Speech at Launch
EP Friends of India - May 27th 2003
Your Excellency Mr Singh, Ambassador of India, Parliamentary Colleagues Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank You all for coming. Baroness Nicholson as Vice-President for the ELDR sends her apologies as does Mr Marsett as V-P for the GUE but I welcome John Hume for the PSE, Jose Ribeiro Castro for the UEN, Oliver Dupuis for the Non-Inscrits and Jan Dhaene for the Greens as well as my PSE CoPresident Jo Leinen. Mr Prem Sharma with Maria Carrilho are our two Patrons
The timing is very apposite for this initiative because:
1) Peace and Reconciliation in the air with a Hand of Friendship being extended by India to Pakistan with no preconditions of bringing cross border terrorism to a completre halt before talks can commence between PM Atal Behari Vajpayee and PM Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
There is now a proposed "Roadmap to Peace" starting with the re-establishing of air and road transport links, sport and full diplomatic relations.
A proposed visit to China, a traditional ally of Pakistan and occupier of Indian territory by PM Vajpayee, the first PM to visit in over a decade
2) Strong Economic growth of 5.5% with huge trade and investment opportunities between EU and India
3) A strong interest taken by the Indian Mission in the work of this Parliament under the dedicated professionalism of Minister Counsellor Dinkar Srivastava who I officially congratulate on his recent appointment as Indian ambassador to Lybia a country sadly lacking in its own democratic Institutions.
4) The Indian example belies the notion that developing countries cannot enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy as the largest multicultural democracy in the world and what is less well known, the home of the 2nd largest Muslim population in the world who have mercifully steered clear of any involvement in international terrorism. Many of us have large Indian Communities in our constituencies who will welcome links with their country of origin.
5) India deserves our political and moral support as an example to the world and I thanks Ambassador Singh for supporting this cross party initiative. We plan future culural and political events and in particular more contacts and visits between our two Parliaments to further mutual understanding and friendship.