Your Excellency President Megawati Soekarnoputri,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to welcome Your Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri, President of
Indonesia and His Excellency Mr. Taufiq Kiemas to India. I am also delighted to
greet the distinguished members of your delegation. We are truly privileged to
have you amongst us tonight on your first State visit to India after your
election as the President of Indonesia. Your visit is a long awaited one and it
assumes significance in the context of the momentous and far reaching changes
taking place in the world and our region.
On 30th May 1950 in a letter to the Chief Ministers of our States our first
Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru referred to the friendship between India
and Indonesia and wrote, “Today we look to each other with a degree of affection
and comradeship which seldom goes from one country to another.” He added that,
“…there was some destiny about it which brought us together and turned our minds
and hearts to each other.” Excellency, your first visit to India as the
President of the Republic of Indonesia rekindles these sentiments in us to-day.
We are the inheritors of an age-old relationship in terms of history, common
culture and shared traditions and value systems. In the modern and contemporary
era the pain and agony of foreign rule and oppression brought us together to
fight not only for our independence and freedom but also for the larger cause of
the exploited peoples of the world. Our first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru and
your great father Dr. Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia, constituted
the moving forces behind the emergence of Asian-African consciousness for
liberation, national reconstruction and development.
Organisation of the Asian Relations Conference in 1947 and the convening of the
eighteen nations Conference on Indonesia in 1949 in New Delhi by Prime Minister
Nehru represented the awakening of Asian consciousness for fashioning the world
order on a more equitable basis. He had declared then that challenge to
Indonesian independence was a challenge to the emerging countries of Asia. The
historic Bandung Conference of 1955 organised by your father was hailed by Prime
Minister Nehru as “…part of a great movement of human history” and he described
the participants in it “as agents of historic destiny”. Dr. Soekarno’s inaugural
speech in that Conference proclaimed the spirit of resurgent Asia and underlined
the need for the unity among Asians and Africans. The Conference recommended
that Asian countries must reach out to one another for technical, financial and
Animated by that spirit we are marching ahead and our goal will be realized to a
great extent if we deepen our contacts and cooperation in the field of science
and technology, agriculture, ecological conservation, information technology,
bio-technology and other areas of common concern.
Indonesia is one of the founders of ASEAN and its most influential member. We
would like to express our sincere appreciation for the support Indonesia has
extended to the initiative to accept India as an ASEAN Summit partner. We value
Indonesia’s continued support to us in this framework, so that our cooperation
can be commensurate with our capacity to be useful partners in South-East Asia.
ASEAN-India relations can mature only when India has the goodwill and
cooperation of ASEAN’s largest member-country.
Excellency, your elevation to the presidential office in your country is itself
a historic event not only for Indonesia but also for the world. I recall that
Prime Minister Nehru after attending the Bandung Conference in 1955 wrote a
detailed letter to the Chief Ministers of our States in which he described the
exclamation of delegates about the freedom enjoyed by women in Indonesia. He
wrote, “…their surprise was all the greater that Muslim women should be so free
and should take so great part in public activities.” Earlier on 28th December
1947 Mahatma Gandhi in a message to the Indonesian Women’s League delegation
attending the All India Women’s Conference in Chennai, then Madras, had briefly
but very powerfully and indeed prophetically said, “Don’t waver. Victory is in
sight.” Indeed you represent the victory and triumph of the people of Indonesia
and the struggle of its women for empowerment and justice.
The intrinsic longing of the Indonesian people for a democratic way of life was
vividly displayed in July last year during the smooth change over of its
President. Successful democratic experiment in Indonesia with focus on
reconciliation and understanding augurs well for its multi-religious and
multi-ethnic society. Your Excellency had once eloquently said that “…to make
Indonesia a modern and developed society without loosing the spirit of its own …
is my dream.” We share your vision and insight to combine in a balanced manner
the modern approach with the spiritual ethos.
Your Excellency, we emerged triumphant fighting colonialism. We will have to
summon that spirit to decisively defeat the forces of terrorism which target
civilians and democratic institutions the world over. The war against terrorism
must eliminate terrorists wherever they may be. India and Indonesia are living
examples of the co-existence of different cultures and religions. By defeating
terrorism we can, in fact, enrich civilization and harmony in the world. India
fully supports the unity, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of
Indonesia. We are sure that Your Excellency’s peaceful and reconciliatory
approach to problems will be successful. As a plural and secular democracy
ourselves, India has a significant stake in your success as a multi-ethnic and
multi-religious nation, with respect and tolerance for all faiths and creeds.
Like Indonesia, our national motto, too, is Bhinneka Tunggal Eka or Unity in
Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, we in India cherish the close personal
associations of the Soekarno family with our country. Madame, I understand that
you were named by your father as ‘Megawati’ on the suggestion of the late Shri
Biju Patnaik who was a great leader of India and treated as a national hero in
Indonesia for his monumental contributions to the freedom and independence of
your country. Madame President and Hon’ble Kiemas will always be welcome in our
midst as privileged and honoured guests. This also reflects the special empathy
and affinity we in India feel for the people of Indonesia. With your visit,
Madame President, I venture to hope that we have laid the basis for a truly
enduring political and economic partnership for the future, a partnership that
could play a major role in meeting the challenges of the new millennium.
Excellency, we believe that under your committed and charismatic leadership, the
time, which Indonesia has long awaited, has come. We wish you, your family and
your country all success, peace and prosperity.
Ladies & Gentlemen, May I now invite you to raise your glasses in a toast :
- to the health and well-being of Her Excellency, President Megawati
- to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Indonesia and,
- to the further consolidation and strengthening of the traditional friendship
between India and Indonesia.