BY SHRI K.R.NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF MR. MAUMOON ABDUL
GAYOOM, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES.
NEW DELHI, JUNE 30, 1998
Guests from the Maldives,
We are deeply honoured to have Your Excellency and your distinguished
delegation in our midst this evening. We welcome you as a friend of
long standing, as a great leader of your people, as Chairman of SAARC
and as an Asian statesman who is held in high esteem in the world.
It is a matter of great satisfaction to us, Excellency, that you should
honour us with your presence in the fiftieth year of our Independence.
It is a demonstration of the strong bonds of goodwill, understanding
and co-operation that exist between the Maldives and India. Your personal
contribution to this many-sided relationship is well known and is sincerely
appreciated by us. I trust that despite the short duration of your visit,
you will have the opportunity to see something of the advances made
by us since your last visit in 1995. During this period, the people
of India have participated actively in our democratic processes and
demonstrated that stability involves not the absence of change, but
the ability to deal with change peacefully. India has also taken some
steps to safeguard its own security in the light of the current regional
and global environment. And at the same time, adhering to its traditional
policy of peace, co-operation and good neighbourliness, India remains
committed to working for comprehensive disarmament and the elimination
of all weapons of mass destruction.
Excellency, you are completing your second distinguished tenure as the
Chairman of SAARC. Your commitment to regional co-operation and your
singular contribution to focussing attention on crucial issues such
as the environment are not only admired by all in our region, but have
also begun to be translated into regional action. You have sensitized
and alerted SAARC member states to the implications of a rise in the
sea level for the Maldives and for the millions of people in coastal
areas of the region and indeed the world over, including our own country.
Your idea of convening meetings of SAARC Environment Ministers is yet
another example of your contribution to addressing the common issues
facing the region. The landmark decision taken at Male last year to
advance the date of SAFTA to the year 2001 is a practical step towards
the realization of a dream. We are now even looking beyond SAFTA, to
a gradual evolution of a South Asian Economic Community. India renews
its commitment to these goals and ideals and you can count on our fullest
Excellency, we have been watching with great interest the constitutional
and socio-economic steps your Government has been taking to meet the
changing needs in your country. It is particularly noteworthy that you
have, at the same time, been able to maintain the traditions, values
and the unique natural heritage of the Maldives. Our goals and approaches
are similar and we, in India, will be happy to continue our association
with the development programmes of the Maldives. I am pleased to know
that the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and the Maldives Institute
of Technical Education, two symbols of our co-operation in the field
of human development, are functioning satisfactorily in Male.
Your Excellency is well aware of India's policy on the larger issues
that confront our world today. While the Cold War has ended, regional
tensions abound and our uni-polar world is no less fraught with the
risk of local conflicts. We would like to reiterate that the services
of Indian Peace Keeping Forces will remain available for deployment
where necessary. The United Nations will continue to play an effective
role in mitigating world tensions. But the United Nations and its Security
Council must become more representative of the world, especially of
the developing world. It is time the world is seen not in terms of a
few economic, technological and military giants but as a pluralist world
of nations enjoying equal opportunities for the development of their
genius and potentialities.
India will continue to work towards an order that is non-discriminatory,
be it in the matter of trade, commerce, the laws relating to intellectual
property, or disarmament.
Your Excellency, the peoples of South Asia constituting one-sixth of
humanity are the proud inheritors of great civilizations. They have
to fashion their destiny on their own, and they look forward to working
as equal partners in bringing about a world order that is just and fair.
Distinguished guests, may I request you to join me in a toast:
- to the health of His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom;
- to the happiness and well-being of the people of the Maldives;
- to the progress of SAARC and the realisation of its vision; and
- to ever growing friendship between our two peoples and countries.