GUWAHATI-- President Pranab Mukherjee today said India's traditions never allowed the practice of intolerance as unity in diversity with mutual coexistence and understanding is the strength of the country.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 'Namami Brahmaputra' festival, the President said that he does not agree when people label Indians as 'intolerant'.
"There are 200 languages spoken in India across its length and breath. All major seven religions are practised in India. Nowhere in the world will you find so much diversity," he said, adding despite this, India is one nation having one Constitution, living under one flag, one system maintaining regional identity.
"We are one nation. This mutual co-existence, mutual understanding is our strength. Managing this diversity is our greatest strength. If it is said Indians are argumentative, I will agree. But if it is said Indians are intolerant, I refuse to agree. Intolerance has never been allowed," he said.
Mukherjee said Assam, which is an emerging economic hub of India, is perfectly positioned to become the corridor of the country to the ASEAN nations as the 'Act East' policy takes forefront.
He said India would soon celebrate 25 years of its link with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The President said South East Asia is an important destination for India's investment and trade.
Stating that Assam has "immense development potential", Mukherjee added that inland water transport system in the National Waterways can change its economic scenario.
"The development of this national waterway can give Assam access to international ports like Chittagong in Bangladesh. This will give Assam an exposure to international trade and commerce. With the Act East Policy taking forefront, Assam is perfectly positioned to become the corridor of the country to the ASEAN nations," he said.
Mukherjee hailed Assam's richness in natural resources and its hardworking people to underline that all it needed was "strong drive, right policies and effective implementation."
"We have to join hands to make the dream of Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bordoloi - first Chief Minister of Assam becoming a front runner in the field of socio-economic progress-- a reality," he said.
The President said Assam has overcome a prolonged spell of insurgency and the central government is supportive in rebuilding the state.
However, he added that it was now time for Assam to emerge as a business hub and take centre stage in the socio-economic scenario of the country.
"It is time for this state to establish its enduring mark in the international economic domain as the link between the North Eastern part of the country and the ASEAN nations," he remarked.
He said the Brahmaputra river is the "lifeline" of Assam and the region and is intertwined into the economy, culture and day-to-day life of the people of the areas it flows through.
He also complimented the state government for having started 'Namami Brahmaputra' as an annual festival to showcase Assam's culture as well as potential.
"Starting of 'Namami Brahmaputra' as an annual festival will popularise the natural beauty and holy character of this river," he said.
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