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By Kalyani Giri

America is gearing up for the Fourth of July, the annual celebratory day that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. With patriotic fervor, fireworks, baseball games, family reunions, parades, picnics and barbeques, the nation will savor freedom and reflect on those who strove arduously to win liberty for this land.
On August 15, India, the world’s largest democracy, will welcome its 66th year of freedom. HUM talked with Honorable Sanjiv Arora, the Consul General of India in Houston and the highest-ranking Indian diplomat in Texas, about the two democracies and liberty. Hon. Arora has served his country in the US for the past four years overseeing consular duties in Texas and in eight other surrounding states. The following are excerpts from the interview:

What does freedom mean to you in the shared context of India and the USA?

The strategic partnership between India, the largest democracy and USA the oldest democracy, is rooted in our shared values of freedom, equality, rule of law and justice. These fundamental values are enshrined in the Constitutions of both countries and form the basis of their legislative, executive and judicial systems.

Politically, what challenges have both countries faced in achieving democracy?

Both countries have traditionally and historically cherished the basic values of democracy. It was, therefore, natural that both embraced the democratic system of governance on achieving freedom from colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership by example (“Be the change that you want to see”, as he famously said) mobilized millions of Indians in a non-violent civil disobedience movement against the British rule, that won India her independence on 15 August, 1947. Gandhiji’s life and ideals have inspired leaders and people around the world and his message is eternal.

What would be your message to the USA as she celebrates the Fourth of July, her Independence Day? How will you be celebrating the Fourth of July?

As the United States celebrates her Independence Day on the Fourth of July, we extend our warmest greetings to all Americans on this historic day, and reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two great countries. My family and I have enjoyed the magnificent fireworks and other festivities on the Fourth of July over the last three years of our stay in Houston. We would again be joining these festivities at Eleanor Tinsley Park in Downtown Houston.

What do you most enjoy about Houston and how has your and your family’s stay here been?

Houston is truly a friendly, diverse and international city. I have had a very interesting, hectic and fulfilling tour of duty in Houston from where Consulate General of India services Texas and eight other States. We are very proud of the distinctions and achievements of the vibrant Indian-American community. My family and I have made many friendships that we believe would be life-long. Our younger son, Aakash has just ‘graduated’ from Grady Middle School. He has thoroughly enjoyed his stay and made many friends.

As a parent yourself, what would be your message to the youth of this city?

It may be gratuitous on my part to give any message or advice to the wonderful youth of Houston. Based on my regular and active interaction with a large number of young students and professionals, especially from India, I can only say that I deeply admire their talents, hard work, enthusiasm and confidence. These young Ambassadors are the future of our countries. I wish them all happiness and success.

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