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Speech by Hon’ble External Affairs Minister at the IBSA Editors Conference

September 05, 2007

Chairman of RIS, Dr. Arjun Sengupta,
Secretary Nalin Surie,
Distinguished Editors from Brazil, South Africa and India,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a matter of great satisfaction to be present at this Concluding Session of the Conference of IBSA Editors. I am glad that an idea that I recall was mooted even as finishing touches were being put to the Joint Communiqué of the IBSA Foreign Ministers during our meeting in July this year, has been brought to fruition so soon. The fact that we can get together so quickly to share our commonalities and discuss the challenges that we face underlines our natural affinity and the tremendous potential of the IBSA forum. I congratulate also the RIS and its Director General, Dr. Nagesh Kumar for the excellent support they have provided to the Ministry in the organization of this meeting.

Let me congratulate all the participants at this Conference for the thought-provoking ideas they have presented and the avenues for concerted action that they have identified. Of course, in discussing some of the issues that you have, dissent and debate are natural companions, but they only add to the richness of the deliberations. I have heard with interest and appreciation the able summing-up of the deliberations of this Conference. You have covered an impressive range of issues of current interest and significance to each of our three societies in the short space of one and-a-half days, and I think this exercise has greatly benefited all of us.

The media in India has been historically free, and dynamic. During the years of our freedom struggle, our national leaders had fought for and won the right to express their views and to openly debate in print the issues of the day. Indeed, many of our freedom fighters were themselves journalists, editors or proprietors of newspapers. Newspapers like Young India and The Harijan published by Gandhiji, or the Al-Hilal and the Al Balagh published by Maulana Azad as well as the National Herald edited by Pandit Nehru, played an important role in mobilizing the masses and in raising the awareness of current issues amongst our people. Those hard-won freedoms were enshrined as fundamental rights in the Constitution of free India. Today, the media, both print and electronic, are indispensable partners in the process of democratic debate in our country. With the fast growing number of television news channels and the increase in the number of newspapers published in several languages, the media scene in India presents a picture of buoyancy and exuberance. In Brazil and South Africa, the media have led equally important campaigns for the economic empowerment and self-realisation of the people. Thus, it is fitting and appropriate that issues of relevance to our societies be discussed by the representatives of such an important institution of our three countries.

Today, the global challenges facing our rapidly-developing and modernizing societies are huge; so too are the global opportunities. Poverty, economic and social inequalities, inequities at a global level or threats such as terrorism to our multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies are some of the major challenges. South-South cooperation, exemplified in the IBSA forum, can provide valuable answers to these challenges.

We have made steady progress in our endeavour at trilateral cooperation in IBSA. In the last three years since the first IBSA Trilateral Commission meeting was held in New Delhi in 2004, we have identified several important areas of cooperation, such as energy, education, agriculture, health, science and technology, public administration and revenue administration. Several IBSA working groups have met. We have set a trade target of US$ 10 billion amongst our three countries by 2007 which we are likely to meet. We are looking to develop further people-to-people relations – perhaps through meetings of parliamentarians, members of civil society, through cultural and educational exchanges and through tourism. Indeed, meetings such as this one are intended to show the way forward. We are now also looking forward to the IBSA Summit in October. There are many important themes that await deliberation at the highest levels – themes such as inter-connectivity, mega-diversity and energy security, which can further reinforce our trilateral cooperation and expand the horizons for the development of our rapidly-expanding economies.

I am confident that the findings and analyses of this Conference will be extremely useful for us and enrich the discussions at the Summit Meeting. I want to thank our distinguished guests from Brazil and South Africa for responding so readily and at relatively short notice to our invitation for this visit. I do hope that they have also found some time to see something of India beyond this Conference hall. Let me wish all of you a pleasant time for the rest of your sojourn in our country.

Thank you.

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