New Delhi: Amid the debate over free speech following the JNU row, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma today said that diversity of "thought and speech" was one of India's great hallmarks which will "propel" it forward.
He also emphasised that free speech was an issue that the Indian society will have to resolve, terming universities as "laboratories of thoughts" and identifying them as a "central tenet" that both India and the US hold dear.
Verma, who was asked by journalists about his opinion on the JNU episode as well as importance of freedom of speech, said with diversity comes "different view points".
"It will be hard to find a country more diverse than India. That is a great attribute of this country. It is what will propel India forward in the next century. That's also a part of both of our democracies, particularly on college campuses and it is something both of our countries frankly have celebrated and welcomed over years and over decades and these are called the laboratories of thoughts," he said.
Verma, who took charge as US envoy to India last year, said that the countries talk a lot about "shared values" and the people-to-people relations as he highlighted the "similarities" between their "constitutional processes".
"The fact that both of our Constitutions start with we the people, the fact that we both protect and uphold minority rights and celebrate diversity. What I have seen again in both of our countries is that those traditions are so important in US and India and I believe they will continue to be what makes both of our countries great," he said.
Verma said that all democracies at some point grapple with the question of what is the appropriate amount of freedom to give to people when they communicate and that each society has handled it slightly differently.
"Ultimately this is a question for Indian society to resolve. It is one of the great hallmarks of India and US to have this diversity of thought and diversity of speech and the fact is we are constitutional democracies, we here speech is a central tenet of what we hold dear," he said.