Speech by His Majesty the King at the state banquet on the occasion of the state visit by Shri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India
Mr President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
We are honoured by your visit to the Netherlands.
I would like to begin by asking you all to stand for a minute’s silence to reflect on all the victims of the war in Ukraine.
At a time when a terrible nightmare is unfolding nearby, it’s crucial that we stay in close contact with our partners around the world. India is a key partner for the Netherlands. And dialogue with India is of great value, especially at a time like this.
This is a special year for your country. Seventy-five years ago, India gained its independence. The international community welcomed a new, self-assured country full of amazing potential and talented people.
Mr President, you have experienced the entire history of independent India at first hand. You are a symbol of India’s rise and of the opportunities that have come. Including for those sections of society that once suffered exclusion. In your long career you have actively contributed to these advances.
We feel privileged to celebrate the 75th anniversary of independence with you, and we congratulate the people of India in all their diversity.
Two-and-a-half years ago, in October 2019, we were your guests. It’s hard to believe how much has changed since then. A few months after our last meeting the world was hit by a pandemic that has sorely tested us all. I know how severe the impact has been in India. And in the Netherlands, too, we have struggled with the terrible effects of this crisis.
I’m grateful that we were able to support each other actively in that difficult time. Once again, we have seen the great value of cooperation between India and Europe, in good times and bad.
That’s certainly still true today. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a free and democratic nation, has threatened peace in Europe, security in the wider world and the future of the rules-based international order. It’s essential that we, as free countries, stand together at this time when the international legal order is at stake.
Mr President, in August 1947 the Netherlands was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with independent India. Our ambassador was present in the Indian parliament when Nehru proclaimed independence.
We are proud that our friendship has only deepened in the past 75 years. And we are grateful that, over the years, we’ve been able to welcome so many Indians to our country, as students, researchers, IT specialists and entrepreneurs. A number of them are here with us this evening.
Every year, the population of India increases by more than the total population of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. One in six people on our planet is Indian. And our admiration for all you have achieved in your immense country is therefore all the greater.
The Queen, who supports the UN Secretary-General as Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, has told me about your impressive achievements in combating poverty. Hundreds of millions of people have gained access to financial services. An incredible leap forward.
As an economic power, India has a decisive role in global efforts to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The eyes of the world are on India, and they’re full of expectation. We look forward to your Presidency of the G20, which begins in December. The Netherlands is keen to help make it a success.
During our state visit to your country in 2019, my wife and I saw how much India and the Netherlands have in common.
Together, we are working to address the effects of climate change, which is damaging our living environment. The earth’s natural resources are under threat, and our economies are under pressure. Agriculture, in particular, is feeling the impact.
The Netherlands has the technology to ensure that, in times of drought, not a single drop of water is wasted. And we’re proud we can share it with you.
Obviously, it’s just as important that we tackle the cause of climate change, and transition together to renewable energy. That’s an area in which we can learn a lot from you. Over a third of the electricity in your vast country now comes from renewable sources. I’m confident that we can strengthen each other further. For example with offshore wind energy.
Mr President, your country’s cultural riches and diversity never fail to impress. That diversity deserves to be cherished and protected.
India is the land of Bollywood and brilliant scientists.
Of the Himalayas and high-tech.
Of Mahatma Gandhi and megacities.
Of the Ramayana the rule of law.
But above all, India is a land of incredible energy and neverending optimism.
In this year when India celebrates its independence, I wish the Indian people all the best for the future. I wish you a future of peace, freedom and prosperity. A future in which the voice of reason and tolerance continues to inspire people. A future in which India finds friendship and receives admiration all over the world. A future in which all countries, each respecting the other, uphold the agreements we’ve made.
Freedom, security and democracy cannot be taken for granted. But if we work together, we can defend these values that unite us.
May I now ask you to raise your glasses.
Mr President, Mrs Kovind,
To your good health and happiness. And to India.