International Affairs


Your Excellency
President Constantinos Stephanopoulos,
Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege for us to have in our midst the President of the Hellenic Republic. On behalf of the Government and the people of India, may I extend a very warm welcome to Your Excellency and to your daughter Irini Stephanopoulos to India in this fiftieth year of our independence

I would also like to welcome the distinguished members of your delegation. I do hope that your stay in our country would be both fruitful and enjoyable.

We are happy, Your Excellency, that apart from this capital city of New Delhi, you will be visiting old and modern venues like Agra, Udaipur, Mumbai and Calcutta during this visit. This will provide you with glimpses of the ancient splendour of India as well as the many-sided and far-reaching developments that have taken place in our country in social, economic, scientific and technological fields. These will evoke parallels in the histories of our two nations and our future destinies in the age of modernisation and globalisation.

India and Greece were in contact with each other almost from the dawn of history. The most dramatic event that brought us face to face was the arrival of Alexander the Great -- known to us in India as Sikandar -- at the upper valleys of the river Indus in the fourth century BC. We are told by historians that our peoples were in touch even before Alexander's time and that Greece and India, had, in fact, constituted the highway between the West and the East. This encounter between India and Greece left its imprint on political, social and cultural relations between our two civilizations and, indeed, between our two continents. The Indo-Bactrine community which arose in the north-west of the sub-continent was gradually Indianized and a fusion between the Greek and Indian cultures arose in the form of the beautiful Gandharan art.

This contact between India and Greece went beyond these local experiments to the world of thought and culture of the two civilizations. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had claimed that "India is far nearer in spirit and outlook to the old Greeks than the nations of Europe are to-day, although they call themselves children of the Hellenic spirit." Excellency, we do not dispute the claim, generally advanced, that modern Europe is in many ways the spiritual and intellectual child of ancient Greece. We only wish to advance our own conception that we have been close to the spirit of ancient Greece, of truth, beauty and balance. We are happy to-day that the Hellenic Republic is at the heart of modern Europe, in the European Union, and just as in ancient times Greece was the highway between India and Europe, we believe that to-day you will be the gateway for India to the European Union.

Your Excellency, we value greatly our relations with the European Union. It is India's largest trade, investment and technology partner. The "Communication on India for Enhanced Partnership" by the European Union confirms the importance which the European Union also attaches to its relations with India. We are hopeful that our excellent bilateral relations with the Hellenic Republic will now serve to promote our relations with the European Union. We hope the EU will remain an outward looking entity and we look forward to your country's continued support in strengthening our relationship with it.

The vast amount of goodwill which we have for each other has not, in recent times, been reflected adequately in the exchange of high level visits or in the volume of trade between our two countries. We do hope, Your Excellency, that your visit to India will pave the way for enhanced interaction between our two countries. The business communities of our respective countries are poised to establishing closer contact with each other. We could explore the possibilities of promoting institutional links between our apex business associations to provide greater continuity to this inter-relationship. Your interaction with CII in New Delhi and Calcutta and that with the Chamber of Commerce in Mumbai will, we are sure, also generate new ideas for stepping up economic co-operation between our two countries. I wish you a pleasant and fruitful stay in our country. We are confident that your visit will contribute a new content and a contemporary dimension to our ancient relationship and will provide a sound basis for future co-operation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now request you to join me in proposing a toast :
- to the health and happiness of President Constantinos Stephanopoulos;
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of the Hellenic Republic; and
- to the further strengthening of cordial ties between our two countries.

Thank you

Jai Hind