International Affairs


Your Excellency, Dr. Carlos Torres Torres y Lara,

President of the Congress of the Republic of Peru,

Distinguished Members of Congress,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a rare honour to address the Congress of the Republic of Peru. To be the first Indian dignitary to have this opportunity makes the event a unique experience for me. I thank you, Hon'ble President, most sincerely for your invitation and I thank you for your gracious words of welcome to this august House.

May I, at the outset, convey to the distinguished members of the Congress the greetings and good wishes of the members of Indian Parliament, and of the nearly one billion people they represent.

India and Peru are ancient civilizations which had cultural and commercial links later snapped by impediments of history and lost in the mist of time. If you had in Macchu Picchu, the "high roof of human dawn", to use a poetic phrase of Pablo Neruda, the wildernesses of the Himalayas and the great river valleys of India saw the dawn of the civilized society, high philosophy and human wisdom and creativity. And both of us had undergone the traumatic experience of colonialism, but out of which we fashioned our respective societies into paragons of pluralism combining the old and the indigenous with the modern and the forward-looking. To-day our two countries and peoples have awakened to each other with a sensation of mutual discovery.

The visit to India of His Excellency Mr. Alberto Fujimori the President of Republic of Peru in May 1997 was a history-making event between our two countries. It initiated a new relationship between us opening the doors of economic, commercial, cultural and political interaction between us.

We have been deeply impressed with the great strides Peru has made recently in economic development under the bold and imaginative reform programmes launched by you. India herself is undertaking a major economic liberalization agenda with structural and social reforms that have introduced a new dynamism into the economy and taken the country to a high trajectory of growth. In this context we look forward to much closer and significant co-operation and exchange of experiences with Peru.

As the third largest country in Latin America and intimately involved in regional co-operation systems we look upon Peru as a gateway to Latin America with which we are developing new and expanding relationships. As a member of the Nonaligned movement and G.15. Peru is particularly close to India and significant to India's concerns in the developing world as well as in broader international relations. Peru is a Pacific power and a member of the APEC. The immense Pacific is not an ocean that separates India and Peru but that links them across the vast stretches of waters. Admiral Mahan talked of "the indivisible sea". Indeed the Pacific runs into and merges with the Indian Ocean and thus, India is economically, culturally and geopolitically connected to the Asia-Pacific and will have as much to do with the region as the countries of South East Asia. We look forward to strengthening our ties and co-operation with Peru in regional and international organizations.

India, Hon'ble Members, is the largest democracy in the world. We have just recently completed a momentous general election in our country involving an electorate of 600 million, the most massive democratic electoral process that has taken place anywhere in the world.

Our bi-cameral Parliament is at the apex of a democratic structure which at the grassroots level takes the shape of nearly a quarter of a million democratically elected village or town councils - Panchayats as we call them. With more than 3 million elected representatives, these local bodies are responsible for decisions governing the nation's basic daily life. I believe, Hon'ble members of the Congress, that this base of our democratic pyramid is the widest representative and participative entity anywhere in the world. This Congress may also find it of interest to know that now, by law, women constitute one third of the elected representatives amounting to nearly one million in our local bodies. It is our earnest hope that in Parliament and in the legislatures of the States of India, women will soon have the one-third representation they are entitled to.

It was through democracy that we achieved social and economic development which had been arrested for generations under British colonial rule. We have built up during the last fifty years an impressive industrial and technological base and we have achieved a revolution in agricultural production attaining self-sufficiency in foodgrains, with even a slight exportable surplus. This, despite the fact that we have an enormous and growing population. We have a reservoir of skilled and technical personnel which is often described as the world's third largest. Indian science has attained the heights of excellence not only on farms and in factories, but in frontier areas such as space, ocean technology, bio-technology, meteorology, electronics and computers. In education, literacy, health and living standards of the people also remarkable progress has been attained though much yet remains to be done.

These achievements are, basically, not the achievements of expert groups or financial consortia but, of our people and they have been achieved in the full tide of democratic freedoms and rights of the individual.

Mr. President, our respect for pluralism is inherent in our interaction with the nations of the world. We are sincerely committed to a policy of peaceful co-existence in our region and internationally. We have championed the cause of peace and disarmament in the world consistently and relentlessly ever since our independence. And we have striven for a world without the domination or hegemony of any single nation or group of nations. We believe that the developing nations of the world have every right to have their voice heard and heeded in international councils and in the United Nations. We have been deeply impressed by the economic strides made by Peru in recent years and your resolute and determined fight against terrorism. We are equally committed to fighting the menace of terrorism in our own country which largely emanate from outside our borders. We regard terrorism as the worst violator of human rights.

On behalf of the Government and people of India, I would like to express our solidarity with the people of Peru at a time when the phenomenon El Nino has affected them adversely. We have recently sent a modest consignment of medicines for some of the affected persons. India has had extensive experience in combating, controlling and preventing damage from natural calamities. We would be happy to share this experience and expertise with Peru.

Finally, my distinguished friends, it is my sincere hope that my visit to your beautiful country, with its proud and rich civilization, will quicken the momentum of our relations in every sphere. This is particularly so in the area of inter-parliamentary relations. Contact between our two Parliaments will enrich our dialogue and strengthen the climate of mutual confidence. We must exchange visits of our Parliamentarians, and constantly update our knowledge of the important changes that are being introduced in both countries through the legislative organs of government. I would welcome increasing numbers of parliamentary delegations and, equally importantly, individual parliamentarians from Peru to India.

I am deeply grateful once again for the warm welcome extended to me in this august assembly.

Thank you

Jai Hind