International Affairs


Your Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev,

Your Majesty Queen Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah,

Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev,

Your Royal Highnesses,

Honoured Guests,

On my first visit as President to this beautiful Himalayan Kingdom may I convey the greetings and good wishes of the Government and the people of India to Your Majesty's Government and the friendly people of Nepal. From the moment we set our feet on the soil of Nepal we have been overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome that we have received. I thank you sincerely, on behalf of my wife, my delegation, and myself for the kind words you have said about us and our country. Your Majesty, I am touched by your generous hospitality and by the gracious presence of Her Majesty the Queen and of the well known figures of Nepal's public life whose names are familiar to our people in India.

India and Nepal have been linked over the ages by enduring bonds of geography and history and by silken ties of culture, beliefs, language and custom. I recall that in my school days in the princely State of Travancore we used to look up to Nepal as a mystic kingdom and as an oasis of independence in the sub-continent. And thousands of Indians used to come, and still do, seeking spiritual solace at the holy Temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, and at Lumbini where Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha, was born. Every Indian who comes to Nepal is a pilgrim of one kind or another. I have come myself, Your Majesty, on a pilgrimage of friendship in quest of even greater understanding and co-operation between our two great countries.

We cannot, Your Majesty, forget the roots of our friendship and of our common culture. The winds of free trade and the waves of information technology are welcome and invigorating, but as Gandhiji warned, we must refuse to be swept off our feet by them; we must hold on to the essentials of our culture and self-reliance acquired over the ages, even while we modernize and globalize.

Both our countries are passing through a process of liberalisation, economic reforms, and opening up to the world. We are whole heartedly devoted to this process which is a world-wide phenomenon. At the same time we believe that we have to safeguard the interests of the poor and the underprivileged in our society and the stability of our pluralist State. There are no two countries in the world whose economies are more complementary, whose cultures are more akin and whose borders are more open to one another than India and Nepal, and at the same time, who desire more ardently to maintain their own identities and sovereignties inviolate. In this sense the concept of co-operation between our two countries offers a model for the multipolar pluralist one-world that is emerging.

Both India and Nepal are blessed with rich natural resources. Our needs are also commensurate in scale. It should be possible for us, as neighbours with an understanding of each others' needs to use our resources that have remained largely under-exploited and under-utilized to meet the crying developmental and consumption needs of our two countries. Our Governments are earnestly engaged in the harnessing of these resources for our mutual benefit. Let us ensure that misgivings and apprehensions do not stand in the way of our realising these larger and nobler objectives of co-operation.

Our two-way trade, which has increased over the years, is poised to grow further. I am delighted to announce that the road transit route from Nepal to Bangladesh through Phulbari in India will now be available for all seven days of the week. This acceptance by India of Nepal's proposal is another example of the close understanding and co-operation between India and Nepal.

Your Majesty, I am of the firm conviction that the destiny of South Asia and of the one-sixth of the human race inhabiting this region, depends on the success of SAARC. Kathmandu is the headquarters of the Secretariat of SAARC. I hope that in spite of all the obstacles, SAARC will grow from strength to strength. In this context we appreciate the initiatives taken by Nepal for sub-regional co-operation under the auspices of SAARC among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India. We are also fully supportive of another sub-regional grouping BIMST - Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand - which I hope Nepal will join. India, Your Majesty, is dedicated to the policy of friendship and co-operation in the region and to the speedy realization of the dream of South Asian Regional Co-operation. But terrorism, which has emerged as a world wide phenomenon, and which is becoming a serious threat to the lives of innocent men, women and children as well as to the peace and stability of States, is incompatible with our objectives of co-operation, be it bilateral, regional or international. We are appreciative of the co-operation extended by successive Governments of Nepal to fight this menace.

India, Your Majesty, has, from the start of our independence, advocated and worked for peace and co-operation in Asia and the world. India was the first to call for a ban on nuclear testing in 1954, for a non-discriminatory treaty on 'non-proliferation' in 1965, for a treaty on non-use of nuclear weapons in 1978, for a nuclear freeze in 1982, and for a phased programme of complete elimination of nuclear weapons in 1988. But these calls had gone unheeded. We are determined to continue our efforts for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the arsenals of nations. We believe that we are in a position to-day to pursue that objective with greater credibility and persuasiveness in the councils of the world.

Your Majesty, India and Nepal are vibrant democracies. Nepal's multi-party democracy has already demonstrated its vitality and strength. Nepal is fortunate to have in Your Majesty a leader of wisdom and experience to give guidance and direction to this vitality, and to have in its monarchy a constitutional centre of stability. You can, Your Majesty, count upon the sister democracy of India to show understanding and support to the concerns of Nepal and the aspirations of its people.

May I request to raise your glasses in a toast :

- to the Health of His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Her Majesty Queen Aishwarya Devi,
- to the Happiness and Well-being of the people of Nepal,
- to the Eternal Friendship between our two peoples and countries.

Thank you

Jai Hind