SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED BY THE QUEEN
London, United Kingdom, 27th October, 2009
Your Royal Highness,
Members of the Royal Family,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I first of all take this opportunity to say how happy my delegation and I are to be in the United Kingdom - a country with which we have traditional ties of friendship and cooperation which we greatly value.
My husband, I and members of my delegation greatly appreciate the gracious hospitality that has been extended to us. I am also deeply touched by the sentiments of goodwill which have been expressed, both towards me and my country.
Since my arrival in London, I have been struck by the energy and vitality of the city. London, in the truest sense is a big, old but dynamic city. It represents a microcosm of the world with people of different religions and races living together. It seems to be everyone's city - much like Delhi, the capital of India. The conclusion of a friendship arrangement between our two capital cities was, thus, natural.
The ties between India and the UK are built upon shared values and traditions. There are numerous commonalities between our two countries. We are vibrant democracies with a free press and active civil societies. We both believe in freedom, dignity and respect for the individual. Our countries are forward-looking, adapting to the challenges and trying to shape the outcome of the 21st Century. It is these shared experiences and objectives that have helped us to understand each other's vision and concerns leading to broad-based cooperation.
Our two nations reached a new milestone when we upgraded our relationship to a 'Strategic Partnership' in 2004. This symbolises mutual trust and confidence in each other. It also signifies a desire to work together.
There is admiration and appreciation for the United Kingdom and its people in India. There is also a sense of familiarity and a friendly feeling even among those who have never visited this country. The support and encouragement we received from the UK in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, not only from the leadership but also from the common public, from civil society, and the media was most heartening.
India and the UK are natural partners with an impressive array of complementarities. It is not surprising, therefore, that our two countries are now engaged in further strengthening our partnership in different areas including trade and investment, science and technology, education, counter-terrorism, culture, management of the global economy and issues relating to climate change.
Our business communities have confidence in doing business with each other. Bilateral trade is growing and, currently stands at 12 billion Pounds. While the UK is one of India's most important trade and investment partners, India has become one of the largest investors in the UK. These links are set to grow further. Cooperation in the Information and Technology sector is another high point of our relationship. Other sectors tell the same story. Education linkages are expanding rapidly. There are more than 30,000 of our students in the UK. There is a realisation that both India and the UK stand to gain through cooperation in the education sector.
The real strength of any relationship lies in the people-to-people contacts. The fact that almost a million people from our two countries travel annually for tourism and business purposes, and that there are over hundred flights a week linking various cities of India and the UK, forms a strong foundation to build on these contacts. The UK is host to more than one and a half million citizens of Indian origin, representing 2 percent of the population who, I am told, are contributing between 4 to 5 percent to the GDP here. They are also participating in the social and political life of the UK. The diaspora serves as a strong asset in the development of our relationship. We were delighted by the recent award of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to a scientist of Indian origin, Dr. Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, who is currently based at Cambridge University in the UK.
We are proud to be part of the Commonwealth, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. We know that it has an important role to play in shaping opinion on important regional and global issues. As members of the Commonwealth, India and the UK are working together to strengthen this unique institution. Your support to this institution is most valued. I wish the upcoming Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago all success.
India is also hosting the Commonwealth Games in October 2010. Your Majesty, I take this opportunity to invite you to visit India on that occasion. A warm welcome awaits you there. It will also give you an opportunity to see how much India has changed since your last visit in 1997.
In conclusion, I would like to say that our bilateral relations have been, for some time now, perhaps better than they have ever been before. We are conscious of the need to continuously nurture it. As William Shakespeare said and I quote:-
"On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current ….." unquote.
The time has come to look at the present and to realise the potential that the future holds for both our countries in the fullest manner possible.
Your Majesty, with these words, I now propose to raise a toast:
- to the personal good health and happiness of Your Majesty the Queen and Your Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and your family;
- to the continued well-being and prosperity of our two friendly peoples; and
- to the ever-deepening friendship between our two countries.
Long Live the United Kingdom!
Long Live India!