BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR
OF MR ROMEO LEBLANC, GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA
The Rt. Hon'ble
General of Canada,
Diana Fowler LeBlanc,
me great pleasure, on behalf of the Government and people of India to
welcome Your Excellency and Madame LeBlanc on your State visit to India.
Your visit to India, the first ever of a Canadian Governor General,
happily coincides with the 50th anniversary of India's independence.
It is, therefore with a sense of double satisfaction that I welcome
you and your distinguished delegation in our midst.
of our Freedom Struggle, especially Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru,
were keenly aware that our freedom struggle was part of the movement
for the liberation of mankind and that India's independence held significance
for the wider world. It is, therefore, satisfying for us that this Golden
Jubilee has generated enthusiastic responses in many countries across
the world, including Canada. Excellency, your presence here at this
significant landmark of our history is a reaffirmation of the goodwill
that the Government and people of Canada have for India.
India's independence fifty years ago led to a chain of events which
transformed the political landscape of the world. It heralded the end
of the colonial era and the entry of the developing world into the international
mainstream. One of the international institutions that adapted first
to this change was the Commonwealth. It was India's decision to become
a Republic and her desire to remain in the Commonwealth that gave birth
to the new Commonwealth. As the distinguished former High Commissioner
of Canada to India Mr. Escott Reid, had said India was "the keystone
of the arch of the new Commonwealth". Indeed, Canada played a crucial
role in this historic transformation of the Commonwealth, thanks to
the vision and wisdom of statesmen such as Louis St. Laurent and Lester
in the Commonwealth has been a harbinger of our growing cooperation
on the wider international stage. Through a number of conflict situations
and the tensions of the Cold War, India and Canada in their respective
ways, have represented the voice of moderation and reconciliation in
the world. At the same time, Canada has made a generous and imaginative
contribution to India's social and economic development. We acknowledge
with sincere appreciation, the impact of Canada's participation in the
economic development of India. As a close associate of Prime Minister
Lester Pearson and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, you have personally
been a witness to this remarkable evolution of our political and economic
relationship, sharing ideas and beliefs, despite our very different
circumstances and geographical situations.
the highly successful visit of Prime Minister Chretien to India in 1996
with "Team Canada" and the impetus that it gave to India-Canada relations.
That visit had resulted in mutually rewarding ventures in the economic
sector and the process is still continuing. I am confident, Excellency,
that your visit will lead to a further intensification of our economic
and political interactions.
I am happy
to welcome the distinguished members of your delegation -- Ministers,
Members of Parliament, writers, artistes and officials. I may be permitted
to say a special word of welcome to your Minister of National Revenue
who has the singular achievement of being the first Canadian of Indian
origin to become a federal Canadian Minister. May I also welcome Mr.
Deepak Obhrai, Member of Parliament, another distinguished Canadian
of Indian origin. Indeed the achievements of the half a million people
of Indian origin to whom Canada has now become home are of great significance
to India and Indo-Canadian relations. Canadians of Indian origin have
made important contributions in all walks of Canadian life, from politics
and industry to academics and the professions.
addressing a Joint Session of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa in 1949,
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: "... in the world of today, neither
you nor we can afford to be purely national or even continental in our
outlook; the world has become too small for that". Fifty years after
those prescient words were spoken, they remain truer than ever. Today,
when international peace and cooperation are acquiring new dimensions,
the need for Indo-Canadian cooperation for ensuring a better, more peaceful
world assumes greater significance.
India is a country that has historically
been a link between the East and the West. We are connected geo-politically
and in a deep cultural sense with the countries of Western Asia as well
as with South East Asia, East Asia and the Pacific region, and we have
been involved in the promotion of freedom and peace in these regions
prior to as well as subsequent to our independence. We were privileged
to work together with Canada in peace-keeping missions of crucial importance
in some of these countries. We believe, as Canada does, in the central
role of the United Nations in the world. It has been our endeavour to
make the UN more democratic, more representative and more effective
by reflecting the present realities and the aroused aspirations of the
vast majority of its membership.
we have just concluded what has been described as the world's largest
election involving an electorate of 600 million people. In both our
countries, parliamentary democracy represents not just the polity of
the country but the faith that our people place in the values of democracy,
individual rights, and the rule of law. We derive strength from the
diversity of our population, our languages, cultures and religion. A
facet of this has been vividly described by the award-winning novelist
of Indian origin, Rohinton Mistry, who is now a Canadian national. I
am delighted that another distinguished Canadian novelist of Indian
origin Mr. M.G. Vasanji is also a member of the delegation.
democracy in India is perhaps a unique phenomenon, not only on account
of its scale and magnitude, but of the complexity of the society and
the stage of economic development in which it has been functioning.
It is an enormous process and in this exciting task we are happy that
we have the goodwill and understanding of Canada with whom we share
democratic values and co-operate in the spirit of sincere friendship.
context, Excellency, your visit to India, is no ordinary visit. It is
a renewal and reaffirmation of our past ties. I have no doubt that you
will find in India a partner that believes that India-Canada relations
will become stronger, more resilient and more multifaceted in the years
poet Oliver Goldsmith, a grand nephew of the celebrated Irish English
poet of the same name, has sung of Canada thus :-
thy years increase, thy glories rise,
the wonder of the Western skies."
May I repeat
the same wish from the soil of an ancient land reputed to be the wonder
of the East.
and gentlemen, may I request you to raise your glasses in a toast to:
- the health
of His Excellency, the Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc and Madame LeBlanc
and co-operation between our countries.