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Introduction

Brookings Leadership Forum - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Introduction
Introduction
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Strobe Talbott: Good morning everybody. This being the 21st Century and this being Washington, D.C. I would begin by asking all of you please to make sure that your pagers and cell phones are turned off. We haven't even started and we’ve had a few go off already this morning. So thank you very much for your courtesy in that regard.

I'm Strobe Talbott. I want to welcome all of you here to the Brookings Institution this morning.

Part of the mission of this institution is to offer a forum for distinguished visiting statesmen who come here to Washington in the course of their important work, and we're especially proud today to open the doors of the Brookings Institution to the Minister of External Affairs of the world's largest democracy, and moreover, the Minister of External Affairs of a country with which the United States has in recent years opened a new chapter in its relationship, a chapter where the main themes are mutual trust, mutual cooperation, working together as two great democracies to address a whole array of bilateral, regional and global challenges.

We're also very proud to have here at the Brookings Institution one of the nation's and indeed one of the world's most respected experts on India and on South Asia.

I'm going to ask my friend and colleague Steve Cohen to introduce our speaker this morning. Steve?

Stephen P. Cohen: Thank you, Strobe. Your presence at Brookings has reinvigorated our South Asia program and we look forward to building it in the years to come and having you as a participant not only as my boss but as a colleague as we explore the region and also America's relations with the region with which you were intimately involved for a number of years.

I'll be very brief because we want to allow our speaker, Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha, as much time as possible. Then after his talk there will be a time for questions and answers so I'll just say a few words and then we'll ask the Minister to come forward.

As all of you know, Yashwant Sinha took over the Foreign Ministry July 1st of this year and before that for several years was Finance Minister and I think there's nobody in this room who does not know his sterling record as Finance Minister in a very difficult time. New government, new perspective on economics, new relationship with the United States and so forth. He's had many battles outside of India with IMF and other entities but also within India, within his own party, other parties and so forth. It's a remarkable drama that's being played out I think on a week-to-week, month-to-month, year-byyear basis. He divested himself of that burden to Jaswant Singh who in turn traded places with Minister Sinha.

Many of you don't know his earlier background, I'll just say a few words about that. He was born and raised in Patna, the capital of Bihar and then got a degree in political science at Patna University and made a bad career choice, taught political science for a couple of years at Patna. It turns out I think we were in the same field about the same time. Then he made a good career choice and joined the Indian Administrative Service -- certainly one of the elite services of India -- and then had a long and distinguished career in the Bihar cadre of the IAS. Thirty-four years after that he left government, entered politics, and was elected a member of the Upper House and the Lower House at various times, and then of course became the Minister first in the Chandrasekhar government very briefly as Finance Minister, and then of course in the government of the BJP led coalition from 1998 and onward.

I won't add any more to that because I don't want to eat into Minister Sinha's time. If you'd please come up, we'd like to have you address us.

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