SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES H.E. MR. MOHAMED NASHEED
New Delhi, 24th December 2008
Your Excellency President Mohamed Nasheed,
Madam Laila Ali,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with immense pleasure that I welcome Your Excellency President Nasheed, Madam Laila Ali and the distinguished members of your delegation to India. We feel greatly privileged to have you amongst us today.
The dawn of democracy has broken over Maldives. As your country enters a new era of democratic change, political and constitutional reform, I remember what Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within." In Maldives, the impetus for change has truly come from within. It has come from the desire of your people for greater openness and their yearning for a greater voice in governance. Your Excellency yourself have been the vanguard of hope and change.
Democracy is not just about holding elections, important as they are. It is about nurturing a democratic polity in the protective sheath of a vibrant Constitution, strong institutions of governance, rule of law and a polity designed to ensure development with social justice for the people. Your Parliamentarians have worked hard to adopt a new Constitution for the Maldives in August this year. The culmination was the holding of the first multi-party Presidential elections in October, which witnessed a large turnout of your citizens. Your victory attests to the fact that democracy has taken root in your country. The transition has been orderly and peaceful reflecting the sagacity of your leaders. We, in India, wish you all success in your country's purposeful strides towards democracy.
As your country charts out a new path, India will be with you, as a true and steadfast friend. As close neighbours, India and the Maldives share deep historical bonds of friendship, goodwill and mutual understanding. Our destinies, prosperity, security and futures are linked. These bonds have become stronger over the last decades and our relations are now truly multi-faceted. Your Excellency's decision to make India as your first destination after assuming office is a reaffirmation of the lasting friendship that exists between our two countries.
India remains committed to the development of Maldives. Our countries have been cooperating in a range of areas, foremost amongst which have been public health, human resource development, training and tourism. We had, just recently in September this year, signed a new MOU to upgrade the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital - a hospital that has for more than thirteen years symbolized our strong bonds of friendship. The Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies is an effort to contribute to the bustling tourism industry of Maldives.
New opportunities are opening up where our businessmen can gainfully collaborate. I welcome your decision to bring with you a business delegation and address our apex Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The signing of the Air Service Agreement earlier today bodes well for enhanced connectivity between our two nations. The setting up of the India-Maldives Foundation is another manifestation of our desire to enhance people-to-people contacts.
Given the close synergy of views, India and Maldives have also worked in close cooperation at the international and regional fora. Before I conclude, allow me to reiterate our strong and unqualified commitment to abiding friendship with Maldives.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I request you to join me in a toast: -
- to the good health and personal well being of His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and Madam Laila Ali;
- to the progress, prosperity and well-being of the people of Maldives; and
- to the ever growing cooperation and trust between India and Maldives.