Address by H.M. the Queen of The Netherlands

New Delhi, India, 24 October 2007

on the occasion of the State Visit to India, 24 - 27 October 2007.

Madam President,

First, let me offer you my sincere congratulations on your election as President, and wish you strength and wisdom in fulfilling the important duties associated with this high office. I should also like to thank you for the invitation to visit your country and to be your guest here tonight with my son Prince Willem-Alexander and my daughter-in-law Princess Máxima.

My family and I have visited your country several times, and we have already had an opportunity to get to know and appreciate the rich diversity of India's population and cultures. Moreover, in nineteen eighty-six my husband and I paid the first Dutch State visit to your country and two years later President Venkataraman visited the Netherlands. This second State visit is therefore rather exceptional. It is marked by the great changes which have taken place over the last twenty years, both within India and with regard to its position in the world.

In recent years, India has assumed the place in world politics and the world economy to which it is entitled because of its size and the talents of its people. The enormous potential of your population, in terms of capacity for hard work and intellectual gifts, had of course long been well known, but it has developed to the full over the last few years. That has led to unprecedented economic expansion which has had an impact all over the world, in the Netherlands as elsewhere. This has further increased the opportunities for cooperation between the Indian and Dutch business communities. Our country's interest in such cooperation is reflected in the economic mission that is visiting India at this very moment.

India's remarkable economic growth has gone hand in hand with the preservation of the democratic institutions and forms of government that have characterised your country since its foundation. At the same time the government does not turn away from the very serious problems that still afflict large parts of the sub-continent. During this State visit we hope to be able to see for ourselves the ways in which your government is tackling this wide-ranging challenge.

Another theme we would like to focus on is water, an issue long familiar to our country, which is said to owe its existence to the struggle against the waters. Your country is also well aware of the problems of water management. Here, too, there is a tradition of digging canals and constructing irrigation works and reservoirs that goes back many centuries.

The management of water is of vital importance to every country, particularly when, as in India, periods of drought and water shortage alternate with times of torrential rainfall and severe flooding. Tackling water problems plays a key role in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which both our countries have endorsed. This issue has acquired a new dimension through increasing international concern about environmental degradation and climate change. Such serious problems can only be addressed through a joint approach and on a global scale. The strategic partnership between India and the European Union that was concluded in the Netherlands in two thousand and four could be valuable here. For this partnership encourages cooperation in a variety of fields, including policy on sustainable development and climate change.

In his speech on the sixtieth anniversary of India's independence, your Prime Minister recalled that one of the ideals of the founding fathers was to ensure "equality of all and empowerment of the weak and the marginalised". The government plays an important role in this endeavour by creating favourable conditions for small-scale enterprise and providing a social safety net. However, there is also a task here for the private sector. Microfinance is one of the instruments with which that sector can make a contribution to inclusive growth. In this area particularly, India has a rich, distinctive tradition of self-reliance, based on the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of your people.

The seminar on "Inclusion through Water and Finance" that is being held here during our visit will focus on the connection between the two themes of water and microfinance.

Madam President,

Your nation emerged from resistance to colonial rule, but it was resistance of a very special kind. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, called for non-violence and tolerance. This urgent call can be considered equally valid for the world of today, which is still ravaged by violence.

India's founders adhered to the principle of a world order based on non-violence, tolerance and equal rights. The significant role your country plays in the United Nations, which is reflected in your active participation in various peace missions, is in keeping with this tradition. For this the international community owes you much gratitude.

Madam President,

India and the Netherlands can hardly be compared. The differences are so much greater than the similarities. Nevertheless, despite the great distance that separates us, centuries ago people in our two countries met each other, worked productively together and learned about their respective cultures and ideas. This intellectual and cultural interest has continued through the ages and has been highlighted once again in a Memorandum of Understanding on our future cultural cooperation in many domains which has been signed today. An interesting element is the archives of the Dutch East India Company, which UNESCO has placed on the Memory of the World Register and which are important to the study of Indian history. It is gratifying to see that young Indian and Dutch historians have recently undertaken new joint projects in this field.

This, Madam President, is only one example of the close and fruitful cooperation that exists between our two countries and which will hopefully be further encouraged by this visit.

I should like to raise my glass and drink to your health, Madam President, to that of your husband and to a bright future for the Indian people.