Vice President Venkaiah Naidu invoked India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the Serbian Parliament as he underlined the need to strengthen democratic polities by internilising the concepts of freedom, dialogue, inclusion and the rule of law.
Addressing the special session of the National Assembly of Serbia on the International Day of Democracy on Saturday, the vice president said India and Serbia shared a common perspective on many issues and have a deeper affinity that brings the two countries closer.
Naidu, who arrived here on Friday, said that relations between India and Serbia were deeply rooted in history.
"It was here that the first Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit took place in 1961. Prime Minister of India Pandit Nehru and other world leaders of Non-Aligned Movement addressed the NAM Summit in this hallowed hall," Naidu said.
It was in the same hallowed hall of the National Assembly of Serbia that Nehru addressed the world leaders while launching the NAM along with the veteran leader of Yugoslavia Marshal Tito. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Yugoslavia, now Serbia, as early as in 1989.
He said it would be good to recall Nehru's words at the conference of NAM nations in Belgrade on September 2, 1961.
"His call which rings so true and relevant even today was to build in our own countries societies where freedom is real. Freedom is essential, because freedom will give us strength and enable us to build prosperous societies.
"We must strive to strengthen our democratic polities and internalise the concepts of freedom, dialogue, inclusion and rule of law in our governance structures," Naidu said.
The Vice President said he was glad that Serbia shared India's views on the need to reform the UN, particularly the UN Security Council.
"Our two countries also agree that terrorism is one of the foremost threats to international peace and security. There is an urgent need to strengthen the global counter terrorism legal framework to combat this scourge by expediting finalisation of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) under the UN umbrella," he said in a statement.
Naidu hailed the steps the two countries have been taking to strengthen the bilateral ties and emphasised that need to further boost the trade ties.
"Our annual bilateral trade is currently about USD 200 million. Undoubtedly, this is much below the true potential. More exchange of business delegations is necessary to boost our bilateral trade further. While there is a need for boosting our bilateral trade, investment in each other's countries and more innovative approaches are necessary for strengthening of economic ties," he said.
Naidu praised Serbia for abolishing visa requirements for short-term visit by all Indian passports holders last year.
From the early days of Independent India, both countries laid great emphasis on the NAM and contributed much to the creation of a new and democratic world order, particularly for the post-colonial third world that challenged the concept of bipolar world, the vice president said.
"Marshal Tito was a familiar name in many Indian households. I understand that he addressed Indian Parliament during his visit to India in 1954. Thus, the Parliaments of our two countries had the privilege of and benefit of learning from each other," Naidu said.
Today is the International Day of Democracy. This year marks the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, he said.
This place is the historic meeting ground of nations that decided to launch NAM in 1961. It is good to recall that India and the then Yugoslavia were the pioneers of that movement, Naidu said.
"Serbia and India share a common commitment to democratic values and the need to continuously nurture the democratic spirit for improving the quality of the lives of our people," he added.