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TEXT: PM Manmohan Singh's historic speech in Maldives Parliament

November 12, 2011 23:12 IST
Following is the text of the address by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the People`s Majlis (parliament) in Maldives: 

"I wish to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and Members of the People`s Majlis for giving me this unique honour of addressing this august House. I am humbled by this gesture of goodwill accorded to me, and to my country.

I bring to you the warm greetings and good wishes of the people of India. 

I congratulate the people of Maldives on their Republic Day yesterday, and convey my belated greetings to each one of you on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. 

This is my first visit to Maldives as the Prime Minister of India. I am overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty and serenity of this nation of islands. You are a truly blessed people to be living in such harmony with Mother Nature. The tranquillity of your physical environs is matched only by your tolerance and devotion to the noble religion of Islam. 

I am delighted to be here today in this pearl of the Indian Ocean. 

Yesterday at Addu City, the leaders of South Asia concluded the first ever SAARC Summit in the Southern hemisphere. I wish to heartily congratulate His Excellency President Nasheed, the Government and people of Maldives for the outstanding manner in which the Summit was organised. The Summit has helped to further consolidate the process of regional integration in South Asia, a goal which unites both India and Maldives. 

The Peoples Majlis is a living testimony to the strong faith the people of Maldives have shown in democracy. As a fellow democracy we take delight in your achievements.

In 2008, you adopted a new Constitution and then held Presidential elections in a free and fair manner. The foundations of democracy were further reinforced with the first multi-party Parliamentary elections in 2009 and subsequent elections for the City, Atoll and Island Councils.

You have undertaken the reforms necessary for the independent functioning of the judiciary and other vital organs of the State. The People`s Majlis has upheld the freedom of speech and expression of the people and the media which are the pillars of democracy.

India will be at your side in your transition to a fully functioning democracy. We will assist the Majlis by way of training, formulation of rules and regulations and any other assistance that you may desire. 

The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is scheduled to visit Maldives at the invitation of the Hon'ble Speaker of the Majlis. The formation of India-Maldives Parliamentary Friendship Groups in the People`s Majlis and in the Indian Parliament augur well for the development of relations between our two Parliaments. 

These are links which are natural between two close neighbours. 

Well-known Maldivian historian and scholar, Naseema Mohamed, has recorded that, according to legend, the first people who settled in Maldives were a race called Dheyvis from Kalibangan on the banks of river Saraswati during the Indus Civilization.

Today, students from all across Maldives live and study in Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Mysore. They constitute the largest expatriate Maldivian community abroad. The recent establishment of an Indian Cultural Centre in Malé will further promote people-to-people contacts and facilitate the visits of Maldivian artists and scholars to India. We will be happy to facilitate more intensive exchanges between the Maldives National University and universities in India. 

Earlier today I have discussed these and other bilateral initiatives with President Mohamed Nasheed. We have succeeded in defining new frontiers for our cooperation: cooperation that will have a tangible effect on the lives of common citizens of both our countries.

The President and I have signed a historic Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development. This is a blueprint for cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism, transportation, information technology, new and renewable energy, communications and enhancing connectivity by air and sea. 

I informed the President of our decision to extend a Standby Credit Facility of 100 million US dollars. This will help Maldives to meet its short term budgetary needs and enable it to import essential commodities. 

We have extended a Line of Credit of 40 million US dollars for the construction of new houses. We look forward to the first houses coming up in the not too distant future. 

Maldives has made impressive gains in education and in promoting the gender equality. Your social indicators are among the best in the region. We will collaborate with you to build upon these notable successes.

We are ready to work with the Government of Maldives to train youth in identified areas of skills development.

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male has served as the main referral hospital for Maldives. We will undertake a major renovation of the Hospital as part of our aid programme. 

The tourism and hospitality sectors are the largest revenue earners in Maldives. Indian companies are engaged in various infrastructure projects in Maldives which will further enhance your earning potential. We have decided to forge closer economic links through banking and financial institutions. We wish to cooperate in the modernisation of your fishing and food processing industry.

No enterprise between our two countries can be complete without planning for greater connectivity between us. Our officials are engaged in talks to work on a passenger cum cargo ferry service between Cochin and Male, and to look at the possibility of developing a port north of Male. We have encouraged our airlines to increase direct air links between destinations in India and Maldives. 

I am aware of the threat which Maldives faces from rising sea levels. We understand your concerns because millions of Indians themselves live in vulnerable coastal areas of our peninsula. I wish to state in no uncertain terms that India will stand as one with Maldives in combating global warming. Maldives' views must be heard with respect in global councils.

We will help Maldives to achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral. We will help build your capacities through sharing of energy efficiency technologies and provide scholarships for students from Maldives in areas such as coastal zone adaptation and management.

We in India have made a number of commitments on climate change. One is to keep our per capita emission of greenhouse gases below the average for the industrialised countries. Secondly, we have committed to reduce the emissions intensity of our Gross Domestic Product by 20% between 2005 and 2020. We have launched eight national missions under our National Action Plan on Climate Change. The Green India plan seeks to regenerate six million hectares of degraded forest land. 

India will be a constructive participant in the global climate change negotiations based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibility.

As I stand here I am conscious of the vastness of the ocean that surrounds us. This is our extended neighbourhood. We wish to work with the Maldives and other like minded countries to ensure peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region. In many ways, India and Maldives are natural partners in this enterprise.

The Indian Ocean is rich in resources. It provides sustenance and livelihood to many island states. Over 97 percent of India's international trade by volume and 75 percent by value passes through the Indian Ocean. All the littoral states have a common interest in ensuring the safety and security of the sea lanes of communication.

Through the ages, seafarers, traders and merchants from India have ventured across the seas. Today vibrant Indian communities have settled in places such as Mauritius, Seychelles, the East Coast of Africa, the Gulf and East Asia. This movement of people has been accompanied by the exchange of cultural influences from which we have all benefited. We should build upon these and other commonalities and reinvigorate the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

India's security, like that of Maldives, is closely linked to what happens in the Indian Ocean. The challenges we face are well known - extremism and religious fundamentalism, piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking to name a few. Maldives is additionally concerned about poaching in the coral reefs and illegal commercial fishing by foreign trawlers. We have together experienced the devastation caused by the tsunami in 2004.

Our two countries have agreed upon a multi-pronged approach to deal with these problems. To build capacity within Maldives, India will support the construction of a National Police Academy.

Bilaterally, we have entered into arrangements on Combating Terrorism, Drug Trafficking, Disaster Management and Coastal Security and Transfer of Sentenced Persons. These will strengthen the framework of cooperation on law enforcement and consular matters. 

At a regional level, we should enhance our cooperation to increase maritime domain awareness and surveillance. We should have better exchange of information, more training programmes and work towards a cooperative security framework in the Indian Ocean region. 

Ever since your independence in 1965, you have taken impressive strides in nation building. Today Maldives has earned the respect of the world for its achievements in the socio-economic sphere and for its leadership on issues such as climate change and protection of the environment. You have chosen the path of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.

You have shown how even a small nation can stand up and be counted in the affairs of the world.

I am confident that the people of Maldives will continue to consolidate their achievements. As an abiding friend, India will always stand by you in these efforts. Our relations are time-tested and I wish to reaffirm that they shall remain so in the future. 

I once again convey my sincere gratitude to the Hon`ble Speaker and to each one of you for granting me the honour of addressing you. 

I thank President Mohamed Nasheed for his personal friendship and the people of Maldives for the warm hospitality extended to me and to the members of my delegation in Maldives. This has been an unforgettable journey for me which I shall always cherish.

On behalf of the people of India and on behalf of our Parliament I wish you all success in your noble efforts to build a prosperous, dynamic and safe country. 

Long live India-Maldives friendship."