Burgemeester 70e 'Republic Day' van India

Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen

Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, 26 januari 2019

Dear Ambassador Rajamony, dear King’s Commissioner Klijnsma, excellencies, distinguished guests,

Thank you for the invitation. It is a great honour and a great pleasure to celebrate Republic Day with you. Celebrating this special day together is a confirmation of a long lasting relation, partnership and friendship between India and The Netherlands. This friendship started almost 400 years ago. On the west coast of India, Dutch merchants closed an important pepper trade deal with an Indian ruler. And shortly after that, they opened a trade office. I am curious what their first impressions of India were. I could try to make a guess…The colours, the perfumes, the music, the fascinating people… it must have been a different, exciting and an enchanting, new world of many impressions to the visitors from Holland.

This week, we experienced - finally, I would say - an old-fashioned Dutch winter. Like on the paintings of the old Dutch Masters you see - for instance - here at our museums. Snow. Ice. And many ice skating Dutch people. Maybe some of the Dutch sailors who were on the ships to India, four centuries ago, were fond of ice skating too. Nevertheless, I hope they received a warm welcome when they arrived in India. Just as I experienced the time I visited your beautiful country.

I visited Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi during a working visit. I was mayor of Amstelveen - here in the Amsterdam area - then. It was a visit I will never forget. So intensely I breathed, during this visit, the perfume of your great country, so many beautiful things I saw, so many fascinating people I met. The hospitality…

June 2017, prime minister Narendra Modi visited The Netherlands. Prime minister Mark Rutte gave his distinguished guest from India a Dutch bicycle as a gift. A beautiful blue bike. And last year, Ambassador Rajamony mentioned it also, a large Dutch government delegation undertook a trade mission to India. Yes, we are two different countries… and at the same time, there is a lot we share. We both have a rich history. And sometimes, remember the pepper trade deal I mentioned before, a shared history…

We both are high tech countries. And India and the Netherlands are densely populated countries. We both face big challenges, in terms of water management, water quality and sustainability. We both have the ambition to make and keep our cities liveable, accessible and sustainable with new, smart technologies. There is a lot we share.

The city of Utrecht also has strong bonds with India. We have a growing and lively Indian community. The Utrecht University and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) work closely together with their Indian counterparts. The Utrecht Region is planning a trade mission to India this summer.

And: we are one of the proud cities with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Each year, on the second of October, the Dutch people and our Indian community celebrate his birthday and his message of non-violence together. In Holland, Octobers are often windy and drizzly. But on that special day, Utrecht turns into a colourful city.

Dear ambassadors, excellencies, distinguished guests, dear friends I would say,

Let me conclude with another example of the Dutch-Indian friendship. This example may surprise some of you… I told you, Dutch people love ice skating (during winter time and beyond). Especially ice speed skating. A typical Dutch sport. And we love our ice speed skaters, especially when they win some medals during the Winter Olympics. But maybe our skaters will be facing some serious competition. From India. The Indian ice skater Vishwaraj R. Jadeja chose the city of Utrecht as his base camp. In Utrecht, on our ice skate track, he prepares himself for the next Winter Olympics.

And wouldn’t it be nice that, one day, this ice speed skater from India and an ice skater from the Netherlands will be racing against each other on the highest possible stage? This would, dear all, bring the already warm Dutch-Indian relation, partnership and friendship to the next level.

Again, with all my heart, I congratulate you on Republic Day. And wish you all a pleasant stay, here in de Nieuwe Kerk.

Uw mening