Marking the revival of the spirit of warmth and cooperation of Marshal Tito-Pandit Nehru years, the Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu was extended the rare honour of addressing the special session of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia in Belgrade last night. It was in the same hallowed hall of the National Assembly of Serbia that former Prime Minister, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the world leaders while launching the Non-Alignment Movement along with the veteran leader of Yugoslavia Marshal Tito.
In his hour long address to the laws makers of the host country, Shri Naidu fondly recalled the close affinity and shared vision with which leaders of both the countries played a key role in launching the Non Aligned Movement (NAM). He said “Relations between the two countries are deeply rooted in history. From the early days of Independent India, both countries laid great emphasis on NAM and contributed much to creation of a new and democratic world order, particularly for the post-colonial third world that challenged the concept of bipolar world. The changes in global geo-politics now again give us an opportunity to work together for mutual benefit and for sharing prosperity with others”.
Referring to the International Day of Democracy yesterday, Shri Naidu gave a detailed account of the steady growth and consolidation of parliamentary democracy in India. He said “Over the years, Indian Parliament has evolved as a democratic forum that attentively listens to fascinatingly complex voices from different parts of the vast country and responds to diverse concerns with agility.”
Highlighting the importance of democracy for participatory development, Shri Naidu quoted Pandit Nehru from his speech at the same venue in 1961 and said Nehru gave a call ‘’For building in our countries societies where freedom is real. Freedom is essential because freedom will give us strength and enable us to build prosperous societies” .
Speaker of the Serbian Parliament received Shri Naidu and escorted him to the podium and introduced him to the Members of the House. The Vice President’s address was applauded quite a few times and particularly when he said that Marshal Tito was a household name in India when he (Shri Naidu) was a school student. The Vice President received huge standing ovation on the conclusion of his address to the law makers of Serbia.
During the hectic day of high level engagements, Shri Naidu held detailed discussions on a range of bilateral and multilateral issues with President Mr. Aleksander Vucic, Prime Minister Ms. Ana Brnabic and Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia Ms. Maja Gojkovic besides addressing a business forum.
During the joint media briefing along with Shri Naidu, President of Serbia Shri Aleksander Vucic complimented the Indian political leadership for stellar economic results. He said “India is witnessing exceptional economic progress. We are happy for the country who has been our longtime friend and well wisher”. He also thanked India for recognizing Serbia’s territorial integrity. Shri Vucic stressed that Serbia is keen to engage with India on agriculture, pharmacy, IT and generic medicines. He evinced interest in defense cooperation.
During his talks with the top leaders and businessmen of Serbia, the Vice President gave a detailed account of the rapid strides being made by India in various fields including an enabling, predictable and reform oriented financial and investment eco-systems offering mutually beneficial partnerships. Voicing concerns over the menace of terrorism, he called for early finalization of draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
The Vice President of India noted that both the countries had difficult periods in recent history but have emerged stronger from each of these crises because of the courage to reform.”The economic reforms in India and in Serbia in the 1990s have effectively converted some of the major challenges into opportunities” he observed.
On the occasion of 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Serbia Post and India Post have released commemorative stamps on renowned Serbian physicist and innovator Nikola Tesla and Swami Vivekananda. Shri Naidu noted that Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts and ideas left a deep impression on Tesla’s works.
In the presence of the President of Serbia and Vice President of India, both the sides signed two agreements. The agreement on Plant Protection and Quarantine seeks to enhance trade in fruits, vegetables and processed foods. The second one ,Revised Air Services agreement aims at promoting connectivity boosting trade and tourism including direct air link between the two countries.
On his second overseas visit as Vice President, Shri Naidu will also visit Malta and Romania before returning home on Friday next week. On his first such visit, Shri Naidu visited the Latin American Countries of Guatemala, Panama and Peru.
Following is the text of Vice President’s address:
“I feel privileged to be with all of you on a special day, in a special year and at a special place.
Today is the International Day of Democracy.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
This place is the historic meeting ground of nations that decided to launch the Non- aligned movement in 1961. It is good to recall that India and the then Yugoslavia were the pioneers of that movement.
We share a common perspective on many issues and have a deeper affinity that brings us closer.
I am deeply honoured by the invitation to address this august House. I am grateful for the kind invitation and warmth and hospitality accorded to me and the members of my delegation during my visit.
I am accompanied by Hon’ble Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Shiv Pratap Shukla, Hon’ble Members of Indian Parliament, Mr. Prasanna Acharya, Mrs. Vijila Sathyananth, Ms.Saroj Pandey and Mr. Raghav Lakhanpal. We bring the greetings and best wishes of the people of India to the eminent leaders of Serbia and great friends of India present in this House and for the people of Serbia.
Sisters and brothers of Serbia,
Both Serbia and India share a common commitment to democratic values and the need to continuously nurture the democratic spirit for improving the quality of the lives of our people.
Serbia has a long history of National Assembly and constitution, one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the nineteenth century. We, Indians, having firm belief in Parliamentary democracy, are deeply impressed by Serbia’s strong Parliamentary tradition.
This impressive National Assembly building built nearly hundred years ago, truly reflects the rich Parliamentary heritage of Serbia.
It is not merely the architecture of this building that is impressive. What is equally important is the architecture of path breaking ideas that has made this a significant landmark in the annals of modern world history.
It was here that the first NAM Summit took place in 1961. Prime Minister of India Pandit Nehru and other world leaders of Non-Aligned Movement addressed the NAM Summit in this hallowed hall.
Sentinels of people’s welfare,
Relations between India and Serbia are deeply rooted in history. From the early days of Independent India, both countries laid great emphasis on Non-Aligned Movement and contributed much to creation of a new and democratic world order, particularly for the post-colonial third world that challenged the concept of bipolar world. Numerous high level exchange of visits between the two countries during that period is a testimony to that shared belief. Marshal Tito was a familiar name in many Indian households. I understand that he addressed Indian Parliament during his visit to India in 1954. Thus, the Parliaments of our two countries had the privilege of and benefit of learning from each other. I am happy that the dialogue is continuing through the Serbian National Assembly’s Parliamentary Friendship Group with India.
Sisters and brothers,
At this juncture, let me share few words about the parliamentary system in India, the largest democracy in the world. The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India. It is a bicameral legislature with two houses: the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). As Vice President of India, I also function as Ex-Officio Chairperson of Raja Sabha or Council of States. I have a long experience with our Parliamentary system. I became a member of the Legislative Assembly of my state, Andhra Pradesh, forty years ago, in 1978. I have been a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament since 1998. I functioned as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs of India, in addition to discharging my other Ministerial responsibilities, from 2014 to 2016.
While Serbia has a unicameral Parliament, India’s federal structure requires a bicameral body to give adequate representation to the States.
Over the years, Indian Parliament has evolved as a democratic forum that attentively listens to fascinatingly complex voices from different parts of the vast country and responds to diverse concerns with agility.
Nurturing and encouraging participatory democracy, our Parliament has been instrumental in ushering in social change and development through progressive legislations.
The accent is on preserving the democratic spirit by putting the people at the centre of the development architecture.
Sisters and brothers,
Today, we are also commemorating the International Day of Democracy that was proclaimed by the United Nations On 8 November 2007. The opening words of the UN Charter, “We the Peoples”, reflect the fundamental principle of democracy, that the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of nations.
Kautilya, one of the prominent political scientists of ancient India, had said in his treatise called Artha Shastra, “The King’s happiness should lie only in the happiness of the people in the kingdom and not on any other factor”. The legitimacy of the king or the sovereign State is essentially derived from the ability to respond to people’s will and aspirations, to their needs and concerns.
Popular democracy and representative institutions are neither entirely alien to the Indian soil nor of recent origin. The history of democratic traditions in India, in fact, goes back to the Vedic period. The Vedas, the oldest Indian compendium of knowledge, have a number of references to popular assemblies known as the Sabhas and the Samitis. In the post-Vedic period, the Republics which were known in popular parlance as Ganarajya or Sangha were functioning as self-governing institutions.
We all recognize that the essential elements of democracy are the values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage.
India adopted universal suffrage to all citizens above the age of 18 years. Since 1951, the people of India have elected their representatives to the legislative bodies through free and fair electoral process. The voter turnout has been steadily going up over the last 64 years, from 44.87 percent in 1951 to 66.4 percent in 2014. It is worth noting that 65.6 percent of the voters who voted in the latest election in 2014 was women.
Sisters and brothers,
Having spoken at length on Indian Parliamentary system and Indian democracy, let me come back to India-Serbia ties. Interaction between Indians and Serbians of course was not confined to post-independence period of India. Much before that, people to people interaction between these two parts of the world has contributed richly to their intellectual and cultural capital.
Interaction between the renowned Serbian innovator and inventor Nikola Tesla and the great spiritual leader of India Swami Vivekananda is one such example.
Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts and ideas left a deep impression on Nikola Tesla’s work. I am happy that Serbia Post and India Post have duly acknowledged this by jointly bringing out commemorative stamps on these two visionaries.
Both had a grand vision for the entire humanity. They were creative geniuses who left a lasting impact on the world. One was an epitome of outstanding innovation in physics. The other was an accomplished spiritual master who explained metaphysical realities to the world.
Sisters and brothers,
Both Serbia and India had difficult periods in recent history but have emerged stronger from each of these crises because we had the courage to reform. The economic reforms in India and in Serbia in the 1990s have effectively converted some of the major challenges into opportunities.
Our two countries have always been supportive of each other on the issues of core interest. Serbia has faced and still faces challenges to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On this, India has always maintained its principled stand and support for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India firmly believes that the Kosovo issue should be resolved peacefully through consultation and dialogue.
India is also happy with principled support India receives from Serbia on several core issues like, for instance, India’s application for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group.
I am glad that Serbia shares India’s views on the need for reforming United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council.
Our two countries also agree that terrorism is one of the foremost threats to international peace and security. There is an urgent need to strengthen the global counter terrorism legal framework to combat this scourge by expediting finalization of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) under the UN umbrella.
In recent years, our bilateral ties have reached a distinctly higher level. In January 2017, H.E. Mr. Aleksandar Vucic, Hon’ble President of Serbia, visited India in his capacity as Prime Minister of Serbia. The visit was truly historic. This was a first visit at the level of Head of State or Head of Government from Belgrade to India after thirty years. There has also been lack of high level visits from Indian side for almost three decades. With my visit, I want to underline India’s keen desire to maintain close ties with Serbia through high level engagements.
On the occasion of Hon’ble Vucic’s visit to India last year, Serbia participated in Vibrant Gujarat Summit. I am happy that Serbia again participated in another major event in India, World Food India 2017 in New Delhi in November last year.
Agriculture is a major economic activity both in India and Serbia and we can benefit from each other’s expertise in agriculture and food processing sector. Hon’ble First Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic visited India in May this year. During his meeting with me, I was glad to learn about the steps our two countries are taking to strengthen or bilateral ties further. I was particularly happy to know to that Serbia had abolished visa requirements for short term visit of all Indian passports holders last year.
Our annual bilateral trade is currently about US$ 200 million. Undoubtedly, this is much below the true potential. More exchange of business delegations is necessary to boost our bilateral trade further. While there is a need for boosting our bilateral trade, investment in each other’s countries and more innovative approaches are necessary for strengthening of economic ties. In this context, the recent examples of foreign investment are a new positive development. An Indian company has acquired a major Serbian tractor manufacturing company. This can contribute to production of high quality agriculture machinery in Serbia at an affordable cost and certainly help Serbia’s agriculture sector. An Indian company has established an IT park in Serbia. India’s strength in IT sector is globally renowned. Serbia can also benefit from India’s capability of producing high quality, lifesaving drugs at a cost within the reach of common Serbians.
Indian tourists are now visiting foreign countries in large numbers. Serbia, with its fascinating history and landscape, has the potential to attract these Indian tourists. Serbia also has strength in some areas of defence production. Since India now permits participation of Indian private sector and even foreign companies in defence production and defence procurement, the private companies of both sides can join hands and benefit from India’s liberalized policy. While both governments are strengthening the framework for greater economic engagement, we have added further to these efforts by signing relevant agreements during my visit. Signing of Agreement on Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine will help in enhancing trade in fruits, vegetables and processed products. The revised Air Services Agreement will enhance connectivity besides boosting trade and tourism.
Sisters and brothers,
At this juncture, let me say a few words about what my Government is doing in India to attract foreign businessmen and entrepreneurs. We are committed to build a five trillion-dollar economy by 2025, making us the 3rd largest consumer market in the world. India has climbed 42 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Business Index over the past two years and is committed to improve it further. We are strengthening the manufacturing sector through the Make in India programme while our services sector remains robust and high-tech. We have also moved up 21 places on the Global Innovation Index of the WIPO in two years as well as 19 places on the Logistics Performance Index of 2016 of the World Bank.
Foreign Direct Investment as a fairly accurate indicator of foreign confidence in a nation’s political and economic systems is widely acknowledged. According to the latest data, FDI inflow into India rose to US$35.9 billion over the period April to December 2017. In fact, FDI has risen from US$36 billion in 2013-14 to US$60 billion in 2016-17. We have a TRIPS compliant IPR regime and our multi-party democracy ensures essential stability and predictability.
A number of systemic tax reforms including the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax(GST) have enabled India to emerge as a transparent, modern and unified market. Tax base and tax compliance has greatly improved. Financial inclusion has been a key priority of the current government. 326 million new bank accounts have been opened for the first time enabling direct cash benefit transfers.
Thus, we have put in place a sound policy framework in India and created a business friendly environment. The liberal e-Visa regime that we have for Serbians should make it easy to travel to India.
Sisters and brothers,
In the early days of India’s independence, our ties started on a strong foundation of a shared global view of Non-Aligned Movement and we together created a large platform for the third world. The changes in global geo-politics now again give us an opportunity to work together for mutual benefit and for sharing prosperity with others. It would be good to recall the words of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru at the Conference of Non- Aligned nations in Belgrade on September 2, 1961. His call which rings so true and relevant even today was “to build in our own countries societies where freedom is real. Freedom is essential, because freedom will give us strength and enable us to build prosperous societies.” We must strive to strengthen our democratic polities and internalize the concepts of freedom, dialogue, inclusion and rule of law in our governance structures.
Let me end with an ancient Indian prayer from the Vedas:
“Sahanaavaatu, Sahanau Bhunaktu, Sahaveeryam Karavaavahai, Tejaswinavadhitamastu, Maa vidwishavahai” (Let us move together, Let us have food together, Let us grow together, Let us acquire and share knowledge, Let us never hate each other”.
That is the wish I would like to share with you. As a representative of a country that saw the entire world as one large family, I bring you the love, affection and warm greetings of India for all Serbians and hope that we shall continue to work together towards a world that is inclusive, harmonious and sustainable.
Thank you, Hvala.”
Let’s block ads! (Why?)