Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the dinner on the occasion of the state visit by President of India Pranab Mukherjee, October 15th, 2014

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It is a great pleasure for me and my spouse to welcome you to the state visit in Finland. We are delighted to have you here. Despite the cold and gloomy weather we hope that you and your daughter will enjoy this visit. I hope that we can show you the same kind of hospitality for which India has always been known.

Traditionally, the relations of our two countries have been the opposite of today’s weather, warm and friendly. During the last ten years this relation has grown from a casual to a more serious one. Today, more than 5000 Indians live and work here in Finland, as valuable members of our society. They range from restaurant owners to university scholars and ICT-experts.

At the same time India has become one of the most interesting destinations for both Finnish companies and tourists. Finns can today be spotted on the busy business streets of Mumbai or from the exotic beaches of Goa, maybe escaping just these cold autumn nights like this.

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As we all know India is the world’s largest democracy, a country with incredible cultural heritage and a huge economic potential. Today’s India is a great power undergoing a phase of intense development. This development, while not without challenges, will shape the whole Eurasian continent and rest of the world. But remarkably enough, India has managed to do this exceptionally peacefully.

This Indian heritage, the mixture of non-violence and great power status has played an increasingly important role also in international forums, especially in the United Nations. You have carried out your responsibilities and taken part in international peace-keeping activities. You are rightfully demanding the Security Council reform and seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. I would like to reaffirm our support for India’s permanent seat in the Security Council. 

On a more individual level, a great example of this Indian heritage can be found in the work of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, a recent Nobel Prize winner. Mr. Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, acted to protect the rights of 80,000 children. His courageous work is an inspiration for us all. Proving in the words of Mahatma Gandhi how “in the gentle way, you can shake the world”. Seldom before has the prize gone to a more suitable candidates than Mr. Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, I might add.

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From Mr. Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai I would like to continue with one of my favorite subjects, namely education. In Finland, investment in education and equal opportunities for all, has paved the way to a knowledge-based society. This is the main reason behind the Finnish success story.

This is also the aim for India as you have ranked education as one of your priorities.  Our flexible secondary level education model and vocational education has already attracted attention worldwide. We would be more than happy to deepen our cooperation on these fields. Education is still the most effective tool against poverty and social injustice.

During the past decade the emphasis of our bilateral relations has been on promotion of commercial and economic cooperation. Already 120 Finnish companies have established operations in India and 24 Indian companies in Finland. Trade between our countries has grown at a steady pace but still remains modest in the light of the potential volumes.

I would like to encourage the Indian companies doing business and increasing their investments in Finland. I hope that during your visit, Mr. President you have opportunity to get a closer look of these possibilities. I wish you productive meetings with our experts and my best regards to Santa Claus.

Let us raise a toast to honor the president and his delegation – to the warm, friendly and all the time strengthening relations between our two countries!