SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA, H.E. SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET HOSTED IN HER HONOUR BY THE PRESIDENT OF SYRIA, H.E. DR. BASHAR AL-ASSAD
Damascus, Syria, 27th November 2010
On behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf, I would like to express gratitude for the warmth with which we have been received and for the gracious hospitality extended to us. May I say that to be in your beautiful country is a wonderful experience. I bring to you and the friendly people of Syria, the very best wishes of the people of India.
India-Syria relations are marked by warmth, friendship and mutual respect. Our two countries are inheritors of ancient civilizations that have cherished and preserved their age old value systems, including respect for diversity and equal treatment for all religions. Our contacts go back at least 4000 years, when India used to send raw silk and spices to Syria, and receive in return gold and silk fabric. Our trading interaction through the ancient Silk route was accompanied with the awareness about each other's culture and knowledge. These interactions have continued to the present day.
In the first half of the last century, both India and Syria were engaged resolutely in shaking off the yoke of colonialism. As independent nations from around the same time, we have been engaged actively in addressing the problems of our people. It is a matter of satisfaction that both our countries have achieved significant successes. India is hopeful of achieving 8.5 percent growth this year. As a national objective, India is committed to inclusive growth and is taking pro-active steps to ensure that no section of society is left behind.
I am glad to learn that the economic reforms launched in Syria under your guidance and leadership, have started yielding dividends. Your objective of working for a social market economy, is not much different from our approach of inclusive growth. The aim is to address poverty, even as we focus on rapid development.
There is scope for further strengthening of the multi-faceted relations between our two countries. The agreements that were signed today, US $100 million Line of Credit extended by India, and the enhancement of scholarships for Syria under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, from the present level of 45 slots to 90 slots, would greatly facilitate this. I am also confident that the India-Syria Business Council to be launched tomorrow, will identify new areas for mutually beneficial economic engagement. Indian companies are already involved in the energy, petroleum and IT sectors, and are keenly looking forward to contributing and participating in Syria's development programme.
West Asia is of vital importance to us. We enjoy cultural and commercial links with countries in this region. We share the perception that the conflict in West Asia is essentially political in nature, and cannot be resolved by force. In line with our support for UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side at peace with Israel, as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and UNSC Resolutions 1397 and 1515. We have supported the Arab Peace Plan, which calls for withdrawal of Israel to pre-1967 borders, along with the recognition of Israel, and the establishment of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. We remain hopeful that the talks and negotiations would lead to a comprehensive peace process for the final resolution of the Middle East conflict.
I would like to convey our sincere appreciation for Syria's support for India's election to the UN Security Council for 2011-2012. Membership of the Security Council confers a special responsibility on us. During our forthcoming term in the Security Council, we will seek to discharge our duties and obligations constructively and objectively as a responsible member of the international community. We hope to work closely with other Member States for a balanced approach on peace and security issues. We highly appreciate the consistent support expressed by Syria for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
Ever since our arrival in your historic and beautiful country, we have been experiencing the feeling of friendship that the people of Syria have for India. I would like to wish you, Excellency and Madame Asma Al-Assad continued success in the coming years. I also wish the friendly people of Syria peace and prosperity. With our commitment to further strengthen bilateral contacts, India-Syria relations will continue to blossom in the coming years.