International Affairs


Governing Mayor,

Mrs. Diepgen,

Distinguished Guests,

I would like to thank you, Mr. Mayor, and through you, thank the people of Berlin for the hospitality extended to me, to my wife, and to my delegation. This includes a Cabinet Minister, four Hon'ble Members of our Parliament and high officials of the Government. We also have a distinguished media delegation with us. So a good cross-section of India is represented here, Mr. Mayor, to greet the brave people of Berlin, who have made history perhaps more than any other people in any other city.

When this century began, Berlin was witness to dynamic developments; creativity was in the air. Scientists, artists, writers, intellectuals and entrepreneurs were making contributions that were to be of immense value to the entire world.

Today, as the century draws to a close, Berlin is once again suffused with the air of change and optimism. Until recently, the divided heart of a divided continent, Berlin is today a symbol of reconciliation and hope and the centre of an integrating Europe. As the capital of Germany comes home to this historic city next year Berlin will regain its eminence in the political, economic and cultural life of Germany and assume European and world stature and responsibilities.

Berlin is home to people from almost every nationality and faith. People from my own country are part of this mosaic. Although relatively small in number, they do, I believe make an important contribution to the cultural life of Berlin.

Berlin's long intellectual, cultural and economic links with India are a matter of great pride for us. In 1821 one of the city's great citizens pioneered the study of Indology in Berlin. It is heartening that to-day Berlin's Universities, various institutes, museums, state libraries and cultural institutions continue their interests in and interaction with India. I may recall on this occasion that the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore visited Berlin thrice in l92l, l926 and in l930. During the first of these visits, Tagore was scheduled to speak at the Humboldt University and his lecture drew so large an audience that there was not sufficient space to accommodate those who came to hear him. Tagore was finally able to commence his lecture only after promising those who did not gain entry into the lecture hall that he would repeat his lecture the next day. The discourses between Tagore and Einstein took place here in Berlin. One of the issues discussed by these two great men of this century was universal peace and development --- an issue that occupies the minds of people everywhere even to-day.

As I entered my name in the Golden Book my thoughts went to a distinguished citizen of India whose signature is enshrined in this Book, Mother Teresa. I understand a new school in Berlin has been named the Mahatma Gandhi School. We are proud of the association of some of the great personalities of India with this city.

Mr. Mayor, it has come as no surprise to me that over the past twelve months Berlin hosted the maximum number of the hundred events held in Germany celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of India's independence. I should also add that one of the major events in India to mark the conclusion of the Golden Jubilee year was an exhibition in New Delhi of Indian art and antiquities from the Berlin Museum, which I had the pleasure of inaugurating. Berlin was a natural choice for the venue of the Indian Cultural Centre in Germany. And I am to-day laying the foundation stone of the Indian Embassy which is moving to Berlin next year.

As we enter the new millennium our links with Berlin are bound to increase in every field and in every respect. Looking forward to that bright future, I thank you Mr. Mayor and Members of the Town Hall for the warm welcome you have given me and my delegation.

Thank you

Jai Hind