International Affairs


Your Excellency President Klestil,

Madam Klestil-Löffler,

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure, Mr. President, for me and my wife, for my delegation and for members of my family, to be in your country of surpassing beauty. We have already been entranced by its unique cultural heritage, encompassing architecture, poetry, music, painting, medicine and the Sciences.

We deeply appreciate your words of welcome and would like to convey to Your Excellency and to Madame Margot Klestil Löffler, our sincere thanks for the warmth of the hospitality that has been shown to us.

My thoughts go back to my very first visit to Austria some fifty years ago when I came here as a student. Austria, like the rest of Europe, was emerging then from the trauma of the Great War. The Four-Power occupation forces were still on Austrian soil. But even then, Austria had a rare clarity of vision about its future role in Europe and in the larger world beyond. By interacting with the people of Austria then, especially the young and the ordinary folks, I could understand the meaning of what Schubert had said about the Austrian spirit viz., the quality of "laughing with one eye, while crying with the other."

Some five decades later, to be present here, today, in the 50th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Austria, is therefore a singular honour for me. The invitation extended to me demonstrates - though no proof was needed - the abiding ties between our countries and the bond of understanding and appreciation that have traditionally linked our peoples.

Non-official personal links and equations in the realm of ideas had brought us close to one another even before the establishment of our diplomatic relations. India's philosopher-poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore visited Vienna twice - first in 1921 and then again in 1926. On his first visit he delivered at the University here a famous lecture titled "The Religion Of The Forest". He delivered it again at the Concert Hall. Both lectures were attended by capacity audiences, the proceeds from the second lecture being donated by Tagore to the children of Vienna and to the University.

Your Excellency, India and Austria have interacted over the last several decades as two civilizations. Creative harmony requires at its starting point a measure of mutual respect and sympathetic understanding of the complexities and compulsions of each other. This principle activated the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, and influenced his colleagues. Another great son of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, interacted in the same spirit as early as 1927 with the Austrian leader Bruno Kreisky, when both of them were delegates at the International Congress of Oppressed Nationalities Against Colonialism and Imperialism held in Brussels. Recalling that meeting Kreisky was to write: "Later, many of the delegates from colonial countries, such as Senghor and Soekarno actively participated in the liberation of their home countries from the yoke of colonialism. The great name at the Congress was Nehru."

All these are events of more than seven decades ago. The world has since then been through the bitters and sweets of Time: the ravages of war on one hand and the great surge of human progress on the other. Rising on the wings of science, technology and enterprise, both State-propelled and private, India has taken remarkable socio-economic strides. Of these achievements, the most significant has been our Green Revolution bringing self-sufficiency in foodgrains for our one billion people. The other has been the remarkable doubling in our average life expectancy at birth, from around 30 at the time of independence to more than 60 now. India has simultaneously made great industrial progress, with science and technology leading to some stunning peaks of achievement in Frontier Sciences such as Space.

Your Excellency, India is assuming its rightful place in the increasingly globalized world economy. We attach priority to promoting foreign investment, particularly in the areas of high technology and infrastructure development. Foreign direct investment into India has been steadily increasing over the years. We are confident that the full potential for this will be realized in the coming years. We recognize the importance of developing appropriate economic linkages which would assist in this process and we would, therefore, welcome Austrian investments in areas such as power, roads, airports and air services and environmentally-sound technology in all of which Austria has a remarkable record. India could, in turn, be an appropriate partner of Austria in Asia.

Your Excellency, we in India realise that our own development and our own progress are inextricably intertwined with the destinies of our neighbours. India continues to stand firm in spite of repeated setbacks, in her determination to solve the problems which affect the region and to move forward in a constructive manner. With Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan, we have a wide range of very far-reaching and important cooperation agreements within an evolving Free Trade Area framework. Dialogue with our ancient neighbour China, will continue with a view to improving and broadening our relations. The recent hostilities with Pakistan and the internal convulsion in that country notwithstanding, we remain committed to the path of a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan and the peaceful resolution of our problems under the Shimla Agreement in the direction spelt out in the Lahore Declaration.

Excellency, the scourge of international terrorism, which has developed pernicious linkages with illicit trade in drugs, arms and money laundering, continues to beset us. We have been victims of State-sponsored and cross-border terrorism now for more than a decade. India strongly condemns all acts of terrorism which destabilise the political, economic and social order of sovereign states.

India's commitment to disarmament, especially universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, is a central feature of our foreign policy. Our commitment is clearly reflected in our unilateral announcement of a moratorium on nuclear testing, a 'No First Use' of nuclear weapons policy as well as non-use against non-nuclear weapon countries.

Through our carefully thought-out espousal of Non-Alignment, Excellency, we have retained an invaluable autonomy in decision-making and have been able to assess different issues on merits. We have been able to do so in the highest body in the world - the United Nations Organization - and also, more recently, in forums such as the World Trade Organization.

India believes that it is both essential and possible to create a world based on equity, justice; and free from exploitation. We believe that the United Nations remains the best hope for humanity in its quest to achieve a just forum where all voices are heard. We believe the United Nations must take into account the pre-eminent political reality of our times, namely, the emergence of developing countries in the world scene.

The 1962 Vienna Declaration of Co-operation for the Promotion of Economic Development said:

The inequality prevailing among different nations could never prevail within the borders of a modern state because the human conscience no longer tolerates the supreme luxury of a few people in contrast with the lack of bare necessities of the others. Inequality is relieved within national borders through a redistribution of the goods of the rich. The world has become so small that political borders cannot stop the human solidarity of man and man.

Excellency, both India and Austria have just concluded General Elections to their Parliaments. Our two countries are dedicated to the principles and practices of democracy - social, political and economic. Based on our political affinities and the potential for our economic relationship, we in India would like to move into the next millennium with Austria as a close partner, not just for the benefit of the peoples of our two countries, but also for the prosperity of our respective regions and the world as a whole.

I thank you once again, Mr. President, on behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf. It will give us great pleasure to receive you and Madame Klestil Löffler on a State Visit on dates convenient to your Government, so that the dialogue begun here, may continue.

May I request you Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen to join me in a toast:

- to the health and happiness of His Excellency and Madame Margot Klestil-Löffler
- to the continued prosperity of the people of Austria and
- to the abiding friendship and cooperation between India and Austria.

Thank you

Jai Hind