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Speech by High Commissioner Shri Sunjay Sudhir at the .....
Home      >  Speech by High Commissioner Shri Sunjay Sudhir at the Independence Day reception - 15 August, 2021

Speech by High Commissioner Shri Sunjay Sudhir at the Independence Day reception - 15 August, 2021

Independence Day Reception Speech

by High Commissioner Shri Sunjay Sudhir – August 15, 2021

 

 

Vice President H.E. Faisal Naseem,
Chief Justice Hon’ble Uz. Ahmed Muthasim Adnan,
Hon’ble Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament
My Diplomatic Colleagues,
Captains of Business and Industry,
Representatives of Media, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

Let me first of all, thank you all for joining us for this commemoration which means so much to India. We are indeed honoured to see such eminent participation – of friends with whom we work so closely together. We are moved by the greetings tweeted this morning by President Solih, VP, Speaker (President) Nasheed, FM Shahid, other Ministers, former Ministers and friends and well-wishers of India. It is a heart-warming moment indeed!

2.      75 years ago, on this date, at the stroke of midnight, India became a free nation.  India gained independence from the yoke of colonialism, unshackled itself and started its journey as an independent and democratic country. In a historic speech to Parliament that midnight, our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru said, "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now comes the time when we shall redeem our pledge … At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and freedom.”  There is no better way to commemorate such a special event than in the company of friends and well-wishers in the Maldives. Having celebrated your own Independence Day just a few weeks back on 26 July, you understand the significance of independence, as well as Independence Day celebrations so well.  Independence is an achievement, and a value we both cherish.

3.      India’s struggle for independence was a long and arduous one – it was the culmination of efforts of the country as a whole – when Indians belonging to all religions, socio-economic classes and all walks of life came together in their relentless struggle to free their country.  The struggle was based on the principles of truth and non-violence. While Mahatma Gandhi, known as the Father of the Nation, led the independence struggle, there were other doyens whose contribution was no less.  To name just a few:

Jawaharlal Nehru who became the first Prime Minister of India.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the spiritual and cultural leader of the independence struggle – who later won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He also wrote the National Anthems of India and Bangladesh.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar who chaired the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution – a Constitution which has stood test of time in a country as socially, economically and culturally diverse as India. 

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad who later became our first Education Minister.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who became our first Home Minister and is widely credited with national integration in a nascent nation and fledgling democracy

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who was one of the biggest inspirations for our freedom struggle.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who founded the Aligarh Muslim University in 1885 (Islamic Univ of  Maldives will soon be signing an MoU with AMU)

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan - also known as Frontier Gandhi - who relentlessly worked for independence in NWFP. 

There were also revolutionary leaders like Sardar Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and others whose contribution was no less. While the freedom struggle was led by these eminent people, and many more, it drew equal contribution from each and every Indian who strived for a free nation.

4.      Thanks to our Independence, painstaking work of successive governments, and contribution of all Indians, we are today a strong democracy, robust economy, and a technological powerhouse. I am happy to share with friend here that this year India will launch the Gaganyaan mission making India only the fourth nation on the planet to carry out a manned space mission. India is proud of not only adhering to the Paris climate agreement but doing more than what the country has committed to protect against climate change. As the pharmacy of the world, India has done yeoman service by providing Covid vaccines to the world as you all know.

5.      For much of these 75 years – actually for 55 years – India and Maldives have enjoyed close diplomatic relations which have acquired the depth and expanse of the ocean - which connects us, and nourishes our culture and civilisation.  Being Independent, being a Republic, and a democracy, are some of the values and ideals we share between us.  However, what binds us goes beyond these political ideals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing Majlis in June 2019 spoke about the unique natural closeness of our countries. PM Modi also said that India and Maldives are like two flowers in the same garden. What can be said about relations between India and Maldives can perhaps rarely be said about other countries - since our two countries are unique neighbours – connected historically, geographically, geologically and culturally. What also binds us is the similarity of our values and the cultural affinity we share. However, the underlying feature of our relationship is mutual respect, mutual trust and friendship. 

6.      Our relations are guided by the vision of our leaders - President Solih and Prime Minister Modi. The seeds of this vision were planted during Nov-Dec 2018 in the presence of many of you present tonight. I take this occasion to thank you all for your contribution in strengthening different aspects of bilateral relations and taking them to new heights.  Coming together of “India-First” foreign policy of the Maldives and the “Neighbourhood First” foreign policy of India has scripted the current glorious chapter in our relations – further strengthened by trust and mutual respect.

7.      Much of what we see around us today in the form of projects and capacity building, is the concrete developmental outcome of the vision of our leaders.  An unprecedented economic package of US$ 1.4 bn and capacity building commitments were announced in 2018. The beauty of our relationship is that the upturn in our engagement neither started nor ended in 2018, but has matched the growing bilateral aspirations on both sides as well as coping with emergent challenges like COVID-19 pandemic.

8.      The strength of our relationship is that it can adapt itself to deal with unexpected crises from time to time. You all know, therefore, I do not need to go into events of 1988, 2004 and 2014 as examples of India proving to be the first responder, but more importantly, a spontaneous responder, across a variety of challenges and political dispensations in India and the Maldives. India, not only has the capacity, but also the willingness to assist. The uniqueness about India-Maldives relations is that we feel for each other, and we work for each other.

9.      As you have all seen, we have worked together in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic - from Wuhan evacuation - to vaccines - to essential supplies. Once again, it is not just the assistance, but it is the spontaneity, as well as prompt and effective delivery which is there for all to see.  In dealing with Covid, there have been so many firsts – Maldives being the first country to receive vaccine, first country to receive medical team, first country whose nationals were evacuated from Wuhan, first country to have an air bubble among India’s South Asian neighbours etc. We also worked at community level in the Maldives by organizing blood donation camps and translation of HPA Covid pamphlets into Bangla and other languages so as to bolster efforts of GoM in combatting COVID.  Since this is a relationship between people, societies and cultures, India is perhaps the only country which never closed its doors to its Maldivian friends and responded whole-heartedly to humanitarian needs such as medical and educational travel. I am happy to share that since July last year over 10,000 Maldivians have travelled to India for medical treatment. For sure, when all doors are shut, at least one door will always remain open.

10.    Economic engagement too has grown in the last few years. The most visible is Indian tourists flocking to the Maldives – to enjoy ‘the Sunny side of Life’. At last count, there were over 60 weekly flights connecting 2 Maldivian cities with 5 Indian cities. We look forward to Villa Airlines connecting Mamigillli with Bangalore in the next few weeks. There can’t be a better economic stimulus to Maldivian economy and there can’t be a better place for Indians to visit than the Maldives – a win-win for both sides. The appreciating Ruffiya these days is a clear barometer of forex inflow. We are clear that while governments can take measures to strengthen bilateral relations, they have to be nourished by people and the business community. I urge the Maldivian business community to partake of emerging opportunities. When a market, and manufacturing base, of 1.3 bn people, is right next door, now is the time. At the High Commission, we are ever ready to support you.

11.    We will show you all a short video on some bilateral projects in the last two-and-a-half years. Finance Ministry website mentions a list of about 45 ongoing projects across the length of the country. We cannot cover all, but will certainly cover some. The significance of these projects goes beyond brick and mortar, and the final physical infrastructure created. The biggest spin-off is local capacity building. All the 30 community grant projects are implemented by Local Councils and line ministries. There is no restriction on procurement of goods or services from India. For the larger scale Line of Credit projects, exceptions have been made in terms of sourcing requirements. Engaging Indian companies for implementation, as well as preparing DPR, has often been waived, as requested by GoM. The transformational outcome is that once these projects are completed, the Govt and people of Maldives, would have further strengthened their professional capabilities to execute small to large infrastructural projects by themselves. India and Maldives are therefore, development partners, and partners in progress, in the true sense.

12.    75 years ago, when India become independent, it was an impoverished nation. With indomitable will of the people, and vision of the government, India is today the 6th largest economy in the world. This developmental experience is what we are today sharing with friends like the Maldives. As you have all seen, India’s development partnership, is demand driven. It is therefore aligned with priorities of the Maldives.  If the priority is decentralisation, we have been able to contribute with geographical dispersal of high impact community development projects as well as a ferry service connecting both Malé and Kulhudhuffushi to India.  If the priority is blue economy, we have been working together on island fisheries plants and MIFCO expansion as well as hydrography. If the priority is sports, as you have seen, there are several high impact community projects in sports, including Ekuveni running track in Malé, open air gyms and children’s parks in over 60 islands, cricket stadium in Hulhumalé, training of cricket teams, umpires and ground staff.  If the priority is health, COVID assistance is something which all of you have seen. India is also working on a Cancer Hospital for which we expect a team to visit very soon.  

13.    Maldives, with 1% land and 99% water, is a large maritime country. India and the Maldives have supported each other in enhancing not only our mutual security but also security of the region. If our region is not safe, we all are also not safe.  With the close cooperation with MNDF, as well as Maldives Police Service, we have tried to contribute in promoting security at the level of our people, our countries and our region.  Only last week, a meeting of Deputy National Security Advisors took place which identified four clear pillars of trilateral work between the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka – These are - 1. Indian ocean marine security, 2. Radicialization, 3. Terrorism and organized crime and 4. Cyber security. India is privileged to support MNDF with its largest training facility at Mafilafushi under Indian grant, as well as the largest training facility for MPS at Addu expected to be completed in the next few weeks. The two Helicopters and Dornier, provided by GoI to the Air Wing of MNDF have significantly enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness from the security perspective and countering drug trafficking and illegal fishing from the socio-economic perspective. Medical evacuations, over 250 of them, have also helped save lives. We are currently working on constructing another asset for GoM - the MNDF harbour at UTF under an Indian grant, which will support and strengthen the operational capabilities of MNDF ships and their maintenance. 

14.    It has also been our effort to support Maldives become a stronger partner in the comity of nations and to get wider recognition and increased say in world affairs.  We are glad that Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth, joined Indian Ocean Region Association and has become a founder member of ISA and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. We are happy to see the election of Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid as President of the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations - a historic achievement for the Maldives. It will pitch the Maldives at the highest pedestal of multilateralism. I will be remiss if I do not mention that India heartily appreciates the support given by the Maldives to India in different international fora.

15.    Maldives has provided so much support and learning to India. I wish to thank the Maldives for supporting India to start sea-plane service by providing us expertise and a sea plane to launch our first sea-plane operation.  PM Modi was proud to be the first passenger on the flight. We also have a lot of lessons to learn from tourism development in the Maldives. For us it is an aspiration to have Maldives like resorts in Lakshdweep and the Andamans. I am hopeful that this will lead us to another mutually beneficial partnership.

16.    With so much said, I once again wish to thank each one of you for your help and support in our mutual endeavours. We will continue seeking your support in the future.

I thank you!

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