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Youth connect for joint venture

- Hillary invokes Tagore, urges young india to build stronger ties with America

From welcoming the US secretary of state to making up more than half the audience for the interactive session at La Martiniere for Girls on Monday morning and asking the best questions, schoolchildren and iPad- and tablet-toting young activists and professionals were in focus all the way.

The emphasis on youth power was reflected in Hillary Clinton’s opening words as she quoted Tagore — a favourite since college days. “Age considers, youth ventures,” Hillary told her audience for NDTV’s We the People, adding that it was a quote she loved when “I was your age…”.

“We are hoping that you will venture, that you will venture on behalf of not only your future, but the future of this great country and that you will venture to make the partnership between United States and India stronger,” urged Hillary. She spoke about the United States’ initiative to start youth councils in all its embassies and consulates around the world and even in Calcutta, where there is “a particularly active group and we want to have even more people involved”.

The youth in the audience were not afraid to have their voices heard, raising questions on the engagement of rural youth by the US, Iran, Israel. Two of the best questions, in fact, came from young members of the audience. Pratap Chowdhury, a student at La Martiniere for Boys, asked why the US was pressuring India to reduce its oil imports from Iran. Hillary responded saying Iran would not have come to the table if it were not for sanctions and pressure. “The reason why India, China, Japan, and European countries...are being asked to lower their supply was to keep the pressure on Iran.”

The next question came from Shrishti Malhotra of La Martiniere for Girls, who wanted to know why the US had not taken any active action against Israel despite the fact that “it is in violation of 35 UN resolutions”.

When Pallavi Kaushal, a youth activist from Delhi and a member of a youth council formed by the American embassy, rued how difficult it was to get young people to engage in politics, Hillary agreed. “We have to keep trying to convince young people preoccupied in their own lives, finishing their studies, getting their first jobs, having relationships, getting married… that it is worth participating in politics,” she said. The youth feel strongly about several issues but they do not necessarily connect those issues to political process, she said, citing the example of the Egyptian revolution, which was given momentum by the youth who, when asked to participate in the politics, said it was not for them. “In a democracy, like it or not, politics is the means by which we make a particular decision that determines what direction our country is going,” Hillary said.