Port Louis [Mauritius], Mar 11 (ANI): President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday said India's aspiration is for Mauritius to rise as a leading economy and a voice for peace and stability in the entire Indian Ocean Region.
Addressing students at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, President Kovind said, "I am pleased to be in Mauritius today. His Excellency asked me did you ever visit Mauritius. I replied when I was a Member of Parliament I dreamt of visiting Mauritius, today I am happy that my dream came true."
President Kovind reached Mauritius today on the first leg of his State Visit to Mauritius and Madagascar.
He was received at the airport by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Honourable Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, and his entire Cabinet and hundreds of dignitaries and local people.
Later, President Kovind addressed an impressive gathering of students and young people at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute at Moka, Mauritius, where he also paid tributes before a statue of the Mahatma.
Speaking at the Institute, the President said that he was honoured to be in Mauritius for a milestone moment in its history - the 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule.
The President said that the first people from India arrived in Mauritius 200 years ago, in the 1820s. In 1834, the first indentured labourers from India reached these shores.
"From those early challenges, the Indian community has come a long way. It has contributed, along with its fellow citizens of diverse backgrounds, to making Mauritius a prosperous country and a model for this region. As a steadfast friend, India has been proud to support their efforts," he said.
President Kovind further said the Indian community in Mauritius comprises of those who trace their roots to a variety of Indian states, from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu to Gujarat to several others. He urged them to become a living bridge between Mauritius and India, and Mauritius and individual states of India.
"Above all else, it is our people who bring us together. Mauritius is one of the largest participating countries in the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme. Over 300 young people from here undergo civilian and defence related training in India each year," he said.
Under India's Africa Scholarships programme - part of the India Africa Forum Summit initiative - each year 97 scholarships are offered to Mauritian students for higher education. Another 200 students enroll themselves in Indian universities on a self-financing basis.
They come to India as cherished friends. And we send them back as ambassadors of India - and life-long believers in our partnership.
The President said, "the challenge before us is to modernise our society and economy without succumbing to an extractive and energy-guzzling model."
India is making every effort to meet this challenge - but this challenge is not India's alone. It is the challenge of every country and every global citizen. As an island nation, Mauritius is of course extremely conscious of this challenge.
President Ram Nath Kovind and the First Lady Savita Kovind also met with Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth at a banquet hosted by him. (ANI)