Good evening and thank you all for your warm welcome. I very much appreciate Chief Minister Pema Khandu inviting me to be the Chief Guest at this special event, and Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju traveling from New Delhi to Tawang to join us at this wonderful celebration. It is a tremendous honor to be the Chief Guest and experience first-hand the Tawang Festival.
This is my first visit to Arunachal Pradesh, and I bring warm greetings from the American people. I have already had the privilege of visiting the Tawang Monastery earlier today, as well as the Nunnery, Buddha Park, and the War Memorial. So I have begun to explore the history of this “land of the dawn-lit mountains.”
I have had the pleasure of traveling throughout the Northeast since I arrived in India two years ago. In every State in this region, I have been struck by the vibrant cultures of the communities – with your distinct traditions of music, dance, art, textiles, and cuisine. Last year, I attended Manipur’s Sangai Festival and Nagaland’s Hornbill Festival – and now I am honored to be a part of your festival here in Tawang.
Festivals such as this are instrumental in preserving the cultures of the region and promoting tourism. Sharing culture is an important aspect of the U.S.-India partnership. Each year, the United States supports the preservation of cultural heritage across India and the rest of the world through various grant programs. For example, in 2005, we provided funds to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in Sikkim to strengthen the museum and purchase equipment necessary to preserve manuscripts. Through these grants, we seek to protect the cultural diversity of countries such as India for future generations.
The cornerstone of the U.S.-India relationship is our people-to-people ties. It is with this spirit that the United States supports professional, cultural, and academic exchanges between our two nations. People from Arunachal Pradesh have participated in our Fulbright and other exchange programs, in which they have spent time in the United States so that they could learn about our country and teach us about yours, including the history and traditions of the great State of Arunachal Pradesh. For example, in 2017 a member of your government was selected to participate in our International Visitors Leadership Program on “State and Local Government,” traveling to San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Washington, D.C. This project explored the responsibilities of state and local governments in the United States in administering public services such as elections, healthcare, and education. These types of exchange programs are great opportunities for our people to experience the tangible benefits of the U.S.-India partnership.
Another noteworthy example of the deep ties between our two nations is the U.S.-India 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. Under this Initiative, the University of South Florida collaborated with Rajiv Gandhi University in Papum Pare, Arunachal Pradesh to establish an Indigenous Studies Field School. Through this project, faculty and students from the United States and Arunachal Pradesh have partnered to improve public health initiatives for indigenous people.
Another element of our partnership is the work of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the Government of India and the State of Arunachal Pradesh on strengthening the reach, affordability, and quality of health services for vulnerable households. We are currently providing technical assistance to health care centers in the Namsai and Papum Pare districts in Arunachal Pradesh. We have upgraded 120 facilities since January, and will continue work with 69 additional facilities during the next year. These Health and Wellness Centers will provide an expanded and comprehensive range of services to address basic primary health care needs, with an emphasis on prevention and health promotion. USAID support is helping Health and Wellness Centers bring critical services closer to communities in remote areas of Arunachal Pradesh and other Northeast States, thereby keeping people healthy and empowering communities to take action to prevent chronic disease.
Once again, it is a great privilege to be here with all of you to open the Tawang Festival. My colleagues and I appreciate the extraordinary hospitality that you have extended to us. I sincerely hope that more Americans visit this special part of India. And I welcome more of you to visit the United States.
Thank you very much.