Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Banquet Hosted in the Honour of he Mr. Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka on February 16, 2015




Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Banquet Hosted in the Honour of he Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on February 16, 2015

Your Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena,
Mrs. Jayanthi Sirisena,

Hon`ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,


It gives me great pleasure to welcome His Excellency Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, First Lady Mrs. Jayanthi Sirisena, and the distinguished members of his delegation on his first State Visit to India.

Allow me, Excellency, at the outset, to felicitate you on your electoral victory last month. It was an unequivocal expression from the Sri Lankan people for change, as well as a clarion call to pursue the path of harmony and genuine reconciliation. The reforms that your Government has initiated hold the promise of a better tomorrow for Sri Lanka and the region. As your immediate neighbour and the world`s largest democracy, India takes pride in the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka, and stands ready to continue to extend all necessary support as Sri Lanka embarks upon a new chapter in its history.

Excellency, the emerald isle that you come from, has from its ancient name of Serendipa gifted to the English language the word ‘Serendipity’, a word which at once signifies a certain mystique as well as all that is pleasant. Sri Lanka occupies a special place in India`s worldview. I would like to recall a couplet from the Tamil classic Thirukkural on friendship which roughly translated into English means ‘True friendship is rare and hard to gain; once achieved, it protects against unpredictable woes’. The symbiotic relationship between India and Sri Lanka is not based merely on geography, which is compelling enough, but is also predicated on shared religions, cultural practices, family ties, linguistic commonalities, economic cooperation, political understanding, and much more.

In a testimony to this fraternal bond between our two countries, we jointly celebrated the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekanada in 2013 and of Angarika Dharmapala in 2014. Not many would know that a Sri Lankan student of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Ananda Samarakoon, composed the Sri Lankan national anthem, “Sri Lanka Mata”.

In contemporary times, our relations have become multi-faceted, encompassing trade and investment, science, education, security and defence, and above all, people-to-people exchanges. As two cricket playing nations, we rejoice as much in the achievements of Sanath Jayasuriya and Muthiah Muralidharan as we do in our own players. In terms of foreign tourist footfalls in Sri Lanka, India ranks number one.

The first FTA that India signed with any country was with Sri Lanka. It is time to take our economic engagement to the next level. I am also happy that we are promoting cooperation in the knowledge sector. There has been a resurgence in the Indian economy over the last year, and Sri Lanka is well-placed to take full advantage of this. We should look at steps to enhance connectivity between our two nations.

India is privileged to be a partner in Sri Lanka`s development efforts, focusing on capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure support. I am delighted that the flagship Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka continues to make excellent progress. The recommencement of the iconic ‘Yal Devi’ train service, after three decades, between Jaffna and Colombo through the Indian-assisted Northern Railway Rehabilitation project is a matter of particular satisfaction. Sri Lankan investment in India has also seen some remarkable success stories in the garments sector.

Excellency, your electoral victory has opened new opportunities for further strengthening our bilateral relations. We must build on our deep and enduring links of history and culture, and work towards the shared prosperity of the people of our countries and the region. A vast vista of cooperation beckons us.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I request you to join me in raising a toast –

- to the good health of His Excellency, President Maithripala Sirisena;
- to the continued progress and prosperity of the Sri Lankan people; and
- to closer friendship and cooperation between India and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.


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Electoral victory an opportunity to chart new direction in bilateral engagement, says President Mukherjee to Sri Lankan President

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee yesterday (February 16, 2015) received His Excellency Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Mrs. Jayanthi Sirisena at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He also hosted a banquet in their honour.

Welcoming Mr. Sirisena, the President appreciated him for choosing India for his first visit abroad as the President of Sri Lanka. The President congratulated Mr. Sirisena on his victory in the elections in Sri Lanka last month and said the support he received from a wide cross section of the people reflects the eagerness of the people of Sri Lanka to strengthen its democratic leadership. The President said in Mr. Sirisena’s election victory, there is an opportunity to chart a new direction in the bilateral engagement of India and Sri Lanka. As the largest democracy in the world, India greatly appreciates the strengthening of democracy in its neighbourhood.

The President said relations between India and Sri Lanka are unique and based upon shared historical, cultural, ethnic and civilizational ties as well as extensive people-to-people interaction. This relationship is marked by close contacts at the highest political level, growing trade and investment, infrastructural linkages, cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence as well as a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.

The President said India as a close neighbour has watched developments in Sri Lanka with deep interest. The end of the armed conflict in 2009 was a historic opportunity to find a meaningful and lasting solution to the issues concerning the Sri Lankan Tamil minority.

The President said the trade between India and Sri Lanka is more than US $ 5 billion. Both countries should focus on closer economic integration by building on the Free Trade Agreement and promote cross investments by companies. India is keen to promote greater connectivity between the two countries. The President said the issue of fishermen is an emotive one that concerns the livelihood of fishermen from both the countries. He has no doubt that both the countries can handle the issue with due care and sensitivity. The President assured that Sri Lanka will receive the fullest cooperation from India to unlock the potential of the relationship.

Responding to President Mukherjee, the Sri Lankan President said that his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi were fruitful and has laid the foundation for an expansion in bilateral relations. India is the largest democracy in the world despite its diversity and a model for all others. The two countries have enjoyed good relations for thousands of years and share many things in common, especially cultural links and common values inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism. Nobody can challenge this relationship and the future must be built on the basis of the historical relations.

In his banquet speech, President Pranab Mukherjee said electoral victory of the Sri Lankan President was an unequivocal expression from the Sri Lankan people for change, as well as a clarion call to pursue the path of harmony and genuine reconciliation. The reforms that the Sri Lankan Government has initiated hold the promise of a better tomorrow for Sri Lanka and the region.

The President recalled a couplet from the Tamil classic Thirukkural on friendship which means ‘True friendship is rare and hard to gain; once achieved, it protects against unpredictable woes’. The symbiotic relationship between India and Sri Lanka is not based merely on geography, which is compelling enough, but is also predicated on shared religions, cultural practices, family ties, linguistic commonalities, economic cooperation, political understanding, and much more. Not many would know that a Sri Lankan student of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Ananda Samarakoon, composed the Sri Lankan national anthem, “Sri Lanka Matha”.

The President said in contemporary times, India-Sri Lanka relations have become multi-faceted, encompassing trade and investment, science, education, security and defence, and above all, people-to-people exchanges. In terms of foreign tourist footfalls in Sri Lanka, India ranks number one. The first FTA that India signed with any country was with Sri Lanka. It is time to take the economic engagement to the next level. There has been a resurgence in the Indian economy over the last year, and Sri Lanka is well-placed to take full advantage of this. Both countries should look at steps to enhance connectivity between our two nations.

The President said India is privileged to be a partner in Sri Lanka`s development efforts, focusing on capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure support. The flagship Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka continues to make excellent progress. The recommencement of the iconic ‘Yal Devi’ train service, after three decades, between Jaffna and Colombo through the Indian-assisted Northern Railway Rehabilitation project is a matter of particular satisfaction. Sri Lankan investment in India has also seen some remarkable success stories in the garments sector. India and Sri Lanka must build on deep and enduring links of history and culture, and work towards the shared prosperity of the people of the two countries and the region. A vast vista of cooperation beckons India and Sri Lanka.


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President receives first copy of book “Vedic Astrology: A Journey Through History, Principles and Mathematical Foundations”

The President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee received the first copy of a book “Vedic Astrology: A Journey Through History, Principles and Mathematical Foundations” authored by Shri G. Srinivasan at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (February 17, 2015). The President received the book from Shri Yashwant Sinha who formally released it.

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Text of PM's address at the National Celebration of the Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia

Cardinal George Alencherry
Archbishop Andrews Thazhath
Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara
Archbishop Anil Couto
Shri Arun Jaitley,
Dr. Najma Heptulla,
Shri P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha
Monseigneur Sebastian Vadakumpadan

I am delighted to participate in this function to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of two great saints of Kerala - Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Saint Euphresia. The whole country is proud of their recognition. Their elevation was preceded by that of Saint Alphonsa, who also hailed from Kerala.

The life and deeds of Saint Chavara and Saint Euphresia are an inspiration not only to the Christian community, but to humanity as a whole. They are shining examples of dedication to God through selfless service for the betterment of mankind.

Saint Chavara was a man of prayer and also a social reformer. In an era when access to education was limited, he stressed that every church should have a school. He thus opened the doors of education to people from all sections of society.

Few outside Kerala know that he started a Sanskrit school, and also a printing press. His contribution towards women’s empowerment was also noteworthy.

Saint Euphrasia was a mystic who dedicated her life to prayer and devotion to God.

Both these saints dedicated their life to God through service of fellow beings. The ancient Indian saying: “आत्मानो मोक्षार्थम् जगत हितायाचा” – welfare of the world is the way to moksha (salvation) – explains their life.

Friends,

Spiritualism is rooted in India`s heritage. Indian saints and Greek sages had intellectual and spiritual exchanges thousands of years back. India’s openness to new ideas is manifest in the Rig Veda: आनो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides. This philosophy has guided our intellectual discourse since time immemorial. Mother India gave birth to many religious and spiritual streams. Some of them have even travelled beyond Indian borders.

The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths is as old as India itself. As Swami Vivekananda said: We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.

What Swami Vivekananda had said a century ago holds good and will, for ever, not only for this nation but also for this government or for that matter any government in India, run by any political party. This principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths has been a part of India`s ethos for thousands of years. And that is how it became integral to the Constitution of India. Our Constitution did not evolve in a vacuum. It has roots in the ancient cultural traditions of India.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had inspired us to dream of a land where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. It is that heaven of freedom we are duty bound to create and preserve. We believe that there is truth in every religion. एकम सत विप्र बहुधा वदन्ति

Friends,

Let me now come to the issue which is central and critical for peace and harmony in the contemporary world. The world is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines. This has become a matter of global concern. In this context the ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourse.

This long felt need and urge for mutually respectful relations led to the interfaith conference on `Faith in Human Rights` at the Hague on tenth December, 2008. This was coincidentally also the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

Religious leaders representing every major world religion - Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Baha`i Faith, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and indigenous religions met, discussed and pledged to uphold the Universal Declaration and of freedom of religion or belief.

In their historic declaration, they defined what constitutes freedom of faith and how it is to be safeguarded.

We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen.

The world is at cross roads which, if not crossed properly, can throw us back to the dark days of bigotry, fanaticism and bloodshed. This harmonious convergence among religions could not be achieved even when the world entered the third millennium. And now it has been. This shows that the rest of the world too is evolving along the lines of ancient India.

Speaking for India, and for my government, I declare that my government stands by every word of the above declaration. My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.

India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.

With this commitment, I appeal to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect, and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation which is manifest in our Constitution and is in line with the Hague Declaration.

Friends,

I have a vision of a Modern India. I have embarked on a huge mission to convert that vision into reality. My mantra is Development - सबका साथ, सबका विकास.

In simple terms it means food on every table, every child in school, a job for everybody and a house with toilet and electricity for every family. This will make India proud. We can achieve this through unity. Unity strengthens us. Division weakens us. I sincerely request all Indians, and all of you present here to support me in this huge task.

Let the elevation to sainthood of Saint Chavara and Saint Euphrasia, and their noble deeds inspire us:

-to maximize our inner strength
-to use that strength for transforming society through selfless service
-to fulfil our collective vision of a developed and modern India.

THANK YOU.


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Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Banquet Hosted in the Honour of he Mr. Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka on February 16, 2015 Speech by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Banquet Hosted in the Honour of he Mr. Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka on February 16, 2015 Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 3:20 PM Rating: 5

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