Excellency Mr Mulay, High Commissioner of India to the Maldives, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Sawad, the Chairman of the State Bank of India, Mr Jasuja, the Excellency the High Commissioner from Bangladesh, distinguished colleagues and ladies and gentlemen.

Assalam Alaikum and Namashkar.

First of all, congratulations for preparing such a wonderful set of activities to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of India’s independence.

I know that it takes a lot of effort to put together an event like this. Therefore, my congratulations to Excellency the High Commissioner and the staff of the High Commission, the Chairman and the members of the India Club in the Maldives, also all the families who are here, Indian families, and the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, for organizing this colourful event.

I am very honored that that you have invited me to officiate this function to inaugurate the India Friendship Week. It is very appropriate that we hold a week-long set of activities to celebrate the friendship between India and the Maldives.

I believe our friendship has never been stronger. Since the time of Maldives’ independence in 1965, the Maldives established diplomatic relations with India. Its one of our longest and strongest relationships with our neighbours. Our friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration - respect for the values the Indian democracy upholds, and admiration for rich culture and history of India.

Our friendship and our bounds of friendship extend to different areas. As I mentioned, politically we are one of the strongest allies, economically we have strengthened our relationship over the years, and culturally, of course, our cultures are integrated.

Let me just briefly look at each of these areas.

India, being the biggest democracy and, I believe, one of the most stable in the world, has many lessons to follow the new democracy in the Maldives. Today, as we celebrate India’s independence and India’s democracy, less than a year after the political transformations in the Maldives, it is only appropriate that we reflect on this relationship.

We have many lessons to learn from India. Yes, Indian democracy have demonstrated to the world the merits of participatory governance, it has demonstrated tolerance and political pluralism. The numerous political organizations in India have worked together and maintained stability in India since its independence. It has also successfully prevented a reversal of its democracy, unlike many other countries in the region.

Also, I believe the greatest benefit of democracy is what it has bestowed on its people. Democracy is about rights, about human rights and as the re-known Nobel Prize Winner Amartya Sen said rights is about development, about bringing the benefits of development to the people. Over the last 62 years, India has made steady progress in bringing the fruits of development to its people. It has been an example to the rest of the world in protecting its minorities and disadvantaged people.

Today, India is a superpower, economically. Its wealth is benefiting its people across the country. India’s economic development has taken off and, today, we are glad to see that India is clearly one of the rising superpowers, not only in Asia, but throughout the world. Almost in every field India is making great progress, great discoveries and innovation. Therefore, there is no other country in the world that could assist other developing countries more than India.

I believe we have a unique opportunity to co-operate with India, and that India offers more opportunities to other developing countries than Europe and America.

My colleague, Excellency the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture has spoken about cultural issues. Those of you who have lived in the Maldives already know that we share with you a lot of cultural values. I wouldn’t be mistaken if I tell you that the Maldivians loved Indian culture, its music, its poetry, its arts, its performing arts, its films. Therefore, I am looking forward no the next couple of hours also the next couple of days when we will be enjoying cultural activities of India.

Once again, on the occasion of the Independence and the eve of your Independence Day, it is my honour to extend our greetings to the President, to the Prime Minister, and the government and also to the people of India, our heartfelt greetings on this special occasion.

Thank you.