Chennai:  “Vanakkam,” said Hillary Clinton, her vernacular greeting provoking a roar of approval from her audience at the Anna Centenary Library in Chennai. The thousand-plus crowd consisted mainly of students, and some local celebrities and opinion-makers like actors Kamal Haasan and Gauthami.

The US Secretary of State paid tribute to India, its democracy and its pluralism. “We understand that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia…and that much of the future of Asia will be shaped by decisions not just by the Indian government but by governments across India… and by the 1.3 billion people who live in this country,” she said.

Ms Clinton then said, “We are betting on India’s future…that the opening of India’s markets to world will produce a more prosperous India and South Asia. We are betting that India’s vibrant pluralistic society will inspire others to follow a similar path of tolerance. We are making this bet not out of blind faith but because we have watched your progress with great admiration.”

She joked about stories in the Indian media that sometimes highlight areas of tension between India and America. “I am never sure of what I will find when I turn the page,” she said. And then, on a more serious note, “We will have differences from time to time as friends sometimes do but our bonds far outweigh our differences. We are both committed to fighting terror.”

Ms Clinton said that America stands whole-heartedly behind President Obama’s statement to the Indian Parliament during his visit that his country’s relationship with India will be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.

“India is taking its rightful place in the  conference rooms of  the world where the most consequential questions are debated and decided,” she said, adding that,  President Obama has backed India’s bid for permanent membership of UN security council.Complimenting India for its efficient elections, she said, “India is widely viewed as the gold standard for running elections.”

Ms Clinton later met with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.