SPEECH BY SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS
New Delhi, 24th October 2007
Your Majesty Queen Beatrix,
Your Royal Highness Willem-Alexander, Crown Prince of Orange,
Ladies and Gentleman,
On behalf of the Government and people of India, it gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome Your Majesty as well as the Crown Prince of Orange, Princess Maxima and your delegation to India.
We appreciate the special affinity and deep affection of the Dutch Royal Family for India. We recall Your Majesty's memorable visit to India twenty-one years ago in January 1986. That was an important milestone in our relations. We also remember the role played by His Royal Highness, Prince Claus in fostering greater engagement between our two countries.
Contacts between India and the Netherlands go back to several centuries and include the first voyage to the Indian Ocean by Cornelius Houtman in 1595 as well as by two Dutch ships reaching India in 1597. In the 17th century, Dutch scholars studied Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. There are still remnants of Dutch settlements in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal - where traces of Dutch influence in maps and manuscripts, ornaments and furniture and the famous Delft tiles have been found. Exchanges between historians, economists, sociologists, orientalists constitute a major element in cultural exchanges between our two countries. The Kern Institute in the prestigious University of Leiden and the world famous Tropical Institute are repositories of this interest. It is vital that such interest is nurtured as it fosters greater understanding and mutual goodwill. The cultural agreements concluded today will give impetus to cultural exchanges. I hope the planned Festival of India in the Netherlands in 2008 will give the Dutch people a glimpse of India's diverse cultural tradition.
I am happy that our bilateral relations have begun to recapture the vibrancy of these historic contacts. Our bilateral trade has doubled in the past five years. The Netherlands is now among our top ten trading partners. There has been useful investment in India by Dutch companies spread across telecommunication, financial services, agro processing, chemicals and pharmaceutical sectors. The Netherlands, with its renowned expertise in water management, ports, agro-technologies and energy, has much to offer to India.
Recently, there has been a regular exchange of visits at the highest level. The visit of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to India in January 2006 and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to your country in November 2004, during which the India-EU Strategic Partnership was launched, mark significant steps in further deepening and diversifying our relationship. Your visit represents a new high point in such contacts.
Your Majesty's visit to India comes at an interesting time. I do hope that what you see and experience this time will give you a glimpse of a new and dynamic India, the boundless energy and creativity of our people and their march towards prosperity. As one who has had a long-standing interest in the development of India and knowledge of our efforts, Your Majesty would be interested to see the advances in the knowledge economy and in the progressive development of our human resources.
India attaches importance to its relations with the Netherlands. We are also happy to note that in 2006, Prime Minister Balkenende's government declared India as a priority country in Dutch foreign policy. We have reason to be satisfied with the new momentum in our relations. We take particular note of the expansion in economic and commercial relations and the serious interest on both sides to forge cooperation in the fields of our respective expertise and competence.
India and the Netherlands share a common commitment to democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and religious freedom. Our two countries have enjoyed a tradition of tolerance and have fostered diversity in their social fabric. In India we have evolved a composite culture that celebrates the unity in our diversity. These shared values provide a strong foundation to our ties.
Your Majesty, we are confident that your visit will contribute to the further development of relations between our two countries and flourishing ties between our peoples.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I request you to join me in a toast: -
- to the health of Her Majesty Queen of the Netherlands
- to friendship and cooperation between India and the Netherlands.