Your Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of the Republic of India, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
May I begin by thanking you, Mr. President, and the government and friendly people of India for the warm welcome and unparalleled hospitality accorded to me and members of my delegation since our arrival here yesterday.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi once said: “To me, all parts of India are equidistant from Delhi”! That implies that I now have the privilege of being at the very centre of this great nation, and feeling the pulse of India. Visiting India, and in particular the magnificent and historic city of New Delhi, has been a great pleasure for me and my wife.
This is my first State visit overseas since assuming the office of President of Maldives, and it is fitting that the destination should be India. I am, of course, a frequent visitor to your beautiful country.
I recall my visit to India last year – in my capacity as the Presidential Candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives, on the invitation of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. At our meeting, we had fruitful discussions on charting a new course of Indo-Maldives bilateral cooperation.
Friendship, alliance and partnership are but a few words that have been used to describe the neighbourly ties between our two countries. These ties are born out of centuries of mutual understanding and deep respect, as well as shared values on issues of regional and international interest.
People-to-people interactions too date back further than written history. Our shared cultural, linguistic and historical links will remain as the base of our bilateral relations.
Recalling some of the defining moments of our bilateral history over the past quarter century, I wish to point out that a key feature of our friendship has been the eagerness with which we have supported each other at all times.
In every hour of national distress, be it a foreign terrorist coup attempt as with the 1988 mercenary attack or a natural catastrophe such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, India helped us wholeheartedly and generously in restoring normalcy to the lives of our people.
For our part, we have always expressed our support and demonstrated our solidarity to India in every way possible, especially in the international arena.
On the regional and sub-regional levels, our fraternity is always mentioned synonymously with multilateral cooperation through SAARC.
The founding fathers of SAARC dared to believe that South Asia could and would rub shoulders with the elite of global society.
SAARC was born out of need, out of circumstance, and, most importantly, out of want.
The often repeated cliché is that this region is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population, but just over six percent of the world’s wealth.
The redemption lies in pooling our human, natural and financial resources, and propelling ourselves as a formidable bargaining bloc.
Collectively, the member states of South Asia can reverse the worrying trend of victimization and neglect in matters of global interest.
To achieve this noble objective, the foremost prerequisite is to educate our future generations. Inspired by intellectual giants such as Rabindranath Tagore, peace advocates such as Mahathma Gandhi, humanitarian champions such as Mother Teresa, economic gurus such as Your Excellency and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, business tigers such as Dhirubhai Ambani, and indeed political heavyweights such as Indira Gandhi, the youth of South Asia await in expectation and in aspiration that, one day soon, the leaders of our region would rid its people of poverty, destitution and pain.
I note with immense satisfaction that the two Governments have agreed on boosting ties at the bilateral, sub-regional and regional levels, which will enable our two countries to realise our collective developmental aspirations, and contribute to peace, prosperity and security in our region.
The Indian Sub-Continent is, without a doubt, a location of strategic importance with comparative advantages, rich resources and geographic conveniences. As such, it is our responsibility, from national, regional and international perspectives, to ensure continued peace, security and stability in South Asia.
Our two countries and peoples are upbeat over and expectant of the prospects of accelerated development and growth in the coming years. To realise this dream of a more prosperous South Asia, it is of the utmost importance to promote bilateral trade and investment, develop sustainable infrastructure, establish development finance institutions and work closely on economic cooperation in key sectors of growth, all of which have been landmarks of the bilateral exchanges during this visit.
A hallmark of the special relationship and intrinsic bonds of friendship between our two peoples is the frequency of exchanges and ease of travel and trade between our two countries. The agreement to facilitate further flexibility and efficiency in visa requirements for travel that was announced today, will form the foundation for future Indo-Maldives exchanges.
My administration is in its infancy. However, the Maldivian people trusted and entrusted me with a clear yet onerous task – the revival of our economic fortunes and assurance that prosperity will, first and foremost, uplift the lives and fortunes of our younger generations.
Economics and finance are longstanding passions of mine as well. Your services as the Union Minister of Finance and of Commerce, and the role you played in the country’s economic revolution over the past thirty years were remarkable.
Your vast experience and wisdom in regional and global affairs will, undoubtedly, be of tremendous value not just for the betterment of India, but for the region as a whole, Maldives included as well.
You once said and I quote: “the young people of India will build a strong and powerful nation, a nation that is politically mature and economically strong, a nation whose people enjoy both a high quality of life as well as justice”.
Your eloquent and inspiring quote invokes a spirit that is relevant today not just to India, but also to the Maldives. That, with the Grace of the Almighty Allah, is what the youth of the Maldives envisage. What they aspire for. And what my administration is tasked with.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
With this quote of wisdom, may I request you to join me in a toast:
to the health and happiness of His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of the Republic of India, and of His Excellency, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India;
to lasting peace, progress and prosperity for the people of India;
to everlasting friendship and cooperation between our two Governments and peoples.