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Statement by Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Kamal Nath, CHOGM 2005, Malta

November 25, 2005

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Mr. Lawrence Gonzi, Excellencies

It is a privilege for me to be here today. I am representing our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who would have very much liked to be here among you. He regrets that he could not be present personally for this very important Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. He sends his best wishes to all of you.

India attaches great importance to Commonwealth's fundamental political values of democracy, rule of law, good governance and fundamental freedoms. Some of these issues were discussed at the Commonwealth Asian Colloquium on Democracy and Development that was inaugurated by Dr. Manmohan Singh in New Delhi in August this year. As the Chair of the Expert Group that wrote this Report, he was looking forward to discussing these issues with you.

One of the developments, which the Commonwealth is, perhaps, in a most favourable position to profit from, is the capacities that have been created - in many cases globally significant capacities - among the developing countries of the commonwealth. South-South cooperation is much more than an expression of solidarity. It can be major asset to the Commonwealth and India is ready to play its role.

The special theme of this meeting – "Networking the Commonwealth for Development" is, therefore, very significant and timely. We believe that the so called digital divide can in fact be harnessed as a digital bridge to overcome the development divide. We have used computer, communications, space and other technologies towards this end in the rural areas. We are increasingly integrating ICT into our development plans and strategies for technological learning. India has developed considerable expertise in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). ICT is a powerful tool that can be used effectively to address the developmental challenges of providing access to education and health to our peoples and advancing economic activity.

The recently concluded World Summit on the Information Society underlines the importance of removing barriers to bridging the digital divide, particularly those that hinder the full achievement of the economic, social and cultural development of countries and the welfare of their people, in particular, in developing countries.

India would be happy to offer various technical services including supply of low cost/affordable equipment, systems and integrated solutions for applications like ICT infrastructure, e-governance, e-health (telemedicine), teIe-education to fellow Commonwealth developing countries in Africa, Asia, Pacific and the Caribbean. With the preponderance of small states, the contribution of the Commonwealth assumes even greater importance.

I would also like to infom'1 you that as part of our commitment to the Commonwealth, we would like to announce a special contribution of Euro 1 million to support the Commonwealth Action Plan on the Digital Divide.

India has recently initiated a Pan-African e-Network Project, which will link all the 53 countries in Africa with each other and with Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union. The seamless and integrated satellite, fiber optics and wireless network, to be provided by India, will connect 5 universities, 51 learning centers, 10 super-specialty hospitals and 53 patient-end locations in rural areas spread all over Africa and would put in place a network providing video conferencing facilities connecting all 53 Heads of Government in Africa. It is our hope that this landmark project will assist our friends in Africa in bridging the digital divide and meeting MDGs in education and healthcare with the help of Information Technology through tele-education, tele-medicine, e-commerce, e-governance, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological services. Enhanced rural connectivity will augment democratic access and empowerment.

We believe that India's contribution to the technical cooperation programmes in general must also be augmented and we have announced that our contribution will be increased to £ 1 million progressively by 2009-10.

India looks forward to hosting the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in 2007 and the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in New Delhi. We have commenced preparations for these big events. We consider it great honor that members of the Commonwealth Parliamel1tary Association have elected the Speaker of one of India's state legislatures the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the CPA. Given the importance India attaches to responsive and responsible governance, we are supportive of the efforts. to strengthen local government in the commonwealth countries.

I understand that we have quite a broad range of important issues that will come up for discussion today and over the next couple of days. I keenly look forward to a fruitful interaction with all of you especially on multilateral trade issues, where we presently stand at a critical juncture in the run up to the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Meeting and I would be glad to use this occasion to exchange views with you.

Thank you.


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