Each year on August 15th, we join with Indians around the world to honor Mahatma Gandhi and the heroes of the Indian independence movement who proved that great change can be achieved through nonviolent resistance. Their courage and determination has inspired generations of leaders around the world, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who advanced America's own struggle for civil rights and equality. Sixty-three years after Independence, India is a world leader, and the "Indian Dream" of freedom, tolerance, and prosperity continues to offer an example for people who yearn for democracy and liberty around the globe.
The United States is committed to further strengthening our cooperation and partnership with India. As President Obama noted during our Strategic Dialogue, the relationship between our two countries is unique. It is rooted in common interests, shared values and democratic traditions, and strengthened by our extensive people-to-people connections. We look forward to further developing these bonds when President Obama visits India this fall. Because it is only through dynamic, global cooperation between India and the United States that we can address the defining challenges of the 21st century.
Once again, I congratulate the people of India on all you have achieved and wish you a safe and joyous Independence Day celebration.
(In the photo above, Clinton smiles at Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Nov. 24, 2009, at the State Department in Washington.)
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
On International Women's Day this March, Secretary Clinton said:
Investing in the potential of the world's women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women -- and men -- the world over.
When you educate girls and women, you change attitudes and increase women's earning power. And when women have a broader view of the world and increased earning power, that changes the internal dynamics of a household, and across many households, that can change a society.
That's why Clinton would be impressed with A Girl Story, the world's first donation-based film series. The animated 11-part film, launched by Nanhi Kali, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged girls in India get an education, follows a fictional Indian girl named Tarla. When I first learned about the short film in late June, I could only view the first few parts, which showed Tarla dreaming about going to school, but being unable to attend. Her big brownish-plum cartoon eyes welled with blue tears, as seen above in the clip from chapter 2.
For the film to advance and show Tarla realizing her dream to attend school, viewers must make a donation. The idea is that it's up to the viewers whether Tarla gets to go to school, or not.
Yesterday I checked out the film, and I was heartened to see that it had advanced to the sixth part of the series, with the story progressing to show Tarla receiving a book and a school bag, but still not making it through the schoolhouse door. But then the film halted, and Tarla told us that to "unlock my next chapter," we must contribute $844 more. (Nanhi Kali's website says it costs just 1,800 Indian rupees -- about $39 -- to send a girl to school for a year for grades 1 to 7, and 2,500 rupees -- or $54 -- for grades 8 to 10.)
Nanhi Kali -- which means "Little Bud" in Hindi -- presently supports the education of more than 58,000 girls in India, but hopes to grow that number. It was founded in 1996 by the Mahindra Education Trust in India, which is registered in the United States as the Mahindra Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. So check out the film, and if you're like what you see, consider making a donation to the foundation.
Video: "A Girl Story Chapter 2," tarlavideo, YouTube
Last month, Secretary Clinton commended the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its $1.5 billion contribution toward women's and children's health, saying, "Focusing on women is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do, because investing in the health of women also improves the health of their families and communities."
I expect Clinton would thus be intrigued by a program in India that aims to reduce maternal morality by providing $30 cash incentives to poor women to give birth in hospitals, and not on the dirt floors of thatched-roof homes.
Why would any woman need to essentially be paid to give birth at a hospital, where the chances of death are much lower? Turns out, getting to a hospital is not so easy, for a variety of reasons. Last week's Washington Post article about the program mentions one rural woman for whom it would cost $4 to take a taxi to the hospital -- a long of money in a poor farming community where the $30 incentive is about three weeks of a family's pay.
The hurdles aren't just economic, but also related to education, class divisions, and patriarchy. The articles says lack of education means a lot of people don't fully appreciate that medical care in a hospital setting can mean the difference between a happy, healthy mom -- and a dead one.
Also, in a society with sharp caste and class divisions, many poor, illiterate mothers-to-be don't have the assertiveness to set foot in the hospital, according to the article. Perhaps if you're from a marginalized, look-down-upon caste or social class, going to a relatively modern and clean hospital can be intimidating. One woman told the Post, "Before this [program], we didn't have a hint of what to do.… The hospital was very confusing. We weren't sure who to talk to or what we needed." Another woman in the article said she was scared to go to the hospital.
The article also mentioned the patriarchal culture, stating that in rural India, many poor husbands don't let their pregnant wives to go to the hospital.
But money talks -- including in Indian languages. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India's poorest states, the percentage of women delivering in medical facilities more than doubled from less than 20 percent in 2005 to almost 50 percent in 2008. Physicians say that's due to the incentive program.
India still has a long way to go on maternal mortality -- its rate of maternal mortality is around 10 times China's rate. Women's education and economic development are the long-term fix to the problem, but until then, it's the lure of $30.
Emily Wax/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Citing a report on U.S.-India economic engagement, Secretary Clinton said yesterday that since 2004, India's U.S. acquisitions have supported 40,000 American jobs. In her remarks at the U.S.-India CEO Forum with Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, she said (about 2:45 into the video above):
[L]ast week Congressman Jim McDermott unveiled a report by the India-U.S. World Affairs Institute showing that … since 2004 Indian acquisitions in the United States have supported approximately 40,000 jobs here in our country, with manufacturing exports to India linked to another 96,000 jobs. That's great progress and it's a solid base on which to build.
According to the report's executive summary, the 40,000 numbers is a very low-end estimate. Clinton probably should have said "more than 40,000 jobs." From the executive summary:
During 2004-2009, 239 Indian companies made 372 acquisitions in the United States.… [W]e were able to obtain the numbers of jobs created/saved for only 85 transactions, which came to over 40,000 jobs. (The total number of jobs created or saved by all 372 transactions must be much higher).
Who knows how accurate the report is, but it sounds like Clinton is encouraging free trade in order to "foster the kind of inclusive growth that lifts people out of poverty and strengthens our democracies."
Speaking at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, Secretary Clinton sought to reassure Indians that the United States doesn't see India merely in the context of Pakistan or Afghanistan. She said at the plenary session:
"[W]e must not only build on areas of agreement but, frankly, address doubts that remain on both sides, doubts among some Indians that the United States only sees India or mainly sees India in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or that we will hasten our departure from Afghanistan, leaving India to deal with the aftermath."*
But how true is it that the United States doesn't see India primarily through the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan? It seems like the United States wants India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute ASAP so that Pakistan can concentrate more on its western border with Afghanistan.
*This quote was updated from a previous version from NDTV that had transcription errors.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
There's lots of India on Secretary Clinton's plate today:
9:15 a.m.: Secretary Clinton meets with the assistant secretaries
of the regional bureaus.
10 a.m.: Clinton opens the plenary session of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. (In the photo above, the two shake hands in New Delhi on July 20, 2009.)
a.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Krishna.
12:00 p.m.: Clinton hosts a luncheon for participants of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.
1:15 p.m.: Clinton and Krishna hold a joint news conference.
5 p.m.: Clinton hosts a reception, at which President Barack Obama will make remarks, honoring the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.
FINDLAY KEMBER/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary is en route to Russia right now to discuss the new START treaty and meet with the diplomatic "quartet" on Middle East peace. Meanwhile, here are some recent Clinton headlines.
•"With subtle shift in nuance, Hillary Clinton reiterates U.S. stance on Israel" (Washington Post)
•"Clinton to call Netanyahu soon amid row" (Agence France-Presse)
•"Foreign minister: 'Not reasonable' to stop building in East Jerusalem" (CNN)
•"Mrs. Clinton's hissy fit" (Washington Times)
•"Nirupama Rao briefs US on talks with Pakistan" (Indo-Asian News Service)
•"Pakistan, Afghanistan high in Rao's talks in US" (Indo-Asian News Service)
•"Clinton, Okada to meet in Washington or Canada in late March" (Associated Press)
•"Okada unlikely to present Clinton with Japan's plan on Futemma" (Associated Press)
•"Clinton looks forward to an inclusive Iraqi government" (Kuwait News Agency)
•Yesterday, Clinton met with 22 female Iraqi provincial council leaders. Her remarks are here.
LifeNews.com, which describes itself as a news agency that brings "pro-life news to the pro-life community," has highlighted an important comment that Secretary Clinton made in her recent interview with the New York Times. In discussing women's rights, she said:
Obviously, there’s work to be done in both India and China, because the infanticide rate of girl babies is still overwhelmingly high, and unfortunately with technology, parents are able to use sonograms to determine the sex of a baby, and to abort girl children simply because they’d rather have a boy. And those are deeply set attitudes. But at the governmental level, there is a great deal of openness and commitment that I am seeing."
Clinton's comments on this deplorable practice are commendable, though she left out some nuance when she said parents do it "simply because they'd rather have a boy." Often, it's a matter of economics: Boys bring wealth into a family, and girls drain tons of money out. Sons earn more money and financially support their elderly parents in communities where nothing like Social Security exists. Meanwhile, in India, parents must pay enormous, financially crippling dowries when their daughters get married. Absolutely none of this morally justifies sex-selective abortion, but these are issues that must be addressed in order to eradicate this shameful practice.
(Obviously, other factors -- such as family and social pressure -- are at play, too. Sex-selective abortion in India has been found to occur at higher rates among more educated people, presumably because they're more likely to be able to afford an ultrasound exam and abortion.)
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A few tidbits of Hillary-in-Africa news, the first a lighthearted piece:
•Referring to a Kenyan man's offer of 40 goats and 20 cows for Chelsea as his bride, Clinton said she would convey the "very kind offer" to her "very independent" daughter.
•Clinton meets with Somalia's president in Nairobi, Kenya, today.
•Clinton hailed India as a model of democracy for Africa, saying that the country's 1 billion-plus people "have figured out how to run an election where the results can be surprising and unpredicted but accepted." For more about elections in the world's biggest democracy, check out the FP photo essay, "The World's Biggest Election."
•Clinton said it's a "great regret" that the United States is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Her husband Bill had signed the ICC treaty, but Congress never ratified it and Bush didn't care for joining.
Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has arrived in Thailand for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Above, she speaks during a news conference with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu in Bangkok.
Due to time constraints, today I've just got a quick summary of recent Clinton news:
•Clinton is worried about military ties between Burma and North Korea.
•Clinton and India's external affairs minister signed a deal that will allow India to buy sophisticated U.S. weapons.
•Clinton said the U.S. government is doing all it can to rescue captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
•A federal judge has dismissed a 13-year-old lawsuit -- "Filegate" -- against Clinton.
Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
Chairman of Indian conglomerate TATA group, Ratan Tata, left, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, right, share a light moment during a meeting with Indian business leaders in Mumbai on July 18. Clinton arrived in India hoping to deepen strategic ties with an emerging player on the world stage in security, trade, arms control, and climate change. Clinton also paid tribute to the nearly 200 people who died in last November's terrorist siege of Mumbai.
While wearing a thread necklace, Clinton claps to a song sung by volunteers of the NGO Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) during a visit to its premises in Mumbai on July 18. She first came into contact with the association of women artisans in 1995, when she was first lady. She said, "It is absolutely undeniable that the progress of women is directly linked to the progress of any country. The more women have the rights, education, employment opportunities, access to credit, role in decision making in family and community, the more development will take place."
The artisans presented her a handmade multicolored quilt. Clinton bought a jacket and scarf for Chelsea and an orange blouse dyed with pomegranate for herself.
Clinton, watched by Indian TV journalist Arnab Goswami, left, and Indian Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, gestures during an interactive education discussion in Mumbai on July 18.
Clinton waves to the media as Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (in white) looks on during a visit to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi on July 19. Clinton arrived in the Indian capital hoping to narrow a wide gap with her hosts on fighting climate change.
A garlanded Clinton shakes hands with Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh upon her arrival at the ITC Green Centre Building in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, on July 19. A friendly as things look in this photo, discussions between two became heated later on.
Clinton ended the day at the Delhi Haat artisans bazaar, where she bought a few handicraft pieces. She ate dinner at the Maurya Sheraton hotel's Bukhara restaurant. Husband Bill and daughter Chelsea dined there in 2000, and the restaurant has two items named after them: the vegetarian Chelsea Platter, featuring the foods Chelsea liked, and the nonvegetarian Presidential Platter, featuring items that Bill ordered.
Clinton said the next day, "I have long been an admirer of India. … I feel very much at home here. I eat way too much of the food at every chance I get. I have to go on a diet when I get back home -- back to carrots and celery."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gestures while talking with Clinton in New Delhi on July 20. Clinton hoped to seal a defense pact boosting U.S. arms sales to India in talks that should also see agreement on the siting of two U.S.-built nuclear reactors.
She also held a question-and-answer session with university students in New Delhi. She said the entertainment industry can distort how people in one country view those in another, saying to a laughing audience, "If Hollywood and Bollywood were how we all lived our lives, that would surprise me. … And yet it's often the way our cultures are conveyed, isn't it? … People watching a Bollywood movie in some other part of Asia think everybody in India is beautiful and they have dramatic lives and happy endings. And if you were to watch American TV and our movies you'd think that we don't wear clothes and we spend all our time fighting with each other."
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi shakes hands with Clinton at a meeting in New Delhi on July 20. Gandhi is the widow of assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and daughter-in-law of the late Indira Gandhi, India's first woman prime minister.
Photos, top to bottom: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images, INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images, INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images, PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images, TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images, PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images, PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday, things got a bit heated between Secretary Clinton and Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh when it came to climate change.
As the two toured a "green" building near New Delhi while dozens of cameras rolled, Ramesh said, "India's position, let me be clear, is that we are simply not in the position to take legally binding emissions targets."
Clinton responded: "No one wants to in any way stall or undermine the economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more out of poverty. …We also believe that there is a way to eradicate poverty and develop sustainability that will lower significantly the carbon footprint."
After the tour, the U.S. and Indian delegations had a closed-door meeting that once again began with tension. Ramesh delivered a blunt four-minute opening statement declaring, "There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions."
Clinton countered that the per capita logic "loses force" as developing countries quickly become the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Ramesh's rejoinder: "We look upon you suspiciously because you have not fulfilled what [developed countries] pledged to fulfill," referring to it as a "crisis of credibility."
After the meeting, though, Clinton announced that the discussion was "very fruitful" and pointed out, "We have many more areas of agreement than perhaps had been appreciated."
Climate change is definitely a sensitive issue for large and rapidly developing countries such as India and China. It can look hypocritical for rich countries to demand that poor countries curb emissions when rich countries themselves pollute more per capita and historically increased their pollution levels as their people became wealthier.
Clinton said it's possible to eliminate poverty and develop sustainably at the same time. I really hope these "green" technologies pull through to save the day. But even with green technologies and more environmental awareness, it's gonna be tough. Last Friday, the first Tata Nano was delivered.
Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
While in Mumbai, India, Secretary Clinton is staying in a three-room suite at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, which was badly damaged during last November's terrorist siege of the city. The entire floor she's staying on has been cordoned off, and about 200 police officers are stationed around the hotel, reports German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
On Saturday, Clinton is expected to engage in remembrance events for the victims of the siege, including visits to attack sites and meeting with survivors. On Sunday, she'll be off to New Delhi, the capital.
Although Clinton with be discussing how India and the United States can strengthen their strategic partnership and forge initiatives in a number of areas -- counterterrorism, trade, agriculture, etc. -- an important focus of her talks will be nuclear cooperation. The two countries signed an important deal last year that permits American companies to sell nuclear material and equiment to India for civilian use even though India hasn't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
It is also expected that there will be an announcement of two sites for nuclear power plants to be built by American companies for $10 billion.
Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has some important appointments today. This morning, she delivers a speech mapping out the Obama administration's policy toward India, a country that was very pro-United States during the George W. Bush administration and a country that Clinton is expected to visit next month.
Clinton will also bilateral with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a controversial right-wing figure who rejects a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and has said, "Those who want peace should prepare for war."
11:30 a.m. Keynote address at U.S.-India Business Council's 34th Anniversary "Synergies Summit", at U.S. Chamber of Commerce
2:00 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel
4:00 p.m. Swearing In Ceremony for Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
6:00 p.m. Meeting on Italian Earthquake Relief Partnership with the National Italian American Foundation
Secretary Clinton is reported to be traveling to India late next month. If the trip transpires, two items likely to be on the agenda are encouraging India to restart dialogue with Pakistan (which was derailed after November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai), and the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement signed last year.
The timing of the trip could hint at whether and when Clinton will be mother of the bride. In May, rumors were flying that daughter Chelsea is getting married in August. A few days ago, New York magazine cited unnamed insiders who say the wedding will be in late August. If the wedding is on, Secretary Clinton probably wouldn't be scheduling international travel close to the date.
For those who like to reminisce, in the photo above, Chelsea and Hillary visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on March 30, 1995, during the then first lady's 12-day tour of South Asia.
Photo: DOUGLAS E. CURRAN/AFP/Getty Images
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.