| Ajaneesh Kumar, High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam |
ON THE occasion of the 70th Republic Day of India, I extend my warmest greetings to all members of the Indian community, overseas citizens of India and friends of India in Brunei Darussalam.
India’s Republic Day is celebrated on January 26 each year to commemorate the adoption of our constitution in 1950. The Indian constitution was drafted to provide the framework for a vibrant democracy with core values of secularism, rule of law, judicial and economic equality, and justice for all citizens ingrained.
It is the longest such document in the world and provides a detailed road map for the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the central and state governments. It also includes a manifesto for governance, for the welfare of the people. The year 2019 is a general election year in India in which a record 900 million eligible voters across the country will have the opportunity to exercise their franchise to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha, the Lower House of India’s bicameral Parliament.
Conducting the election, as always, will be a humungous task for the Election Commission of India. Since Independence, the Indian economy has come of age. India started liberalising its economy from 1991 onwards and since then has become a robust, competitive and global economy.
The country is now the fastest growing major economy in the world, with a GDP growth of 6.6 per cent in 2017-18 and forecast to grow at 7.3 per cent in 2018-19. This is against the backdrop of a general slowdown in global economy, which is projected to grow at 3.5 per cent in 2019.
India today is the sixth largest economy by nominal GDP and the third largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). The country ranked 77 among 190 countries in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report (EDBR) in 2019. This is a jump of 23 spots over its ranking in 2017 and is a result of the Indian Government’s concerted efforts to de-regulate all sectors of the economy. India is now a preferred investment destination and has attracted FDI inflows of around USD390 billion till mid-2018. Mergers and acquisitions were at USD82 billion till November 2018.
Bilateral relations between India and Brunei Darussalam continued apace in 2018. The highlight of the year was the visit to India by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held in New Delhi on January 25, 2018 to mark 25 years of India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership. We also had the privilege of the presence of His Majesty, along with the heads of state and government of other ASEAN member countries, at the 69th Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2018.
Also in February 2018, Rector of UNISSA Dr Haji Norarfan bin Haji Zainal visited New Delhi, Aligarh, Luknow and Hyderabad in India under the Academic Visitors Programme of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with five universities.
‘Hyderabad in Brunei’ Food Festival and Handicrafts Bazaar was held in Brunei in March. President of SMARTER Brunei Malai Haji Abdullah bin Malai Haji Othman was conferred the Padma Shri Award, the fourth highest Civilian Honour, by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on April 2, 2018, in recognition of his exemplary work in connection with combating autism in Brunei Darussalam. Forty-four students from Brunei visited India in two batches in January and May 2018 under the ASEAN-India Student Exchange Programme. The Indian Women’s Rugby Team visited Brunei in October 2018 to participate in the Asia Rugby Women’s 7s Trophy 2018.
India and Brunei also held the first Joint Trade Committee meeting on September 5, 2018 in Brunei in which various sectors such as Information Technology Enabled Services, Energy, Agriculture, Transport, Pharmaceuticals, Capacity Building, Textiles and Tourism, etc were identified for greater focus to enhance our bilateral trade, which is currently between USD600-700 million.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), an agency set up in 1969 to develop the space programmes, is now one of the six largest space agencies in the world. It has had many success stories including the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission (orbiting Mars since February 24, 2014); launch of a record 104 satellites, three of which were Indian, on a single rocket in February 2017; launch of the South Asia Satellite (GSAT-9) for SAARC region and the recent launch of its heaviest Geo Synchronous Vehicle (GSLV) weighing 3423kg on November 14, 2018. ISRO now plans to scale up its operations including the ‘Gaganyaan Programme’ that envisages two unmanned and one manned flight to space by 2022.
Brunei plays a very significant role in the launch of our GSLVs as ISRO operates a Telemetry Tracking Centre.
An MoU on Cooperation in the operation of Telemetry Tracking & Telecommand Station for Satellite and Launch Vehicle was renewed during the visit of Brunei’s Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof to India in July 2018 when he signed the MoU along with Minister of External Affairs, Government of India Sushma Swaraj.
ISRO, with the assistance of Brunei Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications, is in the process of upgrading its Telemetry Tracking Centre in Brunei by relocating its existing centre to a new site.
I have recently arrived in Brunei. I hope to broaden India’s engagements with Brunei, especially in the non-oil and gas sectors and work towards His Majesty’s vision of diversifying Brunei’s economy. I am confident that, with the cooperation and support of the friendly government and people of Brunei Darussalam, we can certainly achieve this. I would, once again, like to convey my best wishes to all my compatriots in Brunei and urge all to continue to work with dedication and contribute to the strengthening of India-Brunei relations.