Remarks of Mr. Sanjiv Arora, Ambassador-designate of India to Republic of Lebanon at the Reception to celebrate India’s 68th Republic Day on 26 January 2017 at Grand Ballroom, Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut
His Excellency Mr. Ayman Shkeir, Minister of State for Human Rights
H.E. Mr. Ali Osseiran, Chairman of Lebanon India Friendship Committee of the Parliament
Mr. Ali Ghandour, President of the Association for Development of Lebanon India Relations (ADLIR), his team in ADLIR’s Committee and other members of ADLIR
[We are grateful for ADLIR’s whole-hearted support and cooperation in organizing this event]
Mr. Rashid Baydon, President, Lebanon India Businessmen’s Forum
Other distinguished dignitaries from Republic of Lebanon;
His Excellency Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Brigadier General Sandeep Singh Bajaj, Deputy Force Commander, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
Colonel Dhirendra Singh, Commanding Officer, the Indian Battalion in UNIFIL
[We are very proud of the highest standards of professionalism of our Defense Forces, whether they are serving in India or in UN Peacekeeping Missions]
Other Distinguished colleagues in the vibrant Diplomatic Corps of Lebanon
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor and a pleasure for me to warmly welcome all of you, also on behalf of my wife Chhaya and my colleagues, to this celebration of India’s 68th Republic Day.
We are grateful to His Excellency Mr. Ayman Shkeir, Minister of State for the Human Rights Affairs, other dignitaries from Lebanon and all other guests, for gracing this occasion.
This morning, I had the honor of unfurling our National Flag and reading the Address of the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Flag Hoisting ceremony at the Embassy, that was attended by a large number of Indian nationals in Lebanon.
As Hon’ble President has said and I quote:
It goes to the credit of the strong institutions of democracy built by our founders that for the last six and a half decades, Indian democracy has been an oasis of stability in the region troubled by unrest. From a population of 360 million in 1951, we are now a 1.3 billion strong nation. Even then, our per capita income has shown a ten-fold increase, poverty ratio has declined by two-thirds, average life expectancy has more than doubled, and literacy rate has shown a four-fold increase. We are today the fastest growing amongst the major economies of the world. We are the second largest reservoir of scientific and technical manpower, the third largest army, the sixth member of the nuclear club, the sixth member in the race for space, and the tenth largest industrial power. From a net food grains importing country, India is now a leading exporter of food commodities. The journey so far has been eventful, sometimes painful, but most of the times, exhilarating.
It was on this historic day, 67 years ago, that the Constitution of a newly independent India, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November, 1949, came into force. The Constitution enshrines the same ideals and aspirations that guided India’s peaceful freedom movement in which millions of Indians participated under the most inspirational leadership of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
India, a country of 1.3 billion people, the world’s largest democracy and the third largest economy on purchasing power terms, is on a cusp of history. The Government led by Shri Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India has launched major new initiatives and taken several measures to re-energize the Indian economy and make India a preferred destination and partner for business and tourism. Prime Minister’s visionary initiatives such as the launch of ‘Make in India’ campaign on 25 September, 2014, inviting businessmen from other countries to collaborate with Indian enterprises, and ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) campaign on the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October, 2014; ‘Digital India’ and ‘Smart Cities’ missions’; and ‘Startup India’ initiative and ‘Atal Innovation Mission’ to encourage and incentivize entrepreneurship and innovation, are inspiring Indians and India’s global diaspora, and enhancing the attractiveness of India for businessmen, investors and tourists from around the world.
On this joyous celebration of our Republic Day in Lebanon, we also celebrate the deep-rooted friendly ties between India and Lebanon, and renew our sincere thanks to His Excellency Gen. Michel Aoun, President; His Excellency Saad Hariri, Prime Minister; and the Government and the people of Lebanon for nurturing the time-tested friendship and the multi-dimensional cooperation between our two great countries, and for their hospitality to the small but accomplished and highly regarded Indian community in Lebanon.
The Government and the people of India renew their heartiest congratulations and best wishes to His Excellency the President; His Excellency the Prime Minister and his Cabinet; and the Government and the people of Lebanon on the recent election of His Excellency the President followed by the swift formation of a national unity Government in Lebanon.
We, in India, deeply value our historically close and friendly relations with Lebanon, and are keen to further strengthen our bilateral ties. Our Government look forward to working closely with the Government of Lebanon in broadening and deepening our engagement on all bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest, and in expanding our cooperation in various sectors for greater progress and prosperity of the people of our two great countries.
Shri M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, had paid an official visit to Lebanon on 17-19 August 2016 and held cordial and fruitful discussions with His Excellency Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Emigrants and other dignitaries on various issues of mutual interest. Both sides are keen to have regular exchange of high-level visits which would further strengthen the framework for bilateral cooperation.
Both countries have the capabilities to significantly increase the volume of bilateral trade and investment, as also the number and range of joint ventures in sectors such as energy; including new and renewable sources like solar and wind power; information and communication technology; capital goods and equipment; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; agricultural; horticulture; food processing; media; entertainment; hospitality; fashions etc.
It is heartening that an increasing number of Lebanese officials are participating in Government of India’s capacity building programs under India Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). Compared to 13 civilian officials who received training under ITEC in 2015-16, the number has increased to 22 in the current financial year 2016-2017, with a few more selections underway. Similarly, the number of Lebanese defense officials receiving training under ITEC has increased from 10 to 14 in the same periods.
Active people-to-people contacts and admiration for each other’s arts and culture has traditionally formed the bedrock of India-Lebanon relations. This is well demonstrated by the increasing number of cultural troupes performing at major festivals in Lebanon; Indian Food festivals, and the highly popular classical and Bollywood dance classes conducted by Embassy of India at its premises in Hamra thrice a week. A group of students attending these classes would be performing at this celebration in a short while.
India deeply appreciates Lebanon’s support, as a co-sponsor to its Resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, adopted unanimously with a record 177 co-sponsors, declaring 21 June as the International Day of Yoga (IDY), and for various activities to celebrate the IDY in Lebanon in the last two years.
Ensuring the well being and welfare of Indian nationals in Lebanon is among the highest priorities for Embassy of India. We have a regular, active and inclusive outreach to the Indian community. In particular, we have an extremely important responsibility towards the Indian workers who are contributing to the development of their host country with the sweat of their brows. We remain in close contact with the authorities concerned in Lebanon regarding the well being of our workers and other Indian nationals, and appreciate their cooperation and support.
As we celebrate the 68th Republic Day, I warmly congratulate the Indian community in Lebanon for all that they do for the development and progress of their host country, and for further strengthening the bonds of friendship and cooperation between India and Lebanon.