Friday, 20 October 2017

Transcript of USA Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's remarks on USA-India relationship for next 100 years; My comments

Last updated on 20th Oct. 2017

Here is the transcript of USA Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's 'Remarks on "Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century"', 18th Oct. 2017: https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/10/274913.htm.

Given below are large extracts from the above transcript:

USA Secy. of State Rex Tillerson:
...
So first, let me wish everyone a happy Diwali to all our friends in the United States, in India, around the world who are celebrating the Festival of Lights. Generally, fireworks accompany that. I don’t need any fireworks; I’m getting too many fireworks around me already. (Laughter.) So we’ll forgo the fireworks.

My relationship with India dates back to about 1998, so almost 20 years now, when I began working on issues related to India’s energy security. And I’ve had many trips to the country, obviously, over those many years. And it was a real privilege to do business with the Indian counterparts then, and it’s been a great honor this year to work with the Indian leaders as Secretary of State. And I do look forward to returning to Delhi next week for the first time in my official capacity. This visit could not come at a more promising time for U.S.-Indian relations and the U.S.-India partnership.

As many of you know, this year marks the 70th anniversary of relations between our two countries. When President Truman welcomed then-Prime Minister Nehru on his visit to Washington, he said, and I quote, “Destiny willed that our country should have been discovered in the search for a new route to yours.” I hope your visit, too, will be in a sense of discovery of the United States of America. [Ravi: Perhaps the last sentence should also be part of the preceding quote.]

The Pacific and the Indian Oceans have linked our nations for centuries. Francis Scott Key wrote what would become our national anthem while sitting aboard the HMS Minden, a ship that was built in India.

As we look to the next 100 years, it is vital that the Indo-Pacific, a region so central to our shared history, continue to be free and open, and that’s really the theme of my remarks to you this morning.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are committed, more than any other leaders before them, to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only our two great democracies, but other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit in June highlighted the many areas of cooperation that are already underway in this new area of our strategic relationship.

Our defense ties are growing. We are coordinating our counterterrorism efforts more than ever before. And earlier this month, a shipment of American crude oil arrived in India, a tangible illustration of our expanding energy cooperation. The Trump administration is determined to dramatically deepen ways for the United States and India to further this partnership.

For us today, it’s plain to see why this matters. India represents the world’s largest democracy. The driving force of our close relationship rests in the ties between our peoples – our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists. [Ravi: It would have been nice if Secy. Tillerson had included engineers/technologists (quite different from scientists at least in the past three to four decades) who form a big part of the people-to-people USA-India relationship. That's how I, a former software technologist/engineer but NOT a scientist, had my first interactions with USA people.]

Nearly 1.2 million American visitors traveled to India last year. More than 166,000 Indian students are studying in the United States. And nearly 4 million Indian Americans call the United States home, contributing to their communities as doctors, engineers, and innovators, and proudly serving their country in uniform.

As our economies grow closer, we find more opportunities for prosperity for our people. More than 600 American companies operate in India. U.S. foreign direct investment has jumped by 500 percent in the past two years alone. And last year, our bilateral trade hit a record of roughly $115 billion, a number we plan to increase.

Together, we have built a sturdy foundation of economic cooperation as we look for more avenues of expansion. The announcement of the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit ever to be hosted in South Asia, to take place in Hyderabad next month, is a clear example of how President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are promoting innovation, expanding job opportunities, and finding new ways to strengthen both of our economies.

When our militaries conduct joint exercises, we send a powerful message as to our commitment to protecting the global commons and defending our people. This year’s Malabar exercise was our most complex to date. The largest vessels from American, Indian, and Japanese navies demonstrated their power together in the Indian Ocean for the first time, setting a clear example of the combined strength of the three Indo-Pacific democracies. We hope to add others in coming years.

In keeping with India’s status as a Major Defense Partner – a status overwhelmingly endorsed last year by the U.S. Congress – and our mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defense options for India’s consideration, including the Guardian UAV. We value the role India can play in global security and stability and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities.

And over the past decade, our counterterrorism cooperation has expanded significantly. Thousands of Indian security personnel have trained with American counterparts to enhance their capacity. The United States and India are cross-screening known and suspected terrorists, and later this year we will convene a new dialogue on terrorist designations.

...

States that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish. It is the obligation, not the choice, of every civilized nation to combat the scourge of terrorism. The United States and India are leading this effort in that region.

But another more profound transformation that’s taking place, one that will have far-reaching implications for the next 100 years: The United States and India are increasingly global partners with growing strategic convergence.

Indians and Americans don’t just share an affinity for democracy. We share a vision of the future.

The emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade. Our nations are two bookends of stability – on either side of the globe – standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world.

The challenges and dangers we face are substantial. The scourge of terrorism and the disorder sown by cyber attacks threaten peace everywhere. North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missiles pose a clear and imminent threat to the security of the United States, our Asian allies, and all other nations.

And the very international order that has benefited India’s rise – and that of many others – is increasingly under strain.

China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty.

China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for.

The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.

In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner.

And with India’s youth, its optimism, its powerful democratic example, and its increasing stature on the world stage, it makes perfect sense that the United States – at this time – should seek to build on the strong foundation of our years of cooperation with India. It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising – and rising responsibly – for the next 100 years.

But above all, the world – and the Indo-Pacific in particular – needs the United States and India to have a strong partnership.

India and the United States must, as the Indian saying goes, “do the needful.” (Laughter.)

Our two countries can be the voice the world needs to be, standing firm in defense of a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries’ unhindered access to the planet’s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea, or in cyberspace.

In particular, India and the United States must foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific – including the entire Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and the nations that surround them – will be the most consequential part of the globe in the 21st century.

Home to more than three billion people, this region is the focal point of the world’s energy and trade routes. Forty percent of the world’s oil supply crisscrosses the Indian Ocean every day – through critical points of transit like the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. And with emerging economies in Africa and the fastest growing economy and middle class in India, whole economies are changing to account for this global shift in market share. Asia’s share of global GDP is expected to surpass 50 percent by the middle of this century.

We need to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity – so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.

The world’s center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential.

First, we must grow with an eye to greater prosperity for our peoples and those throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

By the year 2050, India may boast the second largest economy in the world. India’s population – with a median age of 25 – is expected to surpass that of China’s within the next decade. Getting our economic partnership right is critical.

Economic growth flows from innovative ideas. Fortunately, there are no two countries that encourage innovation better than the United States and India. The exchange of technologies and ideas between Bangalore and Silicon Valley is changing the world.

Prosperity in the 21st century and beyond will depend on nimble problem solving that harnesses the power of markets and emerging innovations in the Indo-Pacific. This is where the United States and India have a tremendous competitive advantage.

Our open societies generate high-quality ideas at the speed of free thought. Helping regional partners establish similar systems will deliver solutions to 21st century problems.

For that to happen, greater regional connectivity is essential.

From Silk Routes to Grand Trunk Roads, South Asia was for millennia a region bound together by the exchange of goods, people, and ideas.

But today it is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world; intra-regional trade has languished – sitting at around 4 or 5 percent of total trade.

Compare that with ASEAN, where intra-regional trade stands at 25% of total trade.

The World Bank estimates that with barriers removed and streamlined customs procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current $28 billion to over $100 billion.

One of the goals of greater connectivity is providing nations in the Indo-Pacific the right options when it comes to sustainable development.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is one model of how we can achieve it. The program is committed to data, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making to foster the right circumstances for private investment.

Last month, the United States and Nepal signed a $500 million compact agreement – the first with a South Asian nation – to invest in infrastructure to meet growing electricity and transportation needs in Nepal, and to promote more trade linkages with partners in the region, like India.

The United States and India must look for more opportunities to grow this connectivity and our own economic links, even as we look for more ways to facilitate greater development and growth for others in the region.

But for prosperity to take hold in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability are required. We must evolve as partners in this realm too.

For India, this evolution will entail fully embracing its potential as a leading player in the international security arena. First and foremost, this means building security capacity.

My good friend and colleague Secretary Mattis was in Delhi just last month to discuss this. We both eagerly look forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue, championed by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, soon.

The fact that the Indian Navy was the first overseas user of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, which it effectively fields with U.S. Navy counterparts, speaks volumes of our shared maritime interests and our need to enhance interoperability.

The proposals the United States has put forward, including for Guardian UAVs, aircraft carrier technologies, the Future Vertical Lift program, and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft, are all potential game changers for our commercial and defense cooperation.

The United States military’s record for speed, technology, and transparency speaks for itself – as does our commitment to India’s sovereignty and security. Security issues that concern India are concerns of the United States.

Secretary Mattis has said the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries. I couldn’t agree more.

When we work together to address shared security concerns, we don’t just protect ourselves, we protect others.

Earlier this year, instructors from the U.S. and Indian Armies came together to build a UN peacekeeping capacity among African partners, a program that we hope to continue expanding. This is a great example of the U.S. and India building security capacity and promoting peace in third countries – and serving together as anchors of peace in a very tumultuous world.

And as we implement President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, we will turn to our partners to ensure greater stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region. India is a partner for peace in Afghanistan and we welcome their assistance efforts.

Pakistan, too, is an important U.S. partner in South Asia. Our relationships in the region stand on their own merits. We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region. In doing so, Pakistan furthers stability and peace for itself and its neighbors, and improves its own international standing.

Even as the United States and India grow our own economic and defense cooperation, we must have an eye to including other nations which share our goals. India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies. This is a natural complement to India’s “Act East” policy.

We ought to welcome those who want to strengthen the rule of law and further prosperity and security in the region.

In particular, our starting point should continue to be greater engagement and cooperation with Indo-Pacific democracies.

We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the U.S., India, and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives.

India can also serve as a clear example of a diverse, dynamic, and pluralistic country to others – a flourishing democracy in the age of global terrorism. The sub-continent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions, and India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims – the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant number of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS or other terrorist groups, which speaks to the strength of Indian society. The journey of a democracy is never easy, but the power of India’s democratic example is one that I know will continue to strengthen and inspire others around the world.

In other areas, we are long overdue for greater cooperation. The more we expand cooperation on issues like maritime domain awareness, cybersecurity, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the more the nations in the Indo-Pacific will benefit.

We also must recognize that many Indo-Pacific nations have limited alternatives when it comes to infrastructure investment programs and financing schemes, which often fail to promote jobs or prosperity for the people they claim to help. It’s time to expand transparent, high-standard regional lending mechanisms – tools that will actually help nations instead of saddle [Ravi: saddling] them with mounting debt.

India and the United States must lead the way in growing these multilateral efforts.

We must do a better job leveraging our collective expertise to meet common challenges, while seeking even more avenues of cooperation to tackle those that are to come. There is a need and we must meet the demand.

The increasing convergence of U.S. and Indian interests and values offers the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rules-based global system that has benefited so much of humanity over the past several decades.

But it also comes with a responsibility – for both of our countries to “do the needful” in support of our united vision of a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific.

The United States welcomes the growing power and influence of the Indian people in this region and throughout the world. We are eager to grow our relationship even as India grows as a world leader and power.

The strength of the Indo-Pacific has always been the interaction among many peoples, governments, economies, and cultures. The United States is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares our vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system is respected.

It is time we act on our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, supported and protected by two strong pillars of democracy – the United States and India. Thank you for your kind attention.

(Applause.)
---- end speech (excluding Q&A) of Secy. Tillerson ----

Ravi: What a wonderful, logical and clearly articulated vision for India-USA relationship in the Indo-Pacific region for the next 100 years. I find this speech of Secy. Tillerson to be very inspiring! It also reflects good knowledge of history of India and South Asia. My heartiest congratulations to Secy. Tillerson and his team!

I think I completely agree with everything I have given above of Secy Tillerson's remarks (I only deleted one sentence about an extremist organization as I don't know much about that orgn., from the above speech, excluding Q&A, of Secy. Tillerson). I am surprised to find that I, an Indian living in India but who has had rather extensive exposure to USA and Western Europe in my former international software technologist career, am in such complete agreement with these quite long and exhaustive remarks of USA's Secretary of State about USA-India relations now and in the coming years and decades, perhaps for the next 100 years. I mean, I expected to have some polite disagreements with some points in his remarks. However, in the Q&A part, I do have some polite disagreement with Secy. Tillerson's views. As the Q&A part gets into some sensitive territory I have chosen not to include it, and not to comment on it.

As a person who now has a strong interest in spirituality and religion, I would like to say that freedom of religion (including freedom to have no religion), and having large portion of its population as believers in God, is another strong common feature which binds USA and India.

http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/ states that Christians make up 70.6%, Other faiths make up 5.9%, No faith (Nones) - 22.8% and Don't know - 0.6%, of USA population. That makes believers in God being 76.5% of USA population.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_India states that according to 2011 census, Hindus are 79.8%, Muslims - 14.2%, Other faiths - 5.8% and Religion not stated (Nones perhaps) - 0.2% of Indian population. That makes believers in God being (at least) 99.8% of Indian population.

I recall how I was amazed to read "In God We Trust" on USA dollar bills. Now India is, population percentage wise, a far more God believing country than USA. But Indian currency notes do not have the word, God, in it. Indian currency notes have the motto, Satyameva Jayate - Truth alone triumphs, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyameva_Jayate, which is from the Upanishads (end of Veda; Vedanta), along with the national emblem, a modified symbol of an ancient and famous Indian king who promoted Buddhism (Lion Capital of Ashoka, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_Capital_of_Ashoka). So there is morality and religious motif in it but not the word, God.

Then I noted that the USA Congress House of Representatives had an engraving of the words, "In God We Trust" in a prominent place above the House Speaker's chair, http://freedomslighthouse.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/housechamberingodwetrust.jpg.

Later I had more exposure to the role of Christian faith in building the USA. As a Hindu, I have never ever faced discrimination or hatred from any USA citizen or resident, on account of me being a Hindu (though I did not particularly exhibit my Hindu faith during my stay in the USA). Further, the USA has allowed Hindus to peacefully worship God according to Hindu religion and have allowed many Hindu temples to come up in the USA. I, and I am quite sure many other Indian Hindus, found this tolerance of Hindu religion by USA to be a very attractive and vital feature of the USA.

I should also say here that I have great reverence and love for Lord Jesus Christ, and for the Christian faith in general. I have been very impressed by, and experienced great joy in learning about, many Christian churches (denominations), pastors, priests and their congregations and services (including gospel songs) in the USA.

I think this freedom of religion, so long as the practice of a religion is not a threat to the constitution and people of a country, and faith in God of the majority of its people [over three-quarters of USA population and almost all of Indian population], are core values and attributes of both USA and India constitution and peoples, which significantly contribute to making USA and India natural allies for this 21st century.

I should also mention here that both in USA and India, freedom of people to have no religion is respected by the constitution and by law. So legally, any person can choose to be an atheist or agnostic, both in USA and India. While such persons may find it somewhat difficult to assimilate in all aspects of Indian society, especially its many religious festivals (like Diwali which is going on now), and which has (at least) 99.8 % believers in God, as far as I know, there are no reported persecutions, in this early 21st century, of any person residing in India, Indian or non-Indian, for choosing to be an atheist or an agnostic.

Secy. Tillerson said in above speech, "In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner."

Ravi: As an Indian citizen (living in India), my view is that India is honoured by USA stating that it is a reliable partner of India on the world stage, and that India should wholeheartedly co-operate in this reliable partnership, so long as such partnership does not entail aggression from India against any country, big or small, that follows international norms and international law.

Secy. Tillerson said in above speech, "And the very international order that has benefited India’s rise – and that of many others – is increasingly under strain."

Ravi: Helping to sustain and promote rules based international order that India has benefited enormously from in the past few decades, is, I think, India's duty and also to India's and many other countries' benefit.

In this context, I would like to mention my gratitude to USA government from the Bill Clinton presidency years (Democrat; Jan 1993 to Jan 2001) onwards, through George W. Bush presidency years (Republican; Jan 2001 to Jan 2009), Barrack Obama presidency years (Democrat; Jan 2009 to Jan 2017) and now Donald J. Trump presidency years (Republican; Jan 2017 onwards), for their role in South Asia in keeping the peace in India, and for protecting and defending the rules based International order. I mention these years as this is the period during which I have been doing some reading about USA govt. role in such matters. In particular, I think USA has been instrumental in ensuring that India-Pakistan hostilities do not go beyond small battles and burst into a terrifying nuclear war that would be devastating for many Pakistanis as well as many Indians, with long-term damage to both countries.

It is the protection of the rules based international order that the above USA governments (followed to some extent by me from 1993 onwards) provided that played a vital role in India's economic growth, which included my own individual financial/economic growth during my Mumbai based independent international software technologist/consultant role (individual business; one man show) from around 1993 to Aug. 2002 (after which I retired from commercial work to pursue a simple and single (unmarried) spiritual aspirant life). I would like to express my gratitude to the above USA governments for this role they have played in facilitating India's economic rise in the world, and my own individual financial/economic growth (till Aug. 2002).

Secy. Tillerson said in above speech, "In particular, our starting point should continue to be greater engagement and cooperation with Indo-Pacific democracies. We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the U.S., India, and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives.

India can also serve as a clear example of a diverse, dynamic, and pluralistic country to others – a flourishing democracy in the age of global terrorism. The sub-continent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions, and India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims – the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant number of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS or other terrorist groups, which speaks to the strength of Indian society. The journey of a democracy is never easy, but the power of India’s democratic example is one that I know will continue to strengthen and inspire others around the world."

Ravi: I think the observation of Secy. Tillerson about India being a diverse and dynamic country with Indian sub-continent being the birthplace of four of the world's major religions (I think he is referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, Opening section of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_India states the same), shows his knowledge about this vital religion aspect in India. Religion is very deeply entwined with the life of almost the whole of 1.3 billion Indians. It is my considered opinion that religion and faith in God are one of the most precious, if not the most precious, things/possessions/values of the vast majority of Indians, even if some of them may not be so articulate about it. For sure, religion and faith in God are the most precious things/values of my life.

Secy. Tillerson's remarks about Indian Muslims having largely shunned extremist terrorism show that he has a good grasp of this important aspect of contemporary India. I should mention here that one of the spiritual masters I revere and whose teachings I try hard to follow, is the Late Shirdi Sai Baba (gave up physical body in 1918 in Shirdi, Maharashtra), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi, who used to wear the dress of a Muslim fakir and frequently say, "Allah Malik" meaning "Allah/God is the Lord/Master". He is also well known for promoting Hindu-Muslim unity, and had both Hindu and Muslim followers. He would teach, "Sabka Malik Ek" meaning "The Lord/Master/God of all is One", which I, a devout Hindu, deeply believe in. That is, the God of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Zorastrians etc. is ONE, though the traditions and paths followed by these various religions and sects within them are different, but leading eventually to the same ONE God.

About the initial part of above quote of Secy. Tillerson, I fully support the idea of USA, India, Japan and Australia - the four major democracies in the Indo-Pacific - collaborating to ensure freedom of navigation and ensuring international law and rules based international order compliance in the Indo-Pacific region.
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Some additional thoughts from me on this matter:

I think there is BIPARTISAN support from USA administrations & USA Congress, from George W. Bush presidency onwards, towards closer ties with India based on shared interests and values. That is the vital part - shared interest and values.
...
In this matter, I think 9/11 tragedy and terror attack when George W. Bush was the USA president, was the turning point for USA, after which USA administrations and Congress, both Republican and Democrat led, have advocated and taken steps to have a much closer relationship with India than earlier. And in India, both the UPA and NDA governments which have been in power since 9/11 have welcomed that closer relationship moves from the USA, again based on India's shared interests and values with the USA.
...
I think both USA and Indian administrations and Congress/Parliament follow policies based on their individual countries' interests. What I am saying is that, after 9/11, both Republican and Democrat led USA administrations and Congress as well as UPA and NDA Indian governments and Parliament, find that closer USA-India business and military ties help each other. That is, it is in both the countries' interests.

Now here I would also like to say that my view is that Russia is an old time-tested friend of India which has helped India in very significant ways for decades since India's independence. In the coming decades, India should always remember the help rendered by Russia to us in the past with some important collaborations continuing even today. India must balance its closer relationship with the USA in such a way that India's long time-tested relationship with Russia is sustained for the foreseeable future. I personally have nothing but goodwill towards Russia and its people as well as many relatively new countries (after Dec. 1991 dissolution of Soviet Union) and their peoples which were earlier part of the Soviet Union.

BTW to put things in real-life perspective for my life in Puttaparthi, an international pilgrim/spiritual aspirant town with many Russians and Americans living in it, in my apartment building, my current next door neighbour on one side is an elderly Russian lady (seems to be out of town now) and, on the other side, is an elderly American lady! We live in harmony and peace!
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[I thank USA Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and have presumed that he will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from his above mentioned speech on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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