SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF LAO, H.E. MR. CHOUMMALY SAYASONE
New Delhi, 27th August 2008
Your Excellency, Choummaly Sayasone,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government of India, the people of India and on my own behalf, I warmly welcome Your Excellency and Madame Sayasone on your first State visit to India. I also welcome the distinguished members of your delegation.
We fondly recall the visit, to India of the first President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Prince Souphanouvong. Your visit is an expression of the unbroken close and strong bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries. Your presence will further reinforce our mutual desire, to enhance bilateral cooperation, for the benefit of our two peoples.
The ancient land of Lan Xang - 'a million elephants' - has always had close ties with India and its people. Our spiritual and cultural ties date back a few millennia. The prevalence of Buddhism and Hinduism in Lao society is an eloquent testimony to these contacts. THAT LUANG Stupa that hosts one of the most precious Buddhist relics and WAT PHOU, the pre Angkorian Hindu Temple, reflect our intense mutual exchanges in the Indo-China region in the earlier times.
The deep understanding that developed in history lasts to this day. Our modern ties are characterized with the emergence of the cooperation in diverse fields. We have projects covering Information Technology, entrepreneurship development, power, defence, training and other sectors. India's friendship with Laos has always been motivated by the common concern for peace, so that economic development could be pursued with greater vigour. Over the years, this approach found a new anchor in the "Look East Policy" of India in which Laos has played a central part. We value the support provided to us within ASEAN, during the period from 2004 to 2006, when Laos played a crucial role as the Country-Coordinator for India. It was during this period that India joined the East Asia Summit, after signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
Laos has an important role in the global community of nations. Your Government's focus on regional integration is reflected in many fora in addition to the ASEAN and the East Asia Summit. The activities under the Greater Mekong Sub-region, Ganga-Mekong Cooperation, NAM, UN and others speak for themselves. We acknowledge and admire the dexterity with which Laos has transformed the disadvantage of being a land-locked country into a land-linked one providing connectivity through road and railway links in all directions.
India is keen to work with Laos in developing this connectivity. The historic Car Rally from India to Indonesia via Laos, on the occasion of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane in 2004, was a demonstration of new possibilities. My Government stands ready to work with your Government in road and railway networks for the benefit of the region and our two countries.
We have also followed with great interest the continuing economic progress of your country, which creates numerous opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation both at the level of our Governments and the private sectors. Many Indian companies are interested in entering the Lao economy on a commercial basis with investments into hydro-power, agriculture, mining, transportation and construction and in the small and medium industry sector. Your Excellency's support would help in diversifying commercial ties between our two countries.
At the Government level, we have partnered Laos in the human resource development sector, capacity building, establishment of IT and e-governance structures, power, irrigation and various other social-sector projects. Our unstinted support to the Lao Government in these areas will continue. We will be particularly interested in working with Laos in its e-governance plans.
Excellency, our friendship is time tested. We are grateful for the unstinting support of Laos to our proposal for UN Security Council reforms including the permanent membership for India in an expanded Security Council, our nuclear policies and the strategic role that India can play in Asia in the economic sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I invite you to join me, in a toast to:-
- the health and well-being of Your Excellency and Madame Sayasone;
- the happiness and prosperity of the friendly people of Lao People's Democratic Republic; and
- lasting friendship between India and the Lao People's Democratic Republic.