BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF
HIS MAJESTY KING BIRENDRA BIR BIKRAM SHAH DEV, KINGDOM OF NEPAL
AND HER MAJESTY QUEEN AISHWARYA RAJYA LAXMI DEVI SHAH
NEW DELHI, MONDAY, JANUARY 25, 1999
King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev,
Queen Aishwarya Rajya Lakshmi Devi Shah,
Highness Prince Nirajan Bir Bikram Shah,
On behalf of the Government and the people of India, and my wife and myself,
I have great pleasure in extending to your Majesties, your Royal Highness
and to your distinguished delegation a very warm welcome to India. We
are honoured and delighted by your gracious and auspicious presence as
Chief Guest on the happy occasion of the Republic Day celebrations of
The peoples of India and Nepal have been, if I may use the phrase, civilizational
soulmates, linked by immutable geography and immemorial history. And the
Royal family of Nepal has enjoyed a legendary reputation in India. To-day
we receive you not only as the Head of State of a neighbouring country
but also as a genuine friend of India and as a leader of vision and wisdom.
My wife and I treasure the memories of our visit to your beautiful country
in May last year. We recall the warmth and affection with which we were
received, the gracious hospitality extended to us by your Majesties and
your Government, and the consideration shown to us by all sections of
Nepali leadership. The wide-ranging exchange of views we had with your
Majesty, the members of your Majesty's Government and the leaders of political
opinion in Nepal were of immense value to us, and I am glad to say that
this process of dialogue has since gone on at different levels. I am confident
that the present visit of your Majesty will be another golden milestone
in our bilateral relationship.
Your Majesty, as we approach the next century we are faced with opportunities
and challenges which are common or similar - the challenge of economic
development, of harnessing the vast natural and human resources we are
endowed with, improving the standard and the quality of living of our
peoples and the challenge of regional co-operation. In meeting these challenges
we, in India, have striven to follow the perspectives and vision bequeathed
to us by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders. We have also,
in the process, tried to inter-lock and harmonize our developmental strategies
with the neighbouring countries who are engaged in a similar task. National
boundaries, Your Majesty, define identities and sovereignties. But they
do not inhibit over-leaping intellectual, cultural and economic co-operation.
Indeed we have a common stake in the identity and development of each
nation as well as of the region as a whole.
We are encouraged, Your Majesty, by the number of co-operative understandings
and agreements that have been reached between our two countries in recent
years. The Mahakali Treaty, agreements in the field of power, trade, investment,
and civil aviation, the road transit route through India between Nepal
and Bangladesh, and a vastly improved and liberalized Transit Treaty are
examples. These have become possible because of the atmosphere of trust
and goodwill that has grown between us, the increased consciousness of
the commonality of interests and the sensitivity to each other's concerns
in both countries. In this atmosphere I am confident that whatever issues
may crop up between us, it would be possible to resolve them through dialogue
in our traditionally friendly spirit.
Your Majesty, we live in a region which despite its common destiny and
innumerable links, has inherited a legacy of distrust and division from
its colonial history. India has tried to overcome that legacy through
initiatives that build upon areas of commonality. We see in SAARC, whose
Headquarters are in Kathmandu, the future destiny of South Asia taking
shape. I believe that in the 21st century SAARC will emerge as a major
force for peace and stability in Asia and the world. Terrorism, however,
continues to menace peace and stability of States and comes in the way
of co-operation in the region. India appreciates the co-operation Nepal
has extended in fighting this insidious and dangerous scourge.
Between Nepal and India substantive links of trade, commerce, and economic,
scientific and technological inter-changes have been institutionalized.
There is already a free trade area in existence between us. So also, between
India and Bhutan. Recently we have signed an agreement for a bilateral
free trade area with Sri Lanka. I am optimistic the free trade area will
gradually extend to the whole of South Asia. This is a consummation devoutly
to be wished for.
Indo-Nepal relations are a guiding light in this evolving process of regional
co-operation. Your Majesty, you bring from the Himalayan heights a visionary
view that makes us, ancient soulmates, partners in modern progress.
There can be no question that this relationship is destined to become
stronger and mutually rewarding in the years to come. India applauds Nepal's
lively multi-party democracy, and believes that the Monarchy is a constitutional
anchor, a centre of stability in democratic Nepal. In the conduct of our
bilateral relationship, we shall continue to look to it for support, as
we have done in the past. Your Majesty, you have played the role of a
constitutional Head of State in challenging circumstances with mature
statesmanship and understanding. We have no doubt that Nepal will continue
to prosper under your wise leadership.
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I request
you to join me in a toast
- to the health, happiness and long life of His Majesty King Birendra
Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Her Majesty Queen Aishwarya Rajya Lakshmi Devi
- to the well being and prosperity of the people of Nepal,
- to the everlasting friendship between our two peoples and countries.