SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES, MR. MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM
New Delhi,11th February 2008
Excellency President Gayoom,
Madam Nasreena Gayoom,
Distinguished Guests from Maldives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you and Madam Nasreena Gayoom on your State Visit to India. We welcome you as a close friend of India, as the architect of India-Maldives relations, as a distinguished leader of SAARC and as a great statesman.
Allow me at the outset to felicitate you on the presentation of the Sustainable Development Leadership Award by TERI. You have indeed been an outstanding spokesman for sustainable development and have taken purposeful initiatives in pursuit of this goal. Your consistent campaign to highlight the dangers of global climate change has contributed to the awakening of people across the world to this danger. It is only fitting that your contribution is acknowledged by the conferment of this prestigious award.
Excellency, your presence amongst us today on a State visit is an affirmation of the close and lasting friendship that exists between our two countries. India and Maldives are inextricably linked by historical, ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties. As our countries develop economically, our relationship is increasingly becoming multi-dimensional and we are finding innovative ways of further cementing the ties between our two countries. The signing of the Agreement on Science and Technology earlier this morning is one such important linkage. The conclusion of the Air Services Agreement last December is another development providing for increased connectivity between our two nations. The dynamism in our relations bodes well for our future - a future where India and Maldives would be strong voices for peace and development in the region and, certainly, in the world.
Our relations in a range of areas are set to expand. India and Maldives have concrete and visible symbols of cooperation. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital is the flagship of India-Maldives relations and we are happy that it continues to cater to the medical needs of the people of Maldives. We would be willing to continue to support its manpower requirements and be associated with its future. Another project of importance is the new Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies being built by India. We hope that this institute will contribute to the thriving tourism industry of Maldives. Our cooperation in the areas of security has also grown steadily given the fresh challenges, especially maritime security, in the region. We value the strong support of Maldives to our candidatures in the international fora.
Your Excellency has indeed taken a sagacious and farsighted initiative in undertaking a political and constitutional reform process to change the Maldivian polity in line with changing times. The fact that this process is being done in an open, transparent and democratic manner speaks volumes for the maturity of your leaders and the people of Maldives, and the strong backing you have given them. We assure you of India's support in this endeavour. The Republic of Maldives has made great strides under your leadership and the conclusion of this reform process will be yet another milestone in your country's history.
We view with concern the rising tide of extremism and fundamentalism in our region. The attempt on your life came as a great shock to me, personally, and to all of us in India. The fact that you escaped unharmed is indeed providential and we pray for your long life. The recent bomb blasts in Male reinforce our belief that terrorism is unacceptable in whatever guise and whatever pretext. India and the Maldives will tackle this phenomenon jointly and resolutely.
Before I conclude, I would reiterate that India is committed to a relationship of abiding friendship with Maldives, founded on mutual trust, mutual respect and goodwill. We wish the Maldives well and we will continue to stand by you.
Distinguished Guests, may I request you join me in a toast to:-
" The good health and personal well being and safety of President Gayoom and Madam Nasreena Gayoom;
" The continued progress and prosperity of the people of Maldives; and
" The lasting friendship between the people of India and the Maldives.