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SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL, AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED BY THE KING AND QUEEN OF SPAIN

Madrid, Spain, 21st April, 2009

Speech

Your Majesties,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I undertake this first State Visit by the President of India to Spain, I recall what Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore wrote to Zenobia Jimenez, the wife of the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, in October 1918: "… there is something in the atmosphere, and in the physical aspects of your motherland somewhat similar to those in ours …" These are also my impressions. The beauty of your country and the affection of the people are obvious attractions. I am deeply honoured by the warmth of the hospitality extended to me and my delegation.

I bring with me the greetings and good wishes of the people of India.

Relations between India and Spain are warm and friendly. The visit of the President of the Government of Spain, His Excellency Mr. Zapatero, to India in July 2006 was successful in providing an impetus to the bilateral relationship and the intensification of our bilateral engagement across various sectors. Subsequent Ministerial, Parliamentary and Track Two exchanges have maintained the regularity in bilateral exchanges.

An important area of congruence in our approach is the fight against terrorism. Terrorism is a scourge that both Spain and India face. Spain's message of solidarity and support after the Mumbai attacks were heartfelt and sincere, and we appreciate them.

We value the interest that Spain's business and industry show in India. Our bilateral trade has been growing significantly year on year and that is appropriate, bearing in mind the size and standing of the economies of our two countries. The challenge now is to give a fillip to the investment relationship, and I understand that in this globalised environment, Indian investors are looking at Spain, and at the same time, we would like India to be an investment destination for Spanish investors. I am also convinced that there are many other areas of cooperation waiting to be tapped for the mutual benefit of our people, for instance, renewable energy, agriculture and tourism.

The links between India and Spain cover many dimensions. The human element is particularly important in this context. The impressive number of Spanish travellers who visit India each year are also a valued resource in introducing the Indian kaleidoscope to Spain. The friendly spirit with which the varied aspects of Indian culture are received in Spain is heartwarming. These include the more than 500 Yoga ashrams in this country that offer an introduction to India's philosophy of life and healthy existence. For the youth and the students of the two countries to have opportunities to interact, our Universities should be encouraged to have exchange programmes that are mutually beneficial.

I wish to make particular reference at this point to the interest that has been shown in contemporary Indian art in recent months. There have been several splendid exhibitions of Indian art that culminated in the Madrid Contemporary Art Fair - ARCO. These have introduced another facet of the Indian landscape in Spain.

The India - Spain partnership progresses not only at the bilateral level but also at the multilateral and the EU levels. India particularly looks forward to the EU presidency of Spain during the first half of 2010, and hopes that India's Strategic Partnership with the EU would further strengthen during this period.

India looks at Spain as a friend. We seek to strengthen the bridges of friendship. There is potential for enhancing our relations in a wide range of fields and it is time to realize the concrete possibilities that exist between our countries.

Your Majesties, we in India fondly remember your visit to India close to three decades ago, in 1982. You were with us to share our joy as we celebrated our Republic Day - commemorating the day on which we adopted our Constitution. India has changed much since then and we hope Your Majesties will be able to undertake another journey to India at an early date to not only personally observe these changes but to add momentum to our bilateral relations.

May I now request all of you to join me in a toast: -

- to the good health and well-being of His Majesty the King of Spain and of Her Majesty the Queen of Spain;

- to the success and prosperity of the people of Spain; and

- to enduring friendship between India and Spain.




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