On August 15, H. E. Ms. Pooja Kapur, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of Bulgaria, organised a flag raising ceremony at the Embassy

followed by a reception on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of India's declaration of independence. On that date in 1947 India gained its independence from Great Britain and took an independent path of development.

The event took place in strict compliance with all anti-epidemic measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the dear guests were Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Ms.Tsvetelina Penkova , Member of the European Parliament, Mr. Miroslav Petrov, Governor of Pleven, Mr. Georgi Iliev, Mayor of Slatina, Mrs. Natalia Misheva, Director of Asia, Australia and Oceania Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the media, the Indian diaspora in our country and friends of India.

After the flag raising H. E. Ms. Pooja Kapur read excerpts from the address of the President of India to the nation on the occasion of the national holiday of the country. She also personally addressed the guests - Bulgarians and Indians, with a speech in which she emphasized the achievements of her people:

India is a unique country - an old civilization, yet bursting with the vigour of youth

Seven decades of nation-building have led to the re-emergence of India on the international stage in its modern "avatar", as the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy, the third largest economy in PPP terms, the fastest growing trillion-dollar economy, and a top investment destination, the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding.

Yet as we consolidate our status as a scientific behemoth, space power, IT giant and the third largest global innovation and start-up hub, we continue to grapple with some festering challenges - of lifting people out of poverty, of skilling a very young population, of tackling pollution and climate change.

India prides itself on its pluralism and unity in diversity, and is committed to the rule of law, international peace and stability and a sustainable future for the planet. It is also an increasingly important development partner for countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

India is what it is today because of its citizens – not only those who live in the country but also Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian origin, like several present here today, who live abroad yet retain India in their heart and actions.

Each one of you is an ambassador of India in a foreign land

and each one of you is a stakeholder in building an ever brighter future for India and its people.

May I urge you to redouble your efforts and work with the Government and people of India towards creating a new Atma Nirbhar Bharat that is strong, self-reliant, prosperous and inclusive.

You can do this by participating in the multitude of initiatives and programmes announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi: be it Clean India, Green India, Skill India, Make in India, Digital India, Start-Up India, and so on. I am delighted to see how many of you have come wearing Indian handlooms to support our weavers and cottage industries.

Please invest in India, or establish technological collaborations, or adopt a village or a school – there is no limit to how you can creatively build linkages between India and the countries that are presently your home, viz. Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

Let me touch briefly upon our bilateral relations with both these countries.

India and Bulgaria are time tested friends

Our contacts date back to the 4th century B.C. and concrete Indian-Bulgar relations are documented from the 8th century A.D. In modern times, Georgi Rakovski, Boris Georgiev and Rabindranath Tagore contributed to a thriving people-to-people connect in the 19th and 20th centuries. Diplomatic ties, established in 1954, transitioned smoothly with Bulgaria’s political transition.

High-level political exchanges have been frequent with 16 VIP visits exchanged, most recently the State Visit of President Ram Nath Kovind in September 2018, followed by our External Affairs Minister visiting in February 2019 and Deputy Prime Minister Mariyana Nikolova visiting India in November 2019.

Bilateral trade and investment have grown robustly and we have recently signed memoranda of understanding in diverse fields ranging from investment and tourism to civil nuclear cooperation and education, while Bulgarian defence companies will also soon enter the Make in India initiative. Bulgaria has, in turn, become a favoured destination for shooting Indian films and as a result, its popularity with tourists from India and elsewhere has soared.

India and Bulgaria share a special bond. President Rumen Radev rightly calls us spiritual partners. International Yoga Day is now celebrated across over 45 cities and communes in the country, organised primarily through local initiatives. This year we received video messages of support from the Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Boyko Borrisov and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, who is also graciously honouring us with her presence today, which is a very important day for all Bulgarians as they celebrate the Assumption of Mary.

A recently installed statue of Mahatma Gandhi enjoys pride of place in South Park Sofia thanks to the support of Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and since last evening, the National Palace of Culture in Sofia is also lit up in shades of the Indian tricolour.

India’s relations with North Macedonia enjoy a special warmth and depth

dating back to ancient times, with Mother Teresa being an emotive contemporary link.

The relationship has been revitalised in recent years and the strong connect was inter alia reflected in President Gjorge Ivanov contributing an article to the Gandhi Anthology to mark Bapu’s 150th birth anniversary and Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski felicitating Prime Minister Modi on IDY 2020. The trade and investment relationship is also on an upward trajectory, and the historically friendly people-to-people ties are increasingly multi-dimensional.

I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude for our Bulgarian and North Macedonian friends, some of whom are present here today. You have been wonderful friends of India and welcoming hosts to Indians who have chosen to visit your country or make it their home. You have earned our respect and affection and I would like to thank each one of you for your contribution towards promoting India and all things Indian in your countries, as well as nurturing India’s bilateral relationship with your countries. I have no doubt that our multifaced partnerships will grow stronger with each passing year.

The celebration ended with Indian music and dance performed by Gagandip Singh.

The photos are provided by the Embassy of the Republic of India in the Republic of Bulgaria.