BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA AT THE
LUNCH HOSTED BY MR. ANTONIO MANUEL DE OBLIVEIRA GUTERRES, PRIME MINISTER
LISBON, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 1998
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.
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.