New Delhi,Presidents of Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, the Prime Ministers of Mauritius, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan and the Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh called on the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday (May 27, 2014).
Welcoming Mr. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, President Pranab Mukherjee said the fact that democracy has taken root in Afghanistan is President Karzai’s political legacy for the country. He said India’s political leadership, cutting across party lines, greatly values Afghanistan’s friendship with India and recognizes the personal efforts President Karzai has made to develop our strategic partnership. India will remain committed to the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan. India sees a prosperous, independent and sovereign Afghanistan as being of vital interest to India.
President Karzai described India-Afghanistan relations as strong and deep. He expressed confidence that the new President in Afghanistan will continue to strengthen the close relationship. The people of Afghanistan want to see the country enjoy close relations with India. He expects the entire spectrum of relations with India to improve in the coming years. The people of Afghanistan are aware of the tremendous good will and friendship that exist in India and they look to India for greater partnership.
Welcoming Mr. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of Maldives, President Mukherjee said Mr. Gayoom’s visit to India in January 2014, which was his first visit abroad as President, was testimony of his strong desire to further strengthen India-Maldives bilateral relationship. Bilateral relations between the two countries are exemplified by close cooperation in a wide range of areas encompassing economic, security, defence and people to people ties. India looks forward to economic growth and development in the region with close integration of India and Maldives economies for mutual benefit.
The President of Maldives said India has been one of its closest friends and allies since independence. He assured the President that Maldives will closely co-operate with India and expressed confidence that India-Maldives relations will grow from strength-to-strength. He said Maldives was committed to greater cooperation with India on all matters.
Welcoming Mr. Mahindra Rajapaksa, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the President said India greatly values its relations with Sri Lanka. In the recent past, bilateral cooperation has seen significant acceleration and expansion to include almost all areas of mutual interest. Bilateral cooperation between the two countries is based on shared partnership and mutuality of interests. India seeks all round progress in relations with Sri Lanka. The President said the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka should be utilized to create a lasting political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. The resumption of dialogue and meaningful devolution of powers would contribute towards this.
The Sri Lankan President reciprocated the sentiments expressed by the President and said inviting leaders from countries of the region was an important message of friendship to the entire region.
Welcoming Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, the President said his presence at the swearing in of the Prime Minister of India symbolises the special nature of bilateral relations between India and Mauritius. The President recalled his visit to Mauritius last year and said bilateral ties between India and Mauritius are anchored by bonds of shared history, culture and kinship.
The Prime Minister of Mauritius warmly reciprocated the sentiments expressed by the President and said he looked forward to the relationship ascending new heights.
Welcoming Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the President expressed appreciation for the gracious response of the Pakistan Prime Minister to the invite from our new Prime Minister, despite the short notice. He reiterated that it has always been India’s desire to build peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties and this will continue to be the policy of the new Government. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he considers it a personal privilege to be in India. The Government in both the countries have a strong mandate and that this is a historic moment for both countries to move forward in the relationship and remove the mistrust. President Mukherjee said efforts should be made to open up trade and economic co-operation. This is an opportunity and a historic moment which should not be missed.
Welcoming the Prime Minister of Nepal, Mr. Sushil Koirala, the President thanked him for making it convenient to attend the swearing-in ceremony and said his visit was doubly significant as it was his first visit to India since assuming office. The President said Nepal is an old and deeply valued friend. Bilateral relations of the two countries are rooted in shared history, geography and culture. India has ancient, civilisational and people to people ties with Nepal. It is committed to strengthening relations with Nepal in all spheres. The President said the historic elections in Nepal in November 2013 for the 2nd Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament, with a record 70% turnout, was a major step forward. Whilst the challenges of Constitution drafting are ultimately for the Nepali political parties and people to overcome and settle, as a close friend and neighbour, India stands ready to support the Government and people of Nepal in their historic endeavours.
The Prime Minister of Nepal warmly reciprocated the President’s sentiments and briefed him on the Constitution making process in the country.
Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh called on the President. Speaking on the occasion, the President fondly remembered his visit to Bangladesh last year. The President said India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh and seeks a deeper and stronger partnership. India and Bangladesh have made considerable progress in bilateral relations. The two countries must sustain and accelerate the current momentum in all areas of cooperation.
The Speaker responded that Bangladesh has always attached a different value and priority to relations with India. The President’s visit to Bangladesh last year was a landmark visit and the Bangladesh Government is committed to strengthening relations with India even further.
Mr. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan also called on the President. Speaking on the occasion, the President said India and Bhutan share unique and special relations. Historical and cultural linkages make them natural friends and partners. Bilateral relations between India and Bhutan are based on shared strategic perceptions, utmost trust, transparency and sensitivity to each other’s concerns and vital interests. The security concerns of both India and Bhutan are intricately intertwined and indivisible.
The Prime Minister responded that the relationship has stood the test of time and been nurtured by the leaders of the two countries. The future and security of the two countries are inter-twined. Bhutan is grateful to India for all the assistance provided for its economic development.