International Affairs


Governing Mayor, Mr. Jean Tiberi,

Mrs. Xaviere Tiberi,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my gratitude to you, Mr. Mayor, and through you, to the people of Paris, for the hospitality extended to me and to my wife and members of my delegation. I would also like to thank you for the gracious words spoken by you about my country.

Paris is imprinted on the mind of India as a symbol of all that is noble and ennobling in Western civilization.

Over the centuries, Paris has held fascination for Indians. Raja Rammohun Roy, the father of the Indian renaissance, visited your city during 1830s; our incomparable spiritual path-finder, Swami Vivekananda came to this city in 1900; Rabindranath Tagore, who paid several visits to Paris and organised an exhibition of his paintings in the city, exclaimed on his first visit, "What a gorgeous city!" Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, visited Paris in late 19th century and wrote about his experience in his memorable autobiography.

For us, therefore, to be in Paris is to be within Europe's creative mind; in her unceasingly questing soul, questing for intellectual, aesthetic and cultural nourishment, and questing for that sense of harmony. Paris is more than a city; it is the soul of France and a paradigm of civilisational aspirations. Its vibrant spirit encased in its marvellous bridges, its great museums, its captivating Gothic Churches, the grandeur of Notre Dame, streets and market places, is propelled by energy, the energy of a perpetual discovery of that which is worth conserving, cultivating and creating in life.

And, of course, Paris will always be remembered for what it has meant to human history. The Constituent Assembly of France which met in Paris and fought many battles for freedom impacted on us in India. Jawaharlal Nehru while moving the Objectives Resolution in our Constituent Assembly in December 1946, referred to the glorious happenings in Paris City. He mentioned pointedly the Constituent Assembly of France which, not being provided a room by the then King to undertake its historic task met in a Tennis Court and took an oath which in the pages of history has come to be known as the Oath of the Tennis Court. The Assembly resolved not to leave that venue until its task was over. That determination of the Constituent Assembly of France was invoked by Nehru to remind the members of our Constituent Assembly to continue their work till its conclusion was reached. And so they did, opening the draft preamble to new Constitution with the words gifted by France to humankind: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, adding significantly for our context, the concept of Justice - social, economic and political.

If our thought has been awash with the vitality of the Seine, so has the vigour of the Ganga reached you here. In his book Indika, Professor Jean-Marie Lafont has described how India has influenced France, over the ages, including Camus through the authors he studied.

Paris, Mr. Mayor, was the scene of a major Festival of India in 1985. Since then, Parisians and others in France have not ceased to discover Indian dance and music and its arts in general. Concerts of Indian dance and music organised by the Theatre de la Ville and the periodic film festivals organised by the Cenematheque Francaise, not to mention the activities related to Indian arts conducted by a variety of other organisations, including the Theatre du Soleil, show that Paris can also keep to the rhythms of India. The proliferation of Indian restaurants in Paris shows that the appeal of Indian cuisine extends to the Parisian palate.

Today, Paris boulevards carry names of the greatest of India's leaders: Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore. Streets with names such as Saraswatee and Mondovi evoke Indian myths and legends.

Mr. Mayor, it seems to me high time that an Indian Cultural Centre is established in Paris to co-ordinate and expand the variety of cultural activities that has been taking place in Paris.

Cities, Mr. Mayor, are not museums but living spaces, with all the problems relating to services, traffic control, environmental pollution control, preservation of green spaces, cleanliness, law and order, modernisation of facilities that all large urban centres present. Paris is a rare city, large but with a human dimension; beautiful but functional; blending street life with privacy, a city in which historic beautiful monuments blend tastefully with modern buildings. And the nerve-centre of this city is this building over which you, Mr. Mayor preside. The Paris Municipality can be proud of its work.

Mr. Mayor, through you, I extend my greetings and those of the one billion people of India, to all the residents of Paris and wish them every happiness.

Thank you

Jai Hind