BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF
MRS. CHANDRIKA BANDARANAIKE KUMARATUNGA, PRESIDENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA
NEW DELHI, MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1998
Mrs. Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga,
guests from Sri Lanka,
It gives me
special pleasure to extend a warm and cordial welcome to Your Excellency,
your son Vimukti and the distinguished members of your delegation.
of the President of Sri Lanka to India is always a pleasant and significant
event. It brings to us something of the fragrance of friendship between
our two peoples nurtured over the ages by geography, history, culture
and immortal teachings of the Buddha. It is a relationship marked by an
unbroken continuity and by sentiments of civilizational kinship and enriched
by modern linkages of economics and commerce and science and technology.
You have, Excellency, brought to bear upon this traditional India - Sri
Lankan relations a deep and sensitive understanding. We welcome you to
India not only as the President of a neighbouring country, but as a leader
of vision and compassion held in high esteem by your people and by people
in our region.
our shared dedication to democracy, humanism and tolerance enables us
to view each other's aspirations and concerns with sympathy and understanding.
We in India are very conscious of the challenges that the people of Sri
Lanka continue to face as they strive to live together in peace and harmony
in a pluralistic society. We applaud your statesmanship in coming forward
with new initiatives to address the aspirations of all sections of Sri
Lankan society. We are confident that with the courage of your conviction
and wise leadership, Sri Lanka will achieve peace and tranquility, within
the framework of its national unity and territorial integrity.
your visit has provided an opportunity for a purposeful review of bilateral
cooperation and for updating strategies and initiatives for the future.
Of fundamental importance among these is the proposal for a bilateral
free trade area which is now being actively pursued. This is an imaginative
concept with great promise for growth and diversification of trade, investment
and other economic exchanges. I am happy that an Agreement on this has
been signed today by Your Excellency and our Prime Minister which we believe,
could initiate a pattern for the South Asian region.
I am happy to learn about the decision to set up the India-Sri Lanka Foundation.
This will play an important role in promoting closer people-to-people
contact. This and other initiatives, such as the establishment of the
Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo last July and the proposed setting up
of a Sri Lankan Cultural Centre in India, could give further impetus to
our exchanges in art, culture, and science and technology. The Sri Lankan
Pilgrims' Rest House for which the site was gifted by our first Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and you have laid the foundation stone this
morning, together with our Prime Minister, is to provide facilities for
pilgrims of all faiths in the common tradition of religious tolerance
that we cherish.
SAARC represents a vitally important dimension of our relations. As Chairperson,
you guided the deliberations of the Tenth SAARC Summit in Colombo with
clear purpose and direction. You have our continued and full support in
your endeavours for the common cause. We believe that each country of
the region, and the region as a whole, will be able to develop fully their
potential and rise to their full stature in the world through such co-operation.
Sri Lanka have established a tradition of collaboration beyond SAARC.
We have recently joined hands with other countries around the Bay of Bengal
in BIMSTEC for devising programmes of co-operation among a number of countries
located in our extended neighbourhood. Our efforts at multi-lateral economic
and developmental cooperation began decades ago in UNCTAD and G-77 and
our two countries have worked closely together in the Nonaligned Movement
and at the United Nations. These interactions in the international field
which encompass a wide range of crucial and complex issues, relating in
particular, to the reform and expansion of the United Nations Security
Council, the questions of world economic development, as well as disarmament
and international terrorism reinforce our capabilities in dealing with
the challenges of the present day world.
there is a great deal to cherish when two friends of long standing get
together to exchange ideas and to explore ways of working with each other
in new and promising areas. This is indeed, one of those occasions, which
leaves one with a special sense of satisfaction from the meeting of minds.
I am convinced that we can look forward to a new era of active and dynamic
cooperation on the basis of the friendship and mutual trust that exists
between our two countries. Your visit to India, Excellency, is a significant
step in that direction into the new century and the new millennium that
we are about to enter.
Gentlemen, may I invite you to rise and join me in a toast :
- to the health
and well-being of Her Excellency, Mrs. Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga,
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka;
- to the prosperity
and happiness of the friendly people of Sri Lanka; and
- to the bonds
of abiding friendship between the peoples of our two countries.