Availability with Indian Prime Minister Bihari Vajpayee
The White House
November 9, 2001
11:35 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. It's my honor
to welcome the Prime Minister of India to the White House for a series of discussions.
My administration is committed to developing a fundamentally different relationship
with India, one based upon trust, one based upon mutual values. After all, the
Prime Minister leads a nation that is the largest democratic nation in the world.
I look forward to working to foster ties that will help both our economies.
Trade with India is going to be an important part of our growth in the future.
India has got a fantastic ability to grow, because her greatest export is intelligence
and brain power, as our country has learned over the last decades.
We lifted sanctions on India, so that our relationship can prosper. We will
fight terrorism together. Our initial discussions focused on the battle against
terror, and the Prime Minister understands that we have no option but to win.
And he understands that there is a commitment -- there needs to be a commitment
by all of us to do more than just talk. It's to achieve certain objectives --
to cut off the finances, to put diplomatic pressure on the terrorists, in some
cases, to help militarily. But, in any case, stand firm in the face of terror.
We also talked about the need to make sure humanitarian aid reaches those who
hurt in Afghanistan. And we discussed a post-Taliban Afghanistan that enables
the country to survive and move forward, and one that represents all the interests
of the people of Afghanistan.
Over lunch, I look forward to talking about a new joint cyberterrorism initiative
and a civilian space cooperation program, as well as discussing our mutual concerns
about energy and the ability to conserve it, as well as to have plentiful supplies
as we go into the future.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, I am extremely optimistic about our relationship. It's
an important relationship for our country. And I welcome you to the United States.
Thank you for coming.
PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: Thank you, Mr. President, for your kinds words. It
is a pleasure to be here to continue the practice of regular dialogue that India
and the USA have established in recent years.
I was happy to be able to personally reiterate our sympathy, solidarity and
support for the American people in the aftermath of terrible events of September
We admire the decisive leadership of President Bush in the international coalition
against terrorism. We also applaud the resilience and resolve of the American
people in this hour of trial. This terrible tragedy has created the opportunity
to fashion a determined global response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,
wherever it exists and under whatever name. I assured President Bush of India's
complete support in this.
At the same time, as material leaders, pluralist democracies, we should clearly
spread the message that the war against terrorism is not against any religion,
but against terrorists whose propaganda misuses religion.
President Bush and I had a very good conversation, which we will continue over
lunch. In the last few months, there has been an intensive interaction between
our two countries on a wide range of bilateral subjects. We have moved forward
on the dialogue architecture and on defense cooperation. A resumption of the
bilateral defense policy group should promote technical cooperation in defense
The Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism has made good progress, and we have
agreed to launch a joint cyberterrorism initiative. Economic and commercial
relations are expanding. We have agreed to broaden the bilateral economic dialogue
to include new areas of cooperation. Both of us agree that the synergies and
complementarities between our two countries should be more fully exploited.
We discussed the urgent need for a political order in Afghanistan which would
be broad-based, representative, and friendly with all countries in its neighborhood.
Equally important is sustained international assistance for rehabilitation and
reconstruction work in that country. We agreed that India and the USA, in partnership
with other countries, would work towards these goals.
Today, the President and I continued face to face the dialogue which we have
been conducting over the last ten months on the phone and through letters. It
has been an extremely rewarding experience. To sustain the momentum of the dialogue,
I have reiterated to President Bush my invitation to visit India. I look forward
to receiving him in New Delhi.
QUESTION: Mr. President --
QUESTION: Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on for a minute, please. The Prime Minister has agreed
to take a couple of questions, and so have I. I think I will start, Mr. Prime
Minister, with Fournier, Associated Press man.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Before meeting with you today, the Prime Minister
told The Washington Post that the U.S. was not prepared for the war in Afghanistan,
which he said was "less than satisfactory" and "slackening."
The Saudi Foreign Minister, who you are meeting with later today, told The New
York Times that you can't be an honest broker in the Middle East peace process
until you meet with Arafat. Is it helpful that your coalition members are airing
their gripes in public? And what will you say to them about these charges face-to-face?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, the Prime Minister and I had a very good discussion about
the progress we're making on this particular part of the war against terror.
He understands what I understand, that we're just only beginning to fight terrorism
I assured him exactly what I've been assuring the American people, that I've
got the patience necessary to achieve our objective in the Afghan theater, and
the objective is to bring the al Qaeda to justice, and to make sure that Afghanistan
has got a stable form of government after we leave. I also told the Prime Minister
that we're achieving our military objectives.
This is a different kind of war. It's a war that matches high-technology weapons
with people on horseback. It's a war in which the enemy thinks they can hide
in caves and we'll forget about them. It is a war that's going to take a deliberate,
systematic effort to achieve our objectives. And our nation has not only got
the patience to achieve that objective, we've got the determination to achieve
the objective. And we will achieve it.
I appreciate the candid discussions we have with our coalition partners. I think
it's important that we have these discussions. And the Prime Minister and I
had such a discussion, and I was glad to be able to make the case as to why
we're going to be successful.
Having said all the newspaper stories and all that business, I will tell you,
our coalition has never been stronger --
QUESTION: Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me for a minute, please. The coalition has never been
stronger. I'll make the case tomorrow at the United Nations that the time of
sympathy is over. We appreciate the condolences. Now is the time for action.
Now is the time for coalition members to respond in their own way. And the Prime
Minister of India understands that, and he is responding. And the Saudi Arabian
government understands that, and they are responding as well.
Mr. Prime Minister.
QUESTION: This is a question for President Bush. Sir, why are there two laws
in this world, one for America and one for the rest of us?
THE PRESIDENT: Why is there -- excuse me, two?
QUESTION: Two laws in this world -- one for America and one for the rest of
us? When terrorism hits America, you go halfway across the world and make war
in Afghanistan. But when we suffer terrorism, you ask us to be restrained. Is
an Indian right less precious than an American right?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there is one universal law, and that's terrorism is evil,
and all of us must work to reject evil. Murder is evil, and we must reject murder.
When the terrorist attacks that took place on October the 1st, I strongly condemned
them, and I will continue to condemn them.
And that's -- excuse me. Our coalition is strong, because leaders such as the
Prime Minister fully understand that we must reject terrorism in all its forms,
and murder in all its causes, in order for the world to be peaceful.
QUESTION: Can we get a reaction from the Indian Prime Minister to that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Excuse me, please, sir.
QUESTION: Sir, with the Aviation Security bill still languishing on the Hill,
why won't you agree to make the baggage handlers federal employees? What's the
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, I think that I've asked for the Senate and the House
to come up with a plan that will work -- that will not only make sure that as
we transition to a new system that there is security for the American people,
that in the long run there is security for the American people. And I believe
progress is being made.
Like yourself, or like your question implies, it would be nice to have had the
bill done yesterday. But sometimes democracy doesn't work quite that fast. But
the negotiators are working hard to come up with a bill that I can sign, and
I believe they will come up with a bill that I can sign.
The House had a version, the Senate had a version, and now they're reconciling
their differences. I don't believe they're that far apart, nor did I believe
they were that far apart when the process began. And I think that, from what
I'm told, progress is being made. And for that, I'm grateful.
Mr. Prime Minister.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, was India's concerns of cross-border terrorism
specifically reflected in your endorsement of the American President? And have
you achieved some headway in convincing him that countries that are part of
the problem cannot be part of the solution today?
PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: This question of cross-border terrorism has been getting
our attention in both the countries. Recently, a bomb attack was made on the
Legislative Assembly of the Jammu in Kashmir. Even Pakistan realized that it
was a case of terrorism.
We have to fight terrorism in all its forms. We have to win this battle against
terrorism. There is no other option.
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's the two-question limit. Thank you all for coming.
QUESTION: Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Our food is getting cold. The Prime Minister is hungry, and
so am I.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
PRIME MINISTER VAJPAYEE: And the dividing line between hunger and --
QUESTION: When are you going to India?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As soon as possible, I am going to India.