International Affairs


Excellency President Suleyman Demirel,

Madame Demirel,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a singular pleasure for me and my wife, my delegation and members of my family to be in this beautiful country. I thank you, Mr. President, most sincerely for your kind invitation and the gracious words you have just spoken about my country. The warmth and friendship with which we have been received have brought back memories of a very pleasant and fruitful stay that we had had in Turkey in the 1970s. What is more, they epitomise the long and historic relations between the Indian and the Turkish peoples. The deep and lasting impact that Turkish culture has left on our culture can be seen even to-day in our customs, language, dress and cuisine. No wonder we have always felt at home in your country.

It is a happy co-incidence that we are here on the eve of the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of Turkey's rise to nationhood. May I convey to you, Mr. President, and through you to the people of Turkey, our heartiest felicitations on this historic anniversary. We in India, have just concluded the 50th year of our independence. On this occasion I should like to recall the inspiration that India's freedom movement drew from Turkey's fight for independence and from the ideas and philosophy of Kemal Ataturk. Mahatma Gandhi described Ataturk as "a great son of mankind". Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hailed him as "one of the creators of the modern age".

With her ancient heritage of democratic institutions and traditions of religious tolerance India reacted spontaneously to Ataturk's ideas of democracy and secularism. Indeed to-day India and Turkey have developed into bulwarks of democracy and secularism in the East. Mr. President, if I may be permitted a personal recollection, when I was India's Ambassador to Turkey, I had the pleasure of meeting you in April 1973 soon after your historic presidential elections. I recollect vividly your telling me then that between Japan and the Adriatic, India and Turkey were the only two democracies and that by co-operating with each other, we could set an example of the success of democracy, especially in the field of social and economic development, to the third world.

It is a great pleasure for me to see with my own eyes how vibrant Turkish democracy is, how secure Turkish secularism has become and how remarkable has been the social and economic progress made by Turkey, thanks to your wise political leadership and the success of your economic reforms. As in geography, so also in economics, Turkey can be a bridge between the continents of Asia and Europe.

India too, Mr. President, has taken remarkable strides towards social, economic, scientific and technological development since our independence. One of our significant achievements has been the Green Revolution that brought self-sufficiency in foodgrains for our nearly one billion strong population. Our industrial progress has also been considerable. In science and technology we have climbed some of the peaks of achievement, both in research and in applications for development. During the last seven or eight years we have been engaged in liberalizing our economy and opening it up to the world.

In this new environment the scope for co-operation between our two countries has expanded in an unprecedented manner. Your State visit to India in 1995 was a landmark event in our relations. The agreements signed to-day, in our presence will, I am confident, help in carrying these relations further forward.

Both India and Turkey are living in a neighbourhood and international environment that pose major challenges and also offer opportunities. It has been India's basic policy and first priority to live in friendship and co-operation with its neighbours. In spite of every obstacle we have stuck to this policy and we have taken initiatives to improve our relations with all the countries of South Asia with whose progress, prosperity and stability our own destiny is cast. In this we set great store by SAARC. We are keen that the concept of South Asia Free Trade Area should become a reality by 2001. India also seeks to strengthen its links with countries of the Indian Ocean Rim, ASEAN and the Asia Pacific.

Excellency, we also look beyond to the larger world, which is to-day a pluralistic world nearer to what was envisaged by the non-aligned than by bloc politics. The most significant feature of the world that has emerged from the Cold War is the emergence of developing countries on the international scene. The United Nations must, in restructuring the Security Council, take into account this pre-eminent political reality of our times.

India, Mr. President has espoused with passion the cause of peace and disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament. We pursue that cause as ardently as ever. A monopoly over nuclear weapons in the hands of a few powers cannot be in the interests of peace or equality in the world. We have unilaterally declared a moratorium on nuclear testing and announced that we would not be the first to use these weapons. We are willing to join any agreement or arrangement that would ensure the non-use of these weapons and their phased elimination on a non-discriminatory basis.

While the weapons of mass destruction threaten world peace, a new insidious threat has emerged in several parts of the world, that of terrorism. International terrorism, the new scourge of our times, is causing untold suffering to innocent people and seeking to destabilize nations and societies. We are ready, Mr. President, to associate ourselves with Turkey and the international community to root out this scourge.

Mr. President, we believe as Ataturk said: "The fortune of mankind may be realized by getting closer to each other, by loving each other and by meeting each other with pure feelings and thoughts".

With these noble thoughts may I invite you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to raise your glasses in a toast

- to His Excellency Mr. Suleyman Demirel, President of the Republic of Turkey and Madame Demirel,
- to the 75th Anniversary of the Turkish Republic,
- to the continued peace and prosperity of the Turkish people, and
- to everlasting friendship and co-operation between India and Turkey.

Thank you

Jai Hind