Speech by King Willem-Alexander at the state banquet during the state visit to India

Mr President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,


‘Eternal friendship, as long as the sun and moon are in the sky.’ That is what our forefathers wished each other in the very first treaty between our two countries, over four centuries ago. My wife and I are delighted to see that our friendship today is more vibrant than ever. Mr President, thank you for your kind words and your hospitality!

I inherited my love of India from my mother and father. They both had enormous affection for this country. And their fascination with your country is entirely understandable. India is overwhelming: a galaxy of peoples, cultures, languages and beliefs.

We are awed by the richness of your history, from the Indus Valley civilisation to the present day. India exceeds our comprehension. Whoever seeks to understand it, must abandon preconceived ideas and dare to be open to new experiences. And that is how we have come here today: with an open heart and an open mind.

As exceptional as India seems to us, it also feels familiar. This is a democratic country – in fact, it’s the world’s largest democracy. It’s impressive how you have succeeded in establishing a democracy governed by the rule of law in a country of 1.3 billion people.

India is proof that democracy and freedom are stronger and more durable than oppression. What you have built together in 70 years is extremely precious, a unique achievement.

Our wish is that, for future generations too, India will be a country where there is room for all Indians, whatever their belief, origin or position in society. A country in which everyone can make their voice heard, from the peaks of the Himalayas to the coastal plains of Kerala.

If 1.3 billion people can live as equals and develop their talents in freedom, India will be invincible. ‘No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.’ We were taught that by Mahatma Gandhi, the 150th anniversary of whose birth we celebrate this year. The reverse of his words is also true: an inclusive society is a vibrant society!

The last few decades have shown us what this great country is capable of. Millions of people have been able to climb out of poverty through resourcefulness and hard work. India is conquering the world with optimism and talent! Your country has built a reputation as a pioneer in IT and as a proving ground for innovations with a high social yield at low cost.

Indian entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists and students are making their mark all over the world, including in the Netherlands. They are distinguished by their drive and expertise, and they are more than welcome in our country.

‘All of us live on each other’s doorstep.’ These words were spoken by Prime Minister Nehru during his first official visit to the Netherlands in 1957, ten years before I was born.

The truth of his insight has only become more obvious.

In today’s world, we are more dependent on each other than ever. When it comes to safeguarding our safety and security, our health, our prosperity, our natural resources and the future of our children, we all depend on each other.

The Netherlands is delighted that India is joining with the European Union to defend a world order based on broad collaboration and international law. The multilateral system so crucial to us all cannot exist without your active support! As the world’s largest democracy you have a special role to play, and you carry great weight. The world looks to you with hope and expectation! The expectation that India will advance peace and stability extends to your relationships with all countries, near and far.

We welcome your support for the United Nations and your commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. Without you, these global ambitions would be out of reach. India and Europe share a sense of urgency and we’re working in concert. Take our joint efforts to sharply reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. We value our partnership with you within the International Solar Alliance and the Global Commission on Adaptation.

Mr President, when I look at the relationship between our two countries, I’m struck that we always seem to bring out the best in each other. Not just in science and innovation and in our international partnerships, but also in sport. You may recall that it was on Dutch soil that India first won Olympic gold. That was in 1928, in Amsterdam. The sport in question, of course, was hockey.

The silver medal went to the Dutch team, by the way. Over the past 90 years our national teams have been pretty well matched, and I hope that will long be the case.

Mr President, my wife and I look forward to the coming days and seeing even more of the potency and beauty of this amazing country. Five days is too short: India can fascinate for an entire lifetime. Please be assured that we will always feel a special bond with your country. A bond we will continue to cherish.

Thank you very much!

Bahut bahut dhanyavad!