International Affairs


Your Excellency, the President of the

Republic of France, Mr. Jacques Chirac,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege to have you, Mr. President in our midst today. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you and to all the distinguished members of your delegation.

Arcs of destiny have linked India and France for centuries. The French travellers Bernier and Tavernier took their vivid impressions of Moghul India back to France; our artistic heritage, particularly the figure of the Nataraja - Lord of Dance - struck a chord in your great sculptor Auguste Rodin, as our philosophy did in Jules Michelet. The great thinker, Romain Rolland recognized the genius of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi decades before others outside India.

For Sylvain Levi, the shining star of French Indology, civilization was not the property of one continent or culture. He advised his contemporaries to look beyond the "vieux regime colonial". Andre Gide and Andre Malraux empathised, similarly with the spirit of resurgent India. The principal architect of that resurgence, Jawaharlal Nehru has written glowingly in several places of the French Revolution and its impact on the history of the peoples of the world.

Mr. President, tomorrow, on our Republic Day, we will celebrate the people of India; we will celebrate the coming of our people into their own; the assumption by the people of India of control over their destinies. The presence of the President of the Republic of France as Chief Guest, at so important an anniversary for us in 50th year of our Independence, is a visible demonstration of the affinities we share in the realm of the great principles and values of life as well as in the perception of our national interests and our outlook on the world.

Mr. President, India is not new to you. We remember your visit to India in 1976, as the Prime Minister of your great country. Your keen interest in various aspects of Indian culture, its traditions and its civilisation is well known to us.

Your Excellency, we attach great importance to our relations with France which have always been marked by mutual understanding and co-operation. Our understanding has surmounted barriers of alignments and power blocs. We have been able to work together and overcome the barriers that were created by a world divided into blocs. This ability has helped our concrete co-operation in a number of major fields, such as in the highest levels of technology, including in the special areas of space and nuclear science.

Mr. President, India is to-day one of the largest markets of the world and it is estimated that the middle class in India will be 500 million strong by A.D. 2025. The country is being transformed by the communication revolution. And everywhere there is evidence of change because Indians to-day want economic progress and development in their life-time.

I believe that these unfolding developments provide the basis for a much wider and deeper economic interaction between India and France and, indeed, with the European Union. We need, Mr. President, a wide range of technologies, expertise and investments from France, for the strengthening of our infrastructure as well as for other sectors of our rapidly developing economy. In this context I am glad that the newly created Indo-French Forum will oversee the provision of right inputs in order to upgrade qualitatively our co-operation over the long term. I am also happy that the European Union, which is our largest trade, investment and technology partner and in which France is a leading force, has recently unveiled a programme "Communication on India for Enhanced Partnership".

Mr. President, we have attached great importance to freedom of independent thought and action in our international policies. The policy of non-alignment that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru formulated was essentially an expression of our independence in international relations. Like France we believe in a pluralistic world where no nation or group of nations dominate another. We are committed to co-operating with like-minded nations to ensure that the emerging world order will rest on the principles of democracy, equality, and non-discrimination, and that the United Nations is restructured to reflect the realities of the world to-day.

Mr. President, you are aware that India, since Independence, has worked for world-peace and disarmament and actively participated and made sacrifices in the cause of peace under the auspices of the United Nations. We have attached the highest priority to building bridges of understanding and to establishing a system of friendship and co-operation with our neighbours. On the sub-continent we are dedicated to building up SAARC as a factor of peace, stability and progress in the region. Our ties with ASEAN are close and meaningful, and we would like to establish an integral relationship with APEC, a vast region, of which India is as much part as the other countries associated with it. We are equally keen to strengthen our historical links with the countries around the Indian Ocean and to make the Indian Ocean Rim Association a success.

Mr. President, France and the great city of Paris which symbolizes a great part of French culture have fascinated the Indian mind over the centuries. Your architect, Le Corbusier has, through his great work in Chandigarh, brought alive to us something of the creative character of your cities. As our novelist-philosopher, Raja Rao has written : "Paris is somehow not a city; it is an area in oneself." So is France, as a whole, and the great values that France has signified down the centuries. We have no doubt that your country has a momentous role to play in the future, not only in Europe but in the world.

May I, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, request you to join me in raising a toast: -
- to the good health and happiness of the President of the French Republic, H.E. Mr. Jacques Chirac;
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of France; and
- to a renewed enrichment of the traditional friendship between India and France

Thank you

Jai Hind