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Special Event

President Clinton Meets with Indian Prime Minister at the White House

Aired September 15, 2000 - 10:44 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live to the White House, President Clinton meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee now talking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have worked hard together to move our relationship from one of too little contact and too much suspicion to one of genuine efforts to build a long-term partnership that is in the interest of the people of India and the people of the United States. And I'm encouraged and I'm very appreciative of Prime Minister Vajpayee's efforts to lead this transformation.

And so I want to welcome you again and thank you for that, sir.

ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am grateful to you for your kind words and warm hospitality. The parade was really very impressive, but now we have some work to perform.

With your visit to India, a beginning has already been made. We have to pursue that path, and with patience have been working on different issues, and I understand that some agreements have already been arrived at. As we discuss things, I'm sure differences will be reduced and the common ground will warm up very much.

The Millennium Summit was a wonderful idea. My only regret is that speakers had only five minutes.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: Although, if they had longer, we would still be up there. We wouldn't be down here talking.

(LAUGHTER)

VAJPAYEE: The whole idea of the summit of religious -- the visionary leaders -- were also a very good idea, and that we come together and discuss things and find out there are more things in common than their rituals.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Mr. President, can you say that you have written a new chapter in the U.S.-India relations to this -- in this whole office, during this visit of the prime minister of India.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: You could say that. I'm not supposed such things.

Let me say, I think we -- what I hope we have done, is moved our relationship in a new direction. And it began, I think with the great opportunity that the prime minister gave me to come to India to speak in the Indian parliament building, which is one of my most memorable experiences as president, and, obviously, to see your country and its people. I thank you.

But I think that we should look at this as a long-term effort. I can speak for myself, I hope very much goes well beyond my presidency and our service together. I don't think it should be another 20 years before an American president goes to India. I think we should have a regular, sustained partnership. We should identify our common interests.

We should be forthright about the places where we still have differences. And we should set about trying to resolve them in a very, matter-of-fact, open and honest way.

But if you look at the way the world is going, we -- it's inconceivable to me that we can build the kind of world we want over the next 10 to 20 years unless there is a very strong partnership between the United States and India.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What happens when the next president comes into the Oval Office in November? There's great deal of concern that the kind of milestones that you have achieved, Mr. President, with Indian, what about the continuity, either if Mr. Gore comes in or if Mr. Bush comes in, in terms of Indo-U.S. relations?

CLINTON: Well, you know, the way our system works, there's a -- the election is held in November, and then about nine-and-a-half weeks later there's a formal transfer. And there's a period of transition there where, you know, we have a chance to talk to the new administration. Certainly, it will be a priority of mine to make the argument that this should be continued.

Now, since the vice president's been a part of this administration and an eminent part of all of our foreign policy decisions, I know how he feels about it, and I know he will support it.

But I would hope this would become an American commitment that would go beyond political parties, and I believe it will.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Mr. President, you said last week in New York that oil prices were too high, and you raised the prospect that they could trigger a recession somewhere in the world. There've been protests across Europe about these high prices. And here at home, Americans are facing fuel bills 30 percent higher than last year. What's the economic risk to the United States? And should Americans be worried about a recession here?

CLINTON: Well, I think in the short- to medium-term, the answer to your second question is no. We have worked very hard over the last 25 years to be a more diverse economy and a less energy intensive economy in a lot of our production. So we have withstood this oil price spike very much better than we did when it happened before.

HEMMER: President Clinton talking with the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, live at the White House. As the official visit continues for the prime minister from India, a lot of issues on the table, including the environment, India relations with Pakistan, and also recent nuclear testing, a big concern for a number of different groups around the world, including a number of folks here in the U.S. They will talk about it all throughout the weekend. Against that visit continues through Sunday.

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