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Madagascar-India relationship draws from a history of shared experiences: President at University of Antananarivo and Indian community reception

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 16, Mar 2018, 18:28 pm IST | UPDATED: 17, Mar 2018, 16:10 pm IST

Madagascar-India relationship draws from a history of shared experiences: President at University of Antananarivo and Indian community reception Antananarivo: President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the students, faculty and academic community of the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar on March 15 before concluding his state visit to Mauritius and Madagascar.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said the Madagascar-India relationship draws from a history of shared experiences. “The distance between Madagascar and India may seem wide, but in many senses we are neighbours,” the President said, “the waters of the Indian Ocean wash both our shores. The hopes and opportunities, concerns and challenges of this mighty ocean make us obvious partners. As per the International Seabed Authority, the undersea exploration zones of our countries are closest to each other.”

Our common goal of a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world, President Kovind said, has led to our countries supporting each other in bilateral and multilateral forums. Madagascar was a distinguished participant at the first summit of the recent International Solar Alliance in New Delhi. As an island nation, Madagascar understands better than most the risks of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable and particularly solar energy. As an ISA member state Madagascar will be accessing a solar grant pilot project to be commissioned by India’s National Institute of Solar Energy.

The President said that Madagascar and India are both young countries, with a determination and drive to change our destinies. Young people in our countries see the same dreams. We need to work together to make them realise those dreams. It is fitting that at the base of the Madagascar-India relationship is education cooperation. India offers higher-education scholarships to Malagasy students under various heads – including the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, the India Africa Forum Summit initiative, and the C.V. Raman Fellowship. So far 355 Malagasy boys and girls have availed these scholarships. We look forward to welcoming many, many more.

The President said that the youth of Madagascar are the future of this country. And along with the youth of India they will help build a better world for the 21st century. Malagasy people will always enjoy a warm welcome in India, whether they come as students or tourists or for business. India is teeming with opportunities but those opportunities are not for us alone. We would want to make our friends in Madagascar a part of those opportunities.

“Our primary shared resource,” the President said, “is of course, the ocean – a vast expanse of water that holds within it many riches, much hope and sometimes hidden challenges as well. We need to explore the sea and we need to help fishing communities here in Madagascar. In parallel, we need to ensure maritime security and guard against environmental degradation. Above all, we need to be prepared for humanitarian disasters and the unpredictable moods of the ocean. Malagasy and Indian Navies are close partners and Indian ships have made several friendly visits to Madagascar.”

Earlier this morning the President interacted with members of the India-Madagascar Business Forum and urged them to further trade and business opportunities. Following the delegation-level talks led by the Presidents of the two countries on Wednesday (March 14, 2018), India offered Madagascar a USD 80.7 million LoC for agriculture and mechanisation.

On Wednesday evening, the President also attended an Indian community reception in Antananarivo. Addressing the Indian community, the heritage of which dates back over two centuries, the President said that as we embark on a new journey in Madagascar, the Indian community has an important role to play in enhancing and building our ties with the Malagasy people. Both India and Madagascar have gone through similar political and socio-economic trajectories and we have much to share and learn from each other.

The President said that India is proud of its diaspora and their achievements. They are true ambassadors of India as they nurture and maintain their Indian-ness among the traditions of their adopted home. The Government of India has taken several initiatives for engaging the diaspora around the world. He called upon members of the Indian community to plug into the changes happening in India. He stated that these would help create new opportunities not just for them but also for India-Madagascar relations.

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT RAM NATH KOVIND AT THE COMMUNITY RECEPTION, ANTANANARIVO

14 March 2018

Thank you for your warm and special welcome. I am extremely delighted to meet you. I am accompanied by a delegation comprising Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Shri Ashwini Choubey and four Members of Parliament.

2. I consider it a special honour to be the first Indian President to visit this ancient country. I had meaningful talks with President Hery this afternoon. We both expressed deep commitment to impart new vigour and energy to India-Madagascar relations. I am hopeful that my visit will mark a new chapter in our warm and friendly ties with Madagascar.

Friends,
3. As we embark on a new journey in Madagascar, you as members of the Indian community have an important role to play in enhancing and building our ties with the Malagasy people. Both India and Madagascar have gone through similar political and socio-economic trajectories and we have much to share and learn from each other.
4.    India has age-old maritime and cultural links with Madagascar. But the real impulse for our togetherness with this beautiful and diverse country came, when your ancestors arrived here in the 18th century and thereafter. They came as traders and merchants, as entrepreneurs and pioneers, from Gujarat, Punjab and other parts of India.  They carried to this promising land Indian business acumen, hard work and most importantly, the will to succeed. I must say you have dutifully preserved and continue to display those basic values in your work and in your social obligations.  

Friends,
5. In this gathering, we have many proud descendants of those early migrants who braved the odds and made this country their home. Their success reminds me of a famous Malagasy proverb and I quote – “People are like plants in the wind, they bow down and rise up again”. – Unquote.  We also have among you young professionals and entrepreneurs from India, who today have become the drivers of technology and change the world over.

Friends,
6. On the strong foundation of your Indian values and family structure, you have prospered and done very well for yourself. And in the process you have created jobs and new opportunities for your host society. You have indeed lent a helping hand in nation building in this country. I am happy that many of you have followed the motto “Live Not for Self Alone”. I commend the philanthropic activities undertaken by members of the Indian community to help the needy and poor. These create not just goodwill for yourself but also for the land of your fore-fathers.  Needless to say, we take much pride in your success and in your kindness.

7. I am delighted that living far-away from your motherland, you have kept your tradition and culture alive.  And not just that, you have also splashed your colours and shared your delights with your Malagasy friends.

Friends,
8. India is proud of its Diaspora and their achievements.  You are true Ambassadors of India as you nurture and maintain your Indianness among the traditions of your adopted home. I am told that you do visit India for cultural and emotional reasons. But you need to connect with us much more than before; as tourists, as traders or just simply to connect with your roots.  

9. Our government has taken several initiatives for engaging the   Diaspora around the world. The objective behind these is to help you stay connected with India and be part of its growth story.  We are the fastest growing major economy in the world today. You must plug into the changes happening in India. These would help create new values not just for yourself but also for India-Madagascar relations. There is huge potential for investment and trade between the two countries, where I am sure, you would want to play a role.

10. It is also important that your children and the young ones connect with the youth in India. In the digital age, new cross-cultural and cross-continent networks are being created. Ideas, innovation and start-ups are the new drivers of change. Our Government runs a special programme – the Know India Programme- to bring our diaspora youths together and expose them to India. You must take advantage of it.  You should similarly connect with diaspora networks in India and in other parts of the world.  We have created a new facility- the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra-  in New Delhi as a one stop resource center for our diaspora. You should collaborate with them. It is your home in India and you need to take lead to build and strengthen it.

11. I am told we have almost 18,000 strong Indian community in Madagascar. Yet, not many have taken advantage of our OCI scheme. I encourage you to come forward and seek its benefits.
Friends,

12. We have among us a number of young Malagasy friends who have benefited from our training and scholarship. I learn that the ITEC Friendship Society in Antananarivo is very active in philanthropic activities and in spreading awareness about India in Madagascar. I extend my warm felicitations for their laudable efforts.

13.  We are committed to provide more capacity building assistance and to develop new skills in this country.  As members of the Indian Diaspora, you should also energize the youth here and help them find their hidden potential.
 
14. Friends, as we make a new beginning in our ties with Madagascar, I urge each one of you to play an active role in it.  Let us join hands together. 
 
15. With these words, I thank you for being here. I extend my best wishes to each one of you for your health, progress and many proud achievements.  
Thank You.

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT RAM NATH KOVIND AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ANTANANARIVO

Madagascar, March 15, 2018

1.    Good morning to all of you. I am honoured to be here among the students, faculty and academic community of the University of Antananarivo, which I am told is the leading institution of higher learning in Madagascar. This is my first visit to Madagascar. Indeed, I am privileged to be the first President of India to visit this beautiful country.

2.    The distance between Madagascar and India may seem wide – but in many senses we are neighbours. The waters of the Indian Ocean wash both our shores. The hopes and opportunities, concerns and challenges of this mighty ocean make us obvious partners. As per the International Seabed Authority, the undersea exploration zones of our countries are closest to each other.

3.    Aside from geography, geology also connects us. Over 100 million years ago India and Madagascar were part of the same super-continent of Gondwana. As the continental drift occurred, the super-continent broke up and gradually, over thousands of years, Madagascar and India moved in separate directions. Yet, somewhere deep in our ancient rocks and soils, we are still cousins. We are both children of Gondwana.

4.    In the 18th century the first Indian migrants reached Madagascar. They received a generous welcome in this warm and hospitable land that – much like India I should add – is proud of its multiethnic character and pluralism. Today, the Madagascar-India relationship draws from a history of shared experiences. Our common goal of a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world has led to our countries supporting each other in bilateral and multilateral forums. Only this past weekend, on March 10 and 11, Madagascar was a distinguished participant at the first summit of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi. We are deeply appreciative of Madagascar’s entry into the ISA. This is an international organisation based in India but with stakeholders across the world, especially here in Madagascar.

5.    As an island nation, you understand better than most the risks of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable and particularly solar energy. As an ISA member state Madagascar will be accessing a solar grant pilot project to be commissioned by India’s National Institute of Solar Energy.

Ladies and Gentlemen
6.    Madagascar and India are both young countries, with a determination and drive to change our destinies. One of the reasons I am here at this university is because I was very keen to interact with the youth of Madagascar – a country where 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 25. India’s demographic profile is very similar – 65 per cent of our people are under the age of 35. Young people in both our countries see the same dreams. We need to work together to make them – to make all of you – realise those dreams. We need to work together for India to help Madagascar in its developmental process – as per your country’s priorities.

7.    It is fitting that at the base of the Madagascar-India relationship is education cooperation. India offers higher-education scholarships to Malagasy students under various heads – including the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, the India Africa Forum Summit initiative, and the C.V. Raman Fellowship, named after the first Indian scientist to win a Nobel Prize. So far 355 Malagasy boys and girls have availed these scholarships. We look forward to welcoming many, many more.

8.    The youth of Madagascar are the future of this country. And along with the youth of India they will help build a better world for the 21st century. I would like to emphasise that you will always enjoy a warm welcome in India, whether you come as students or tourists or for business. India is teeming with opportunities but those opportunities are not for us alone. We would want to make you a part of those opportunities.

9.    I am glad to note that hundreds of students from here have used the Pan-African e-Network Project, which started in 2010.The Government of India is in the process of upgrading this network so that more and more students, in Madagascar and across Africa, can benefit from online courses.
   
10.    As important as education is public health. Here too Madagascar will continue to find India a willing partner. An increasing number of health professionals from Madagascar are participating in capacity-building programmes being offered by Indian medical institutions. Tele-medicine facilities are also being offered in collaboration with the Institute Médicale de Madagascar. Since 2010, top hospitals in India have been using this mechanism to provide free diagnosis to patients in Madagascar.

11.    Both Madagascar and India are farming societies, with vast, fertile fields and hard-working farmers. It stands to reason that research in agriculture and the desire to help our farmers enhance productivity and incomes will bring us together. During my visit here, it has been my privilege to inaugurate the Centre for Geo-informatics Applications in Rural Development. This Centre is a tribute to our bilateral ties and will allow communities in Madagascar to use geospatial technologies for a host of applications in rural development.

12.    Only a few weeks ago, in February 2018, the meeting of our Joint Agriculture Working Group was held in Antananarivo. Soil testing laboratories built with Indian support are helping farmers in Madagascar understand the needs and properties of their soil, and the specific nutrients that are required.

13.    India is also helping construct a fertiliser plant in Madagascar that I am confident will be up and running soon. Related cooperation projects will serve to improve irrigation and enhance rice productivity and food safety, among other endeavours. There is much more we can do together. From fighting soil erosion to helping farmers move into food processing, there is a whole range of experiences that we in India would love to share.

14.    Both Madagascar and India are endowed with precious natural and mineral resources. It is important that these are managed and developed in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner that brings jobs, benefits and prosperity to the local community. Here too India would be happy to support Madagascar’s efforts.

15.    Our primary shared resource is, of course, the ocean – a vast expanse of water that holds within it many riches, much hope and sometimes hidden challenges as well. We need to explore the sea and we need to help fishing communities here in Madagascar. In parallel, we need to ensure maritime security and guard against environmental degradation. Above all, we need to be prepared for humanitarian disasters and the unpredictable moods of the ocean. Malagasy and Indian Navies are close partners and Indian ships have made several friendly visits to Madagascar. I would particularly like to recall the visit of our ship INS Trikand in 2016. During its short stay, I am glad that the ship and its crew were able to support the relief efforts following a bush fire disaster in the Diana region – and to that extent help the people of Madagascar.

Friends
16.    With this event, I am concluding my visit to Madagascar and returning home to India. I am leaving with happy memories and warm emotions of the hospitality and affection I have received. This has convinced me even more that Madagascar and India can do, must do and will do much together. Your beautiful country, a land of such spectacular and unique flora and fauna, has enormous tourism potential. The Indian tourism industry can support in harnessing this potential. And outbound Indian tourists, now a significant slice of global travellers, are no doubt looking forward to visiting your wonderful country in larger numbers.

17.    I go back with the hope that my journey will herald many more journeys between our countries and our people. I go back with the fragrance of Madagascar’s vanilla and the aroma of your coffee. I go back with the belief that the baobab tree and the neem tree will together give us the comfort of their shade. And I go back secure in the knowledge that Madagascar and India are friends forever.

18.    As I leave, I cannot forget to convey my best wishes to all the young people in this university. I wish you all success as you complete your education and strive to realise your dreams. India will do whatever it takes to help you realise those dreams. And as I said earlier, all of you are always welcome to India.  

Thank you. And God bless you all.
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