day visit to the U.S.
“Our relationship with the U.S. is not just about democracy,” the defense minister said. “It has economic, commercial, industrial, strategic and defense-related dimensions.”
He said that while the world knows the two countries are allies, “I believe our relationship is not an artificial relationship. It is not just natural, but there is stability and continuity. And no one can ignore the role the Indian diaspora plays in maintaining this stability.”
In his half-hour address to the 200-strong gathering, some of whom came all the way from Los Angeles, Rajnath Singh lauded the diaspora for maintaining its Indian identity and praised its achievements, particularly in IT.
Indian talent, he said, has been playing a major role in the global IT sector and India takes pride in its achievements. In this context, he referred to Parag Agrawal’s appointment as Twitter CEO.
“Many in Parliament took note of it,” he said, “as if one of their own family members had become CEO. There are many tech leaders such as Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen about whom people in India talk. They are not just achievers but examples.”
Rajnath Singh was visiting Silicon Valley after having visited the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the naval training facilities in Hawaii April 13. Earlier, he and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar attended the fourth 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington DC with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III.
Though the minister refused to grant any interviews, he told indica that “the meeting in DC was fruitful and went as expected”.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India has been abstaining from votes on the matter in the U.N. Critics have said is mainly because of India’s continuing dependence on Russia for military hardware. But the defense minister said India does not believe in making international relations a “zero-sum game”. Good relations with one country cannot be at the cost of another, he said.
On defense supplies, he said, “We used to import most of our supplies from around the world. We have now decided that 68 percent of our defense budget will go towards sourcing supplies made in India and 25 percent of that will be for defense items made by Indian companies.
“We have identified 2,500 defense-related spares which will be manufactured in India, no matter what it takes. There are an additional 309 items that we have decided to make in India and not buy from anywhere else.”
Making what sounded at times like a political speech —the minister was due to have a meeting with the local chapter of the BJP after the reception — he said, “The image of India has changed. The prestige of the country has improved. There is growing recognition that India is no longer a weak country but has what it takes to lead the world. No power can stop India from becoming one of the world’s top three economies.” He claimed that this change had come about in the past eight years.
On the stand-off with China on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, which has been continuing for two years now, he said, “I cannot say openly what our soldiers did or what decisions the government took. But I can say that we have sent a message to China that India will not spare anyone if India is provoked. (Bharat ko agar koi chherega to Bharat chhorega nahi).”
He also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort to improve the lives of the common citizens by offering shelter and toilets. He said when Modi took over as the country’s prime minister, over 80 percent of households had no toilets.
He also spoke about Modi’s goal of financial inclusion through the Jan Dhan accounts and credited him with having had the vision to push the country on the path of digitization.
Referring to the U.N. Charter, which was drafted at an international conference in San Francisco after the end of the Second World War, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi saying, citing his uneducated mother, that as long as everyone does their duties diligently, everyone’s rights are protected.
On the sidelines of the reception, the Overseas Friends of BJP based in Silicon Valley had a closed-door brief meeting with Rajnath Singh.
Khanderao Kand, a member of OFBJP and entrepreneur said, ” “In his first-ever visit to the Silicon Valley, Hon. Rajpath Singhji impressed us with a promise of building a military manufacturing eco-system in India for a strong and self-reliant nation. In his talk, he covered a wide range of topics ranging from development in India to the current global crisis. It was amusing to hear the lesser-known history of railroads and trade with India and the East.”