International Affairs


Your Excellency Mr. Viktor Klima,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply grateful to you, Excellency, for the gracious words you have spoken and the warm welcome you have extended to my wife and me and to the members of my delegation.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to be in Austria and in this historic Hall where Prince Metternich, one of your illustrious predecessors in office presided over the Congress of Vienna. At this moment I am overwhelmed by a sense of history. In the relationship between India and Austria this is also a historical moment. Exactly 50 years ago it was in the same month and perhaps on the same day that diplomatic relations between our two countries were established. Our political relations, of course, go back even further. I may go back little further and recall that it was in the early 1930's that one of India's great patriots and freedom fighters Subhas Chandra Bose had come to Vienna and established an India-Central European Society for the promotion of commercial and cultural co-operation between India and the countries of Central Europe foreshadowing, prophetically, present-day co-operation with Austria as an important member of the European Union. A former Austrian Ambassador, presenting his Credentials to President Radhakrishnan on November 9, 1966 referred to the role played by India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with regard to the evacuation of the Occupation Forces from Austria and the complete affirmation, thereafter, of Austria's freedom. Former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, in a major essay has recorded how, at Foreign Minister Gruber's instance, Nehru and the Indian statesman Krishna Menon put across to the then Soviet leadership, in a positive light, Austria's refusal to grant military bases to foreign powers and to conclude military alliances with foreign powers. The developments leading to the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 are now not just part of the history of Europe but of the spirit of independence and autonomy in international relations.

It is a happy co-incidence that I should be here to-day as the first President of India to visit Austria and commemorate the golden jubilee together with you. It is pleasant for me to recall that over 50 years ago in the summer in 1948 I had the pleasure of visiting Austria as a student. It is satisfying to see that how Austria has changed since then and developed into one of the prosperous and happy countries of Europe.

To-day for India, the European Union is the largest trade partner in the world, the biggest source of direct investment, a major contributor of developmental aid and an important source of technology. Austria is a strategic link for India in this relationship with Europe. Your excellent infrastructure, successful industrialization programmes as well as your expertise in industries such as steel, manufacturing technology, railway equipment, transport equipment, metallurgy and others have already benefited India through a large number of collaborations, technology transfers and joint ventures. We have an active Joint Economic Commission and on-going collaboration between our Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The regime of economic reforms adopted by us has provided opportunities for both countries to expand relations in these areas. The visit to India of the Austrian Federal Minister for Economic Affairs in February this year and those of the Austrian Finance Minister and of the President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce earlier indicate that we are moving in the right direction.

The direct air link established last year between Delhi and Vienna is an important development. It has helped in promoting bilateral trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

India and Austria are both playing important roles in their respective regions. Austria is a member of the European Union and has played an active role in the on-going enlargement process. It has also been in the forefront of deepening integration within the Union. India, similarly is seeking to build stronger links with its neighbours and consolidating the South Asian Association for regional co-operation. We are committed to the peaceful resolution of all differences through bilateral dialogue with our neighbours and to building mutually beneficial and forward looking relationships. With Pakistan, the Lahore process that our Prime Minister initiated together with his counterpart, received a setback when Pakistani forces violated the Line of Control and mounted an attack in the Kargil Sector of Jammu and Kashmir. The intruding forces were driven back by the Indian armed forces. This was followed by a military take-over in Pakistan. India, to-day, is watching the situation in Pakistan, and is prepared to engage in peaceful discussions with Pakistan, once the atmosphere of trust destroyed by armed intrusions has been restored. If meaningful progress is to be achieved in the dialogue, it would however be essential for cross-border terrorism to cease.

It is natural, Your Excellency, that Austria, as an important centre of European culture should be instinctively drawn towards Indian culture and civilisation. The Institute of Indology symbolizes the interest you have in Indian studies. We do feel, however, that these natural affinities could be further encouraged and we would be happy to welcome initiatives which would meet the desire of the people of Austria and India to know more about our two great cultures.

Your Excellency, our two countries have common positions on many important international issues and collaborate actively in the United Nations. We both agree that the United Nations needs strengthening and reform. India, which is home to one sixth of humanity, is ready to play its due role in a restructured United Nations. We would look forward to working together towards our mutual objective of creating a truly representative world body, which reflects current realities, which would promote development and security, and safeguard human rights and human dignity.

On this 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations as two independent and friendly nations with long and proud historical traditions, let us, Your Excellency, jointly pledge to renew our ties of friendship and commit ourselves to working for a new and just world order.

I thank you, once again, Excellency, on behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf for your generous hospitality.

May I request you Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in a toast :

- to the health and happiness of His Excellency Mr. Viktor Klima,
- to the continued prosperity of the people of Austria,
- to 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and Austria,
- to the growing friendship and co-operation between India and Austria.

Thank you

Jai Hind