Your Excellency President Hamid Karzai, it is a privilege and a rare pleasure to extend to Your Excellency and the high Afghan dignitaries accompanying Your Excellency, a most cordial and warm welcome. Mr President, you have done us a great honour by so graciously accepting our invitation to deliver the Observer Research Foundation’s third RK Mishra Memorial Lecture. Sir, India holds your country and you personally in high respect and deep affection. For us in Observer Research Foundation, this occasion will remain a glowing memory for decades to come.
Your Excellency Mr. Minister, we are delighted to welcome you. My colleagues in the Foundation and our Trustees and Associates are obliged to you Sir for agreeing to adorn the Chair on this occasion of signal importance.
Respected Ministers, honourable Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, I extend to each one of you ORF’s Dussehra greetings and a most cordial welcome. Mrs. Renuka Mishra’s presence among us lends poignancy to the occasion as we recall the memory of Rishi Kumar Mishra, Observer Research Foundation’s Founding Chairman. His vision of ORF as a world class, independent, public policy think tank continues to be our abiding inspiration. Mishraji was a multi-dimensional man, a journalist in constant search for the truth, a respected editor, a Parliamentarian of note, an eclectic thinker and author of distinction and a loyal friend. The last decade and half of his life was dedicated to ORF, its growth and its future success.
Mr. President, our research work covers several geographic areas of the world and global developments on issues of economy, energy, international relations and security. But our central focus is on our neighbours in Asia, and in particular on the stability, peace and progress of member countries of SAARC. That is why the first eight memorial lectures are scheduled to be delivered by leaders and statesmen of South Asian countries. In South Asia, Mr President, your beautiful country and its heroic people engage our maximum attention and interest not only because of the trials and tribulations they have suffered in recent decades but also and especially because Indo-Afghan bonds go back to the dawn of human history. India therefore is bound in friendship to offer all cooperation and help to Afghanistan that Afghanistan may ask of it in times of need.
One unchanging lesson from ORF’s study of Afghanistan’s history is that no foreign invader or intruder ever has succeeded in imposing its will on the valiant and freedom loving Afghan people. Afghanistan’s unity and peace, its independence and integrity, are indispensable to the stability, peace and progress of the vast regions of Central Asia, South Asia and the Persian Gulf. Therefore, Afghanistan deserves the world’s respect for its great past, sympathetic understanding of and solicitude for its present predicaments and the world’s cooperation for its even greater future. The SAARC dream, Your Excellency, will achieve fulfilment only if each country of the region fully and faithfully respects the independence and integrity of every other member country.
Mr. President, your visit to Delhi takes place at a festive and auspicious time in the Indian calendar which marks the victory of right over wrong, of good over evil. On Your Excellency’s journey back to Kabul later today our prayers and good wishes will accompany you Sir for a new beginning of an era of peace for your people. Mr. President, we wish you all success in your endeavours to safeguard the unity and peace, independence and integrity of your great nation. May I now request you Sir to kindly address us.