International Affairs


Your Excellency
President Yasir Arafat,
Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to welcome a long standing and dear friend of India who has, over the years, shared a close rapport with our leaders, and who is looked upon with admiration and affection by the people of India as a brother - His Excellency President Arafat. I would like to extend a very warm and cordial welcome to Your Excellency and to your delegation.

Your Excellency is personally aware, more than anyone else, of the age-old ties between us. Since the time of Mahatma Gandhi our support for the Palestinian cause has been strong and unwavering. We have stood and continue to stand side by side in your struggle for the just and legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, which is the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. We believe that this should be reached through a peaceful and negotiated settlement.

Excellency, your leadership, foresight and initiatives have set in motion a peace process which has now become irreversible. These have received worldwide recognition and acclaim. There is now hope that the day would come soon when years of bitterness and violence between Arabs and Israelis would come to an end and the coming generations would be able to lead their lives in peace and freedom in their own respective homelands and within internationally recognized boundaries.

The signing of the historic Declaration of Principles in 1993, the formation of the Palestinian National Authority and the signing of the Hebron accord last January brought the hope that former adversaries can one day become partners in the cause for peace.

However, recent developments have caused us concern. These unfortunate developments have vitiated the atmosphere by threatening the basis and implementation of the interim Oslo accords and the resumption of the final status negotiations. The socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people have also deteriorated sharply. At this critical juncture in the peace process, we call for goodwill and good faith from all sides. Unilateral acts not in conformity with the agreements and understandings already reached would only escalate tensions and lead to another spiral of violence in the region. Security comes with peace and we call for respect for the principles on which the resolution of the conflict is based, including UN Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of "land for peace". We are confident that the speedy resumption of the final status talks would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian State. We share with you your vision of a new Middle East in which all peoples and States can live together within secure borders and in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.

India has, over the last several years, taken great strides in the field of industry, agriculture, trade, science and technology. We would be glad to share with your people our expertise and services to help rebuild Palestine. Since the opening of our Representative Office in Gaza, our interaction has increased in all fields. To-day we have further cemented our close ties by signing a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral relations. This is the first such agreement between us. We believe that it would contribute to strengthening and diversification of our co-operation.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, allow me to propose a toast:

- to the long life and health of His Excellency President Yasir Arafat;
- to the strong bonds of friendship between India and Palestine; and
- to the happiness and prosperity of the Palestinian people.

Thank you

Jai Hind