Your Excellency Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of the Republic of India, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am extremely pleased to be here in India today. We have been able to come a long way. We have been able to come up with a home grown democratic movement. We have been able to have our first multi-party elections. We have also been able to have a fairly smooth transfer of power. In all this, India always played a substantially big role - India being the biggest democracy and our neighbour. It is always a point of reference for democracy. And for any newly formed democratic government, of course, the natural place for a first trip would always have to be India. I would always recommend any new democracy to come to India and see how it’s done. And therefore, thank you.
I bring you greetings and good wishes from the people of the Maldives. I thank Your Excellency, the people and the Government of India for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded to me, my wife and members of my delegation since our arrival in India.
I also convey the sincere sentiments of the people of the Maldives to those affected by the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The Government of Maldives condemns this act of terror in the strongest terms and we reaffirm our commitment to standby India in its fight against global terrorism.
It needs no mentioning that the Maldives and India have shared close relations since time immemorial. It is against this background that we celebrate 43 very successful years of formal ties based on understanding and mutual respect. But I would really like to point out that we have had formal ties for a good seven hundred years and not 43 years. Of course since the formation of the United Nations and since we started writing speeches, 43 years count as such. But if we go back to records of both our countries, formal letters exchanged between governors in Delhi, emperors in Delhi and rulers in Delhi, it goes all the way back to the Chola Kingdom, to the 8th or 9th century. And standing here today in the heart of the Mogul capital, the Hindu capital, it’s a blessing for us. Our friendship goes far beyond 43 years.
The ties between our two countries continue to grow from strength to strength. India remains our most important strategic partner. The fact that I am undertaking this important visit, immediately after I assumed Office, is testimony to our commitment to strengthen India-Maldives relations. It is also, as I keep pointing out the fact that any country taking the road of democracy and good governance should first come to India and see how it’s actually done.
India continues to be a close partner of the Maldives in diverse spheres; be it, development, economic, social, cultural or security. The Maldives expresses its deep appreciation to India for its readiness to assist the Maldives in its times of need. In this regard, I wish to thank the Government and the friendly people of India for the Standby Credit Facility of USD 100 million provided to the Maldives to overcome our current financial difficulties. This of course is a symbol of our relations and it’s a symbol of how India wants to consolidate new democracies. It is a symbol of how India sees fit to have a sustainable democratic institution in the Maldives.
In addition, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and the Faculty of Engineering Technology stand as the most visible icons of our close friendship. After completion of the building of the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies, it will become the newest addition to this list.
I stand here tonight, as the newly elected democratic President of the Maldives. Our journey towards democracy has been a long and a difficult one. At this juncture we should not forget that to attain sustained human development, the processes and institutions of the journey should also be democratic. As such it is fundamental that the people rule themselves through the government they choose.
Despite the achievements, it is of utmost importance for my Government to deliver on the promises of the new administration. We have made many pledges to the people: that democracy would bring them a good life, a better life and democracy therefore, will have to have to deliver this good life. Failure to uphold these commitments will lead to the undermining of the democratic values the people have worked so hard to achieve.
On behalf of the people of Maldives, I thank the people of India for their continued support and encouragement to the democratization process in the Maldives. Around this table I see many people who have assisted us, encouraged us, have had long dialogue and discussions with us on democracy, how to achieve it peacefully and I thank them all tonight from the bottom of my heart. Once again, we stand to benefit from the knowledge and experience of the world’s largest democracy.
During the years of struggle for democracy in the Maldives, I was constantly reminded of the profound words of the Indian Nobel laureate, Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman who said that ‘success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you and that there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of brow’.
To achieve complete democratization, my Government believes in the important role of the people. To bring about a positive change for our future generations, it is imperative to give power back to the people. Hence, I am fast introducing a decentralisation programme that will set up a system for the people, by the people.
I strongly believe that it is by placing people at the core that we can achieve sustainable development and consolidate democracy. In this regard, the developments in the economic sector should be designed and driven by the people. Therefore, I have made privatisation of developmental sectors a high priority of the Government, especially in the fields of housing, transport, fisheries, tourism, health and education. In this process, we welcome Indian investors to venture into the country and share their vast experience and expertise with us.
I believe that this approach will lead to an increase in people-to-people contact between our two countries. The Air Services Agreement that we have signed today will further facilitate movement between our two peoples.
India’s leadership role in the international fora is exemplary. Its commitment to globally shared values of peace, democracy and human rights personifies a true international leader. The Maldives is proud of India’s global achievements and remain her fan. Thus, the Maldives reiterates its support to India, in its bid for the permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council.
Undoubtedly, India’s commitment to the world fora is also evident from its important role in the development of the South Asia region. This was further demonstrated during its recent Chairmanship of SAARC when it played a vital role in enhancing the shared values and principles of the SAARC Charter. I would like to add, India’s role in consolidating democracy has been more vividly expressed by its present support to the youngest democracy in the world. The Maldives also welcomes the leading role India has played in promoting intra-regional trade through SAFTA.
This visit has truly been a wonderful experience. My delegation and I have enjoyed the successful discussions with Your Government and your industry leaders. We look forward to working together for the betterment of our people.
As I depart, tomorrow, from New Delhi, me, my wife and my delegation, take back with us fond memories of your Government’s warm welcome, generous hospitality and the friendly smiles of the people of India. I believe, we have reinforced old friendships and forged new ones.
Laila and I, look forward to welcoming Your Excellency to our country in the near future.
We wish Your Excellency, good health and success and wish continued progress and prosperity for the friendly people of the Incredible India.