BY SHRI K.R.NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA,
AT THE SOLEMN SESSION OF THE CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF PERU
THURSDAY, APRIL 30,
Your Excellency, Dr.
Carlos Torres Torres y Lara,
President of the
Congress of the Republic of Peru,
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
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
I am deeply grateful
once again for the warm welcome extended to me in this august assembly.