International Affairs



His Excellency Prime Minister Antonio Guterres,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your kind and gracious words and for the warm and cordial reception that has been accorded to my delegation and me.

As we meet today, in this beautiful city, fundamental changes are taking place in this part of the world. These will not only transform Europe but will have far-reaching implications for the rest of the world as well. The decision of the European Union, to extend its membership and that of 11 of the 15 member states to establish a single currency, the 'Euro', are only two of the more visible processes currently underway. The evolving European security architecture centered around NATO, is also being watched with interest in India and in other parts of the world.

India, home to one sixth of humanity, the world's largest democracy and with a GDP that is among the top ten in the world watches the on-going processes with keen interest. As we approach the next millenium, India is ready to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.

As the largest country in South Asia, we see our size and strength as a means to further the cause of peace and cooperation in our region. We have consistently endeavoured to strengthen the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, commonly called SAARC. While political relations between the countries of SAARC are evolving, it is in the areas of economic and commercial relationship that we are striding ahead today. Within this framework, we have embarked on a Preferential Trading Arrangement among the SAARC countries and hope before long to be able to achieve a Free Trade Area in our region.

It is an article of faith for us to be a factor for peace and stability for the world in general and in our region in particular. We are committed to a genuine, comprehensive, global non-discriminatory verifiable disarmament regime for weapons of mass destruction. India believes that it is only when the international community is willing to undertake effective steps for a nuclear weapons free world that we can achieve security for all.

Your Excellency, the linkages between India and Portugal have a common base in shared traditions of discovery and in the dialogue between civilizations. History has brought our nations together. Today our relations are being re-written on the drawing board of economics. It is greater interaction between our business and industrial communities, which shall determine the path for our bilateral relations. I had the occasion of visiting the Portuguese Industrial Association yesterday. I was pleased by the re-assurance that substantial interest already exists in both our countries for greater bilateral economic cooperation. I am confident that this interest can be translated into a more vigorous and substantive economic partnership between our two countries.

We have watched with great interest the rapid progress that has been made by Portugal in the last few years particularly in the economic field. India is also embarked on a similar path. Today, India is a country teeming with the spirit of economic freedom, standing on the threshold of great economic changes.

Your Excellency, India and Portugal have both recently marked important events in their history. India has celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its independence and Portugal, the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of Sea Route to India. The EXPO'98 highlights the significance of Portugal's maritime traditions and also our common heritage, 'The Oceans and its Resources'. India was proud to have been present at the EXPO; and I would like to convey our congratulations to the leaders and the people of Portugal on the conceptualisation and successful organisation of the Exposition.

Our bilateral relations are excellent. There is a great fund of goodwill that exists between us. India attaches great importance to its relations with Portugal which have always been marked by comprehension and cooperation. I am confident that we can embark on a qualitatively higher relationship, to expand the range of our bilateral contacts, deepen the political dialogue and realise the full potential of our economic relationship.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast:

- to the health of Mr. Antonio Guterres, Prime Minister of Portugal;
- to the friendship between the people of India and Portugal; and
- to the prosperity of the Portuguese people.

Thank you

Jai Hind