SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BENIN H.E. DR. THOMAS BONI YAYI
New Delhi, 4th March 2009
Your Excellency President Dr. Boni Yayi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure in welcoming Your Excellency and the distinguished members of your delegation to India. Your historic visit is a manifestation of our shared keenness to pursue a more substantive bilateral agenda.
As the world's largest democracy, India has been impressed by the emergence of the Republic of Benin over the past two decades as a functioning democracy in Africa, with a peaceful and orderly polity and freedom of the press.
We share the high importance you attach to India-Benin relations and rejoice at their steady growth. There are concrete opportunities for bilateral synergy in the sectors of agriculture, food-processing, small and medium enterprises, mining, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, automobiles and others, which need to be utilized fully for mutual benefit. Our bilateral trade, which is in the range of US$ 350 million, does not reflect the true potential existing between our countries. We are pleased to note that Benin has conveyed its letter of intent to avail of the benefits under the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme offered by India to African countries. This would certainly give a boost to Benin's exports to our country.
We look forward to further expansion and deepening of our bilateral engagement. The agreements signed today would help provide the enabling framework for further growth and expansion of our political, trade and economic relations. We are also confident that your engagements with potential Indian stakeholders during this visit would open new vistas for bilateral co-operation through investments, joint ventures and transfer of technology.
India and Benin share commonality of views on major international issues. We appreciate your consistent support to India at various international fora. We value your strong support to India's candidature for permanent membership on an expanded UN Security Council. We welcome your forthright condemnation of the recent Mumbai terrorist attack. We join you, Excellency, in calling for cooperation and collaboration among all states to fight the scourge of international terrorism.
A cornerstone of India's policy on external relations is to help our friends in Africa with their socio-economic development and for the continent of Africa to emerge as a vibrant entity, well integrated with the world economy. India is committed to extending its support and cooperation to Africa within its capabilities and capacities.
In several countries in Africa, projects undertaken by India have started showing a visible impact in key economic and social sectors. We expect this impact to grow progressively in the years to come. The Delhi Declaration issued after the first India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in April 2008, serves as a road map for giving a new momentum and dynamism to relations between India and Africa.
The Government of India's Pan-Africa e-Network Project, the first phase of which was commissioned a few days ago, is our humble attempt to help Africa bridge the digital divide. The project aims to create linkages for tele-education and tele-medicine by making available the expertise of some of the best universities and hospitals in India to the people of Africa. We are particularly pleased that Benin has joined this prestigious Project in the first phase.
I am confident that your visit to India would open a new chapter in this saga of our friendship.
May I now request Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, to join me in raising a toast to:-
- the good health and happiness of President Dr. Boni Yayi and Madame Yayi;
- the continued growth in friendship and co-operation between India and Benin and;
- the success of this historic visit.