Achchha dost
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and President Rodrigo Duterte.
Achchha dost
MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2019 - 12:58am

The title means “good friend” in Hindi, the official language of the Republic of India.

India has been a good friend to the Philippines, and vice versa, not just through the years but through the centuries.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were formally established on Nov. 26, 1949, and the first Philippine envoy to India was the late Foreign Affairs secretary Narciso Ramos, father of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

Both countries had a shared experience of being colonized, and had just acquired independence — the Philippines in 1946 and India in 1947.

But even before formal diplomatic relations had been established, our history and pre-history are replete with evidence of Indian relations and influence to these islands.

On July 11, 1952, the Philippines and India signed a Treaty of Friendship, which further strengthened ties between the two countries. It is on this strength that a number of high-level visits, interactions and agreements were realized.

This treaty of friendship was further cemented when President Rodrigo Duterte, together with a high-level delegation composed of cabinet members and business leaders, flew to India to attend the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit and Republic Day celebrations in January 2018.

President Duterte had an extensive bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to promote bilateral investments between Invest India and our Board of Investments, chaired by our Trade Secretary Mon Lopez.

Earlier in 2017, Prime Minister Modi was in Manila to attend the 31st ASEAN and East Asian Summits.

I must make mention that in April 2018, the Republic of India conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award to Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship, Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship/Go Negosyo founder and ASEAN Business Advisory Council chairman, for his outstanding contribution in the field of trade and industry. A well-deserved award indeed!

This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and India. The annual Diwali celebration of the Indian community here in the country was made extraordinarily special with the state visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.

The Indian President was feted to a state dinner in his honor by President Duterte. Bilateral talks were also held and four agreements were exchanged: a memorandum of understanding on the sharing of white shipping information, a memorandum of understanding on tourism cooperation, a program of cooperation in science and technology for 2019 to 2022, and a cultural exchange program for 2019 to 2023.

During the fourth ASEAN-India Business Summit and Awards Night, President Ram Nath Kovind had the opportunity to interact with the parents of children or babies who had received life-saving liver transplants in India. 

Unknown, perhaps, to many but recently, the Makati Medical Center signed an agreement with Max Hospital’s ANG Centre for Liver & Biliary Sciences, a pioneering liver center in New Delhi, to develop a state-of-the-art liver transplant program in the Philippines in a bid to boost medical excellence in the field of liver transplantation.

This agreement was made possible by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Philippines Inc. headed by its president Rakesh “Rex” Daryanani.

Max Hospital’s ANG Centre is known to manage one of the busiest living donor liver transplant programs in the world and has already performed more than 2,700 liver transplants with high success rate.

It has become the top destination for Filipino children who were in need of a liver transplant due to its affordable price.

To date, an estimated 30 Filipino children went to Max Hospital’s ANG Centre for a much-needed liver transplant.

Miguel, the two-year-old youngest son of my long-time personal driver, Eulalio Odal, was one of those children who underwent liver transplant at the Max Hospital, made possible through the benevolence of the Hold On Pain Ends — HOPE for Children Inc., Ein Herz fur Kinder Foundation, First Hand Foundation and Sen. Bong Go.

Let me again express my profound thanks to all of you. Sen. Bong, daghang salamat! Malasakit gyud! Had Miguel not undergone the much-needed operation, well, it would have broken my heart to even speculate on the worst.

India has become more than just a good friend — to me and to the country. It has become a lifesaver. A jeevan rakshak, as they call it over there.

The success of these visits and the strength of bilateral ties would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar. 

May the good relationship between both countries strengthen through the years.

India is our natural ally, so it is but natural that we come together — as good friends, as lifesavers.

Dhanyavaad. *

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