Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar
On the occasion of the 73rd Independence Day of India, I wish to extend my warmest greetings and felicitations to all members of the Indian community, overseas citizens of India and friends of India in Brunei Darussalam.
The vibrant and strong democratic credentials of India, well established over the past 73 years, has been once again demonstrated and further strengthened in the recently held General Elections to the 17th Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament. The elections were conducted over a period of six weeks from April 11 to May 19 in seven phases. As with each progressive general election in India, this was a humongous logistical exercise in which around 900 million eligible voters were registered of whom 84.3 million were first time voters.
A total of over 603 million eligible voters cast their vote. This represents over 67 per cent turnout which is the highest turnout since the first general election held in 1952. More than 1.35 million polling stations were established all over the country including in remote areas to enable all citizens to vote without having to travel far from their homes. The whole exercise was conducted in a smooth manner with very few instances of disruption. This was largely due to the collective efforts of the Election Commission, the various Central and State agencies and security forces.
The elections were conducted by using Electronic Voting Machines and the final results were announced within a few hours from the time counting started on May 23.
The Government of India is embarking on an ambitious yet achievable goal to become a USD3 trillion economy by end of March 2021 and a USD5 trillion economy by 2025. The fiscal budget presented in Parliament after the new government took office has been designed with this objective in mind. India is estimated to achieve a Gross Domestic Product growth of 7.4 per cent in the current year. India has also risen by 23 spots to 77th rank out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business 2019’ report.
This is due to a number of initiatives taken by the government easing regulations, promoting investments and undertaking key reforms in the taxation structure to facilitate two-way trade and investment. India is ranked third in the world as a start-up base with over 4,750 technology start-ups. India also continues to attract high investments which totalled around USD44.37 billion in the fiscal year 2019.
India’s ISRO successfully launched the Chandrayaan 2 Mission on July 22 using its GSLV MK III Launch Vehicle to put a spacecraft in the orbit of the Moon. The spacecraft is currently on its way to the South Pole of the Moon, an area which has not been explored by any other country. With this launch, India aims to become the first country to attempt a soft and controlled landing near the South Pole of the Moon and will become the 4th country after Russia, USA and China to soft land a spacecraft on the Moon. Earlier in 2014, India accomplished a major feat by becoming the first country to successfully visit the planet Mars with its Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter. ISRO is also working on launching its Ganganyaan Mission by the year 2022 which aims to put Indian astronauts in space.
I wish to convey with a heavy heart that India has lost one of its close friends and Brunei has lost a tireless and committed social worker in Padma Shri Malai Haji Abdullah bin Malai Haji Othman, whose sudden demise was both shocking and irreparable. I am sure that the good work that he has initiated for children with autism in Brunei will continue with greater commitment at SMARTER Brunei.
At the bilateral level, India and Brunei continue to take the relationship forward. The 7th round of Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between officials of both the governments were held in New Delhi by respective delegations at Secretary level on June 24. The meeting was timely and extensive and offered both sides the opportunity to follow-up on the outcomes of the 1st Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting held in Brunei in September 2018.
The discussions at the FOC were able to identify a number of areas for cooperation including, inter-alia, agriculture and food processing, education and capacity building, ICT and e-governance, energy, healthcare, defence and trade and investments. During the visit, the Bruneian delegation met with senior officials from the Ministries of Human Resource Development, Petroleum and Natural Gas and Department of Commerce in the Government of India. A number of outcomes from the various meetings held during the visit are being followed-up by both sides. Defence Cooperation between the two countries has received a major fillip with the recent visit of Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Major General Pengiran Dato Paduka Seri Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud to India from August 4-8.
I conclude by once again conveying my best wishes to all my compatriots in Brunei Darussalam on the occasion of India’s 73rd Independence Day and urge all to continue to work with dedication and contribute to the strengthening of India-Brunei people-to-people relations.
I also wish to thank 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 for his benevolence and goodwill towards India, its people and the Indian community in Brunei. I would like to take this opportunity to wish His Majesty, members of the royal family, the friendly Government and people of Brunei Darussalam continued good health and prosperity.