President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said that he refused to agree that Indians were intolerant, and that the country’s strength has been its unity in diversity with mutual coexistence and understanding. Mukherjee was speaking at the inauguration of the five-day Namami Brahmaputra river festival in Guwahati on Friday.

“Nowhere in the world is found so much ethnic diversity,” PTI reported the president as saying in his inaugural speech. “Despite that we are one nation, have one Constitution, living under one flag, one system maintaining regional identity. We are one nation,” he said. He also added, “Southeast Asian country is emerging as business hub for India and northeast is crucial to it. And Brahmaputra can play a major role.” He said the festival should promote the river’s history, culture, traditions and the tales of people along it.

Mukherjee also said that Assam is an emerging economic hub of India and is in an ideal position to become India’s corridor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean. He praised the state for its hard work coupled with the rich natural resources it houses, and said it has massive development potential. He added that the state has “overcome a prolonged spell of insurgency” and that the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre is supporting its rebuilding, PTI reported.

The inauguration was also attended by Bhutan’s prime minister, Tshering Tobgay. He said that there should be a multi-country event to celebrate the river.