Statements, Speeches, Interviews

Speech by the Hon'ble President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil in response to the Welcome Remarks by President of Congress, Madrid

21 April, 2009 at 1150 hrs

Your Excellency President Bono,
Your Excellency President Rojo,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my first visit to this wonderful country and I am delighted to be here. Spain is well known for its rich cultural heritage, its beautiful landscape and its friendly people. At the outset, I want to convey the warm greetings of the people of India to the people of Spain.

I feel privileged to have been received at the Congress. I am grateful for the courtesies shown. I shall treasure the mementoes that I have received on behalf of the Congress and the Senate.

Bilateral relations between India and Spain have always been cordial and have gained momentum in recent years. We whole heartedly support this trend. My visit to Spain is an expression of the importance that India attaches to a strong relationship with Spain. We seek to promote ties in all fields - political, trade and investment, cooperation in mutually beneficial areas like renewable energy, agriculture and tourism as also enhanced cultural exchanges.

The contribution of parliamentary institutions in this endeavour is crucial. I was glad to learn that parliamentary delegations from both sides have exchanged visits. The President of your Senate had led a delegation to India about two years ago and our Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the Upper House had visited Spain shortly before that. Such parliamentary exchanges enable a better understanding of each other's political processes. They need to be enhanced.

Both India and Spain are democratic states. The values that are the bedrock of our parliamentary system are tolerance, respect for diversity, freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is full participation of all citizens in the political, economic and cultural lives of our countries. Our representative institutions derive their power and authority from the people.

The biggest democratic exercise on earth is apace in India now. We have had 14 national elections to Parliament since our country became independent in 1947. We are currently conducting the 15th General Elections and would elect members to the Lok Sabha - the Lower House of our Parliament. Our election process is gigantic in scale. We have 714 million voters. On account of the large numbers involved and the geographical expanse of the country, the electoral exercise, which began on 16th April, will be completed in five phases, spread over a period of 4 weeks. The physical casting of ballot papers has been replaced gradually by electronic voting machines in the entire country, which has helped in faster counting of votes and declaration of results.

The democratic system in India has also been strengthened at the grassroots level. 3.2 million persons out of which 1.2 million are women have been elected as representatives to institutions of local self-government in the villages and municipalities of India. This is by far the largest number of elected representatives ever in history, or anywhere in the contemporary world. It is with the full participation of its people that India is building its future. We are an old civilization but a young nation, with a large majority of a youth population. We aspire for growth and prosperity based on our age old values of harmony and tolerance.

Excellencies,

As I mentioned earlier, the bilateral relationship between India and Spain has been growing in all spheres - political, commercial and cultural. Trade has grown five times to over US $ 4.5 billion in 2008 from US $ 900 million in 2000. Both trade and investment flows need to be further bolstered. It is for this reason that I have a business delegation accompanying me. People-to-people contacts between us are increasing through more frequent travels between the two countries. I am glad that there have been regular cultural exchanges between both countries. Let us work together to further strengthen friendship between our two countries.

I thank you for your kindness and your friendship and seek your continued cooperation in our common endeavour to deepen and diversify bonds between our two countries to the mutual benefit of our people.

Thank you.