International Affairs



Mr. Governor, Madame Mendes, Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I, first of all, thank you, Mr. Governor, and, through you, the Government of the State of Amazonas for the warm reception extended to me, my family and members of my delegation.

I bring to the people of Brazil the greetings and good wishes of the people of India. It is appropriate that my visit to Brazil should start in Manaus, on the banks of the Amazon - a river which is one of the wonders of nature and a symbol of Brazil and of South America.

For people outside it is hard to think of Brazil without the Amazon and of the Amazon without Brazil. The flow of this river is the flow of history, not only of this country but also of this continent. As I beheld the confluence of the two mighty rivers - Rio Negro and Rio Salimoes from the plane, I was reminded of the confluence of the two most well known rivers of India - the Ganga and the Yamuna. The colours of the two rivers are different and remain distinct for many miles, before mingling and becoming one. The Ganga represents the history and the civilization of India in a very deep and abiding sense. As Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: "She has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga....a symbol and a memory of the past of India, running into the present and flowing on to the great ocean of the future."

The same can be said of the Amazon, as indeed of Brazil.

Your country, your State and your lovely city, represent a vitality, a vibrancy, that is quite unique. Those like us who come here feel the sensation of the movement not only of an elemental river but of a great country and people to a destined future.

Nobody who has been in this area even for a short time can fail to be impressed by the splendour of its natural life or, to use the current phrase - bio-diversity. Millions of species of flora and fauna of this region are of great value medicinally and commercially. The vast rain forests of this region, in the midst of which we are just now, play a significant role in purifying the world's atmosphere. Surely the world, particularly the developed world with all its affluence, owes something to those who own this natural treasure-house and who have maintained it over the centuries.

I was struck by a poetic composition by an Amer-Indian poet that had come to my attention recently: "The sky is held by trees. If the forest disappears, the sky - The roof of the world - Collapses and Nature and Man perish together."

I read with great concern news of the forest fire that broke out in the north of Brazil some weeks ago. Forest fires have also raged in recent weeks in South East Asia. Recently, a tornado ripped through parts of our eastern coast in India. During my visit to the Institute for Environmental Research tomorrow I greatly look forward to seeing the work being done there for the protection of the environment and for the use of the bio-diversity of this region for the benefit of the people of Brazil and, indeed, of humankind.

Although we are told that the El Nino phenomenon is confined to this part of the world, it is difficult to believe that there is no inter-connection between the various natural occurrences around the globe we all live in. Sometime ago some scientists in India Sought to establish a statistical correlation between the El Nino phenomenon and the occurrence of monsoons in the Indian Ocean region.

The inter-dependence of societies, likewise, is manifest. As we move into the next millennium, we must consciously think of the web of life on earth as one organic whole in which the health of one part is affected by the condition of others. Here in Manaus amidst the Amazonian rain forests one feels the reality of the inter-dependence of mankind, and of man and nature. Mr. Governor, my delegation and myself are privileged to be here today, and on behalf of all of us I convey to you our profound thanks for your warm welcome.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I propose a toast to : - the good health and happiness of Governor Mendes; - Madame Tarcila Mendes; and to - the friendly people of the State of Amazonas.

Thank you

Jai Hind