International Affairs

NEW DELHI, JUNE 30, 1998

Your Excellency President Gayoom,

Distinguished Guests from the Maldives,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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 co-operation.

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.

Thank you

Jai Hind