Remarks by President Clinton and President Ahmed in Exchange of Toasts


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate ReleaseMarch 20, 2000


Dhaka, Bangladesh

8:20 P.M. (L)

PRESIDENT AHMED: Excellencies, distinguished guests, this is anhistoric occasion for us, being the first ever visit of the President ofthe United States of America to Bangladesh, and it presents anextraordinary event that will remain indelible in the memories of thepeople of Bangladesh.

Your visit is not only a testimony to the friendly ties between ourtwo countries, but it is also a reflection of our shared values manifest inour deep commitment to democracy and rule of law. I am sure that, despiteyour short visit, you had an interesting time, and your fruitful discussionwith Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be the harbinger of a new era inour relationship that will be mutually beneficial.

Mr. President, Bangladesh attaches great importance to itsrelationship with the United States. Our two countries are bound byfriendship that, over the years, have gained in depth, dimension andcontent. Our people hold the people of the government of the United Statesin great esteem for their commitment to freedom, democracy and the dignityof human beings, as well as for their sincere efforts to put a human facein interstate and global relationship, who stresses human rights,empowerment of the disadvantaged sections of the society, including womenin cases of employment opportunities.

Mr. President, America indeed is an indispensable participant in anyeffort to tackle global problems. It is also fortunate to have anextraordinary leader and a statesman of your stature as President. Youhave given America about eight years of unprecedented growth and prosperitythrough your dynamic leadership. You have given America a bold anddecisive leadership which has helped defuse tension and reduce conflict inthe world over. You have reinvented government and revived the Americanspirit, which will be catalytic in shaping what you call the 21st centuryAmerican revolution, with opportunity for all and responsibility from all.

We also admire your bold and dynamic leadership and your genuineefforts to advance the cause of peace and stability throughout the world.We recall with gratitude the support and solidarity the United States hasshown to our people during the disastrous flood in 1998. We are indeedgrateful to you, Mr. President, for deep concern for the welfare of thepeople of Bangladesh.

Mr. President, in keeping with our commitment to fulfill the dreams ofthe father of the nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, the government hasundertaken policies and programs for the rapid economic development of thecountry on the basis of good governance and transparency.

Top priority has been placed on market reforms, deregulation of theeconomy and foreign investment. Indeed, our objective, and if I might add,Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's passion, has been economic development witha human face that empowers women, caters to the education of the children,and cares for the elderly, the vulnerable and the weak.

The government has undertaken specific programs to provide pension toelderly male and female; a rehabilitation scheme for distressed women andstreet children, which has had a positive impact on poverty alleviation.The achievements of Bangladesh in areas like the microfinancing shelter forthe poor, health and family planning, and literacy similarly have beenacclaimed worldwide.

Mr. President, I am happy to say that Bangladesh today had earned theadmiration of the international community for its commitments to peace andstability, and its moderate and rational position on issues and events.

Bangladesh has been catalytic in the establishment of South AsianAssociation for the Regional Cooperation. It is the spokesman for the LDCcountries. It is the first to sign and ratify the CTBT in South Asia. Itis a member of the United Nations Security Council. It will be hosting theNon-Aligned Summit in Dhaka next year.

Mr. President, we are determined to create a sona bungla -- that isgold in Bengali -- by our people who will enjoy a good quality of life inat atmosphere of peace and prosperity. However, in our march to ourdestiny, we seek the support of friends; we seek the support of the UnitedStates of America. I am sure the government and the great people of theUnited States of America would stand by our side.

Before I conclude, may I once again thank you, Mr. President, forvisiting Bangladesh. Excellencies and distinguished guests, may I nowrequest you to join me in a toast to the health, happiness and long life ofhis excellency President Bill Clinton; to the enduring friendship betweenBangladesh and the United States; to the health of all the distinguishedguests present here. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Excellent statement. (Applause.)

Mr. President, Prime Minister, distinguished guests, this has been aday of extraordinary hospitality, insight and discovery for us. On behalfof the American delegation, I thank you for all you have done to make usfeel at home.

For five years now, my wife and daughter have been singing the gloriesof Bangladesh. Finally, I am glad to see for myself. This day has been awatershed for both our nations. Americans admire Bangladesh as a proudMuslim nation, devoted to peace with its neighbors, to peacekeeping aroundthe world, to tolerance and diversity within its borders. When the greatBengali writer, Rabindranath Tagore, was awarded the Nobel Prize forliterature, he said this: I am glad I have done some work to giveexpression to this great age when the East and the West are comingtogether.

Although he did not live to see the creation of Bangladesh, Tagoredoubtless would be proud of all you have done to lead your people into anew century. I believe he would also approve of what we did today to bringthe East and the West closer together.

I was deeply gratified this morning to be the first American Presidentto arrive in Bangladesh, and I am proud of the kind of partnership we areforging. It is about more than the ceremony of a state visit. It is aboutpromoting democracy and the values that give meaning to our lives. It isabout helping children stay in school and have a better future. Aboutinvesting in people who have never been given a chance to succeed before,and investing in a nation that now has a chance to succeed as never before.

Tomorrow the sun will rise on a deeper friendship between America andBangladesh. Through our ceremonies and our conversations, we have hastenedthe arrival of a more peaceful new day -- the kind of day that Tagore spenthis life imagining. A new day comprehending not only the absence of warand suffering, but the presence of mutual understanding and commonendeavors.

On behalf of all Americans, I pledge that we will work with you tobuild on this good day, to soften the hard facts of daily hardship, to makereal the poetry of our finest aspirations.

I ask you now to join me in a toast to the President, the PrimeMinister, the people of Bangladesh and the friendship between our twonations. May it grow. May it deepen. May it affect the lives of ourpeople in ways that are truly good.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)  


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