International Affairs


Your Excellency, President Jorge Sampaio,

Madame Sampaio,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me, for my wife and other members of my delegation to be in your beautiful country. We have been touched by the warmth of the welcome which we have received in Portugal from the moment of our arrival. I would like to thank you for the gracious words that you have just spoken, and for this magnificent banquet hosted by Your Excellency and Madame Sampaio, the First Lady of Portugal. May I take this opportunity to convey the greetings and good wishes of the Government and people of India to Your Excellencies personally and to the Government and the people of Portugal.

It would be a truism to say that India and Portugal have been linked by history. Portugal has led some of the greatest voyages of the modern world impelled by the spirit of adventure and the lure of the unknown. Five hundred years ago Vasco da Gama, the great Portugese navigator, landed in the west coast of India and ushered in a long and eventful era of encounter between Europe, and India and the East. To-day, happily we are free of the colonial aspect of this encounter, but the impact of culture, ideas and institutions is palpable in the highly assimilative society of India. Some of the enduring and positive aspects of the encounter between Portugal and India can be seen in the arts and architecture, cuisine, music, customs and manners of the people of Goa, Diu and Daman. They can be seen in our textiles and in the variety of fruits and vegetables, the Portuguese brought from South America and planted in the Indian soil. According to a well-known writer these are the real "seeds of change" in the history of mankind that affect the life of people.

This historic city of Lisbon has been witness to great human endeavours emanating from the European continent. It is most appropriate and befitting that the World Exposition to celebrate the heritage of the Oceans is taking place in Lisbon. The Exposition is also an acknowledgement by the whole world of Portugal's economic achievements over the last decade, as well as its role within the European community.

India has always looked forward to building closer linkages with Portugal and the visits of my predecessors in 1992 and 1995 and the visit of your distinguished predecessor Dr. Mario Soares to India in 1994 have symbolised our strong desire at the highest level to further strengthening our relationship. We look forward in a continuation of these exchanges, a visit to India from you, Mr. President, and Madame Sampaio in the near future.

Both Portugal and India are standing at important crossroads of our history and have embarked on new economic policies which are harbingers of a new and prosperous future for our people. India is seeking major investments in the infrastructural sector and we invite Portuguese companies to invest in areas like power, roads and telecommunication in which Portugal has an outstanding record and valuable experience.

The Indian economy is taking great strides under the impact of our policies of liberalization and is opening up to the world. With the variegated basic industrial infrastructure it has built up, its large stock of scientific and technical personnel, with the agricultural progress it has achieved under the Green Revolution, and with its vast and expanding market, India could be a significant economic partner for Portugal and for the European Union. Europe is already India's major partner in the world for trade and investment. We look upon Portugal as a friendly gateway to the European Union.

Mr. President, we have always been conscious of the fact that India's economic development, political stability and over-all progress are inter-twined with those of our neighbours in South Asia. We believe that with goodwill, patience and sincere efforts every problem existing between us can be resolved peacefully and to the benefit of the one-fifth of humanity living in this strategic region.

We, in India, are committed to working with our neighbours in the SAARC region and in building on our commonalities and shared aspirations for greater development and progress. In areas such as river-water disputes we have entered into agreements with our neighbours, Bangladesh and Nepal. And despite the fact that the differences continue to hamper a normalisation of our relations with Pakistan, we intend to keep our bilateral dialogue going.

Mr. President, India since independence has ceaselessly worked for peace, co-operation and for a world where no nation or group dominates or exploits another and where there is equitable sharing of duties, benefits and responsibilities. We are convinced that the United Nations to be representative and effective should reflect, through restructuring the realities of the present-day world and accommodate the rights and aspirations of the developing world.

As a country that has advocated, passionately, during the last fifty years the cause of world peace, India believes that disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory, is imperative for the peace of the world. We are willing to join any non-discriminatory international arrangement that would safeguard our security for realizing this objective. Towards this end we have unilaterally announced a moratorium on nuclear testing and no-first use of nuclear weapons. India believes that its traditional commitment to the policy of non-alignment has been borne out by world events.

Mr. President, India is almost a world in miniature. It contains all the great religions of the world. Christianity came to India soon after Christ, and there are to-day 20 million Christians in our country. It is Indian democracy that sustains this luxuriantly pluralistic society. We are dedicated to the principles and the practices of democracy as Europe is, as Portugal is. Based on this democratic affinity and economic complementarity, we look forward to enhancing our co-operation with Portugal. We must move towards the next millennium with a shared agenda for the benefit of our two countries and peoples, for the continents of Asia and Europe, and for the good of humanity.

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 Portugal H.E. Mr. Jorge Sampaio and Madame Sampaio;
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Portugal; and
- to the strengthening of friendship between India and Portugal.

Thank you

Jai Hind