RETURN SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TAJIKISTAN, H.E. MR. EMOMALI RAHMON
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 7th September, 2009
Your Excellency President Rahmon,
It is indeed a great pleasure to be in the breathtakingly beautiful city of Dushanbe - a city so reminiscent of its linkages to the East and West, located not far from the famous Silk Road. The links between India and Tajikistan, I am sure, can be traced back to many centuries. In fact, in some ways the sights of Dushanbe remind us of our own homeland and it does not seem foreign. The affection and warmth of your people is so overwhelming and I am touched by the kindness and hospitality extended to me and to the Members of my delegation.
I am very happy to learn that Dushanbe is one of the rapidly growing commercial, cultural and industrial centers of Tajikistan. We are aware of the difficult times faced by your country in the 1990s. However, it is a matter of pride that the people of Tajikistan with their determination and dedication have brought about the resurgence and impressive economic progress of their nation. Mahatma Gandhi had said 'Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength'. Having struggled for our own independence and, thereafter, embarking on the path of nation building, we understand your achievements are by no means small or meager. We congratulate the people of Tajikistan on the progress attained and Your Excellency for your vision and your stewardship.
India and the countries of Central Asia have always been close neighbours. Since remote antiquity the two regions have been connected by trade routes across the Himalayas and the Pamir mountains. This movement of peoples and ideas is the foundation of the cultural relations that exist even today. One of the most valuable contributions of Tajikistan to India in the medieval times is Sufi thought and philosophy. The shrine of Sayyid Ali Hamadani at Kulab in Southern Tajikistan is a testimony to this rich legacy and is frequented by Indians as pilgrimage. I will be visiting the shrine tomorrow and pay my homage. He was very influential and had a major contribution in shaping the culture of the Kashmir Valley. The sublime poetry of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil is revered in India as in Tajikistan. These influences find a reflection in our ethos of inclusiveness, pluralism and tolerance even today, as we blend the traditional with the modern and take pride in unity in diversity.
India since its independence has made tremendous progress. India is today the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. Despite the global impact of the recent economic crisis, which affected India also, India remains among the fastest growing economies of the world. We will continue to work for higher growth rates. To achieve this, a peaceful extended neighbourhood and a supportive international environment remains our fundamental foreign policy objective. India, as a responsible power, does and will engage actively with the world, while pursuing an independent and non-aligned foreign policy of peace and development.
India has gained entrepreneurial experience over the years in many areas which could be of relevance to the development of Tajikistan. These include mining, metallurgy, engineering, automobiles and consumer goods. There have been some success stories of Indian investments in the region in the textile, metals and construction sectors, which could be replicated. Cooperation in such sectors as leather, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, finance, capital markets and services can be explored. Besides, India offers a large market for all our neighbours. We need to identify ways of enhancing trade flows, which depend on physical connectivities, banking linkages, governmental regulation and administrative procedures. It would be in our common interest to promote these connectivities and inter-linkages amongst us. It is heartening to note that steps are being taken by both India and Tajikistan to expand and strengthen economic cooperation.
The visit of Your Excellency to India in August 2006 provided an impetus to our bilateral ties. India and Tajikistan are friends foremost and this friendship knows no bounds. Both our nations have strived to preserve the essence and spirit of this bond. I am optimistic that the future holds great promise for our continued closeness and I end with a couplet by Tajik poet, Mirzo Tursunzoda, on friendship:-
To tavoni doostonro goom makoon,
Doostoni mehrubonro goom makoon.
which can be translated as -
Do not lose friends that you have,
Especially your affectionate and compassionate friends.
With this thought, Distinguised Guests, please join me in raising a toast to:
- the good health of his Excellency President Rahmon,
- a vibrant India-Tajikistan friendship; and
- peace and prosperity of the friendly people of Tajikistan.