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Mahatma Gandhi's message still relevant today: Pranab Mukherjee


Published on: April 29, 2016 | Updated on: April 29, 2016

President Pranab Mukherjee paying tributes at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to University of Papa New Guinea in Port Moresby. (Photo: AP)

Port Moresby: The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi are still relevant in a world vexed with "intolerance and extremism", President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday as he reminded the international community of the true values of harmonious co-existence and mutual respect.

Addressing the students and faculty of the University of Papua New Guinea (PNG) here, Mukherjee said the vision and teachings of the father of the nation "remind humanity of the true values of harmonious co-existence and mutual respect and the need to work together for the equality and freedom of all individuals."

"Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation continues, to this day, to be revered all over the world as a beacon of peace and apostle of non-violence in a world that is increasingly vexed by intolerance and extremism, the life and message of this great man remain an inspiring example of the power of truth and universal brotherhood," he said.

Mukherjee, who is the first Indian President to visit PNG, called his trip "historic."

The University campus also has a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, installed in 1997, to which the President paid his respects before making the speech.

"Gandhiji had viewed education as an integrated approach to all round personality development. He was emphatic about the difference between learning and true education, knowledge and actual wisdom and between literacy and the real lessons that we learn from life.

"We, in India, have tried to adhere to these principles as we pursue our goals in the education sector through our national planning and human resource development programmes," he said.

Stating that India attaches "high value" to the close friendship that exists between it and the island countries of the Pacific ocean, he said PNG has a key role in India's extended "Act East" policy and views it as a gateway to closer cooperation with the Pacific Island countries.

He recounted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the Summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation in Fiji in 2014, had announced a number of initiatives for assisting the Pacific Island countries.

"These were aimed at supporting their efforts towards their developmental goals and aspirations and addressing their specific concerns related to climate change and sustainable development.

"I am happy to note that my government has delivered on these through financial assistance, deputation of Indian experts to PNG, training of your citizens in India and simplifying the visa process which has been reciprocated by government of PNG on Thursday at the banquet hosted in my honour," he said.

The President extended invitation to students from PNG to take advantage of the scholarships announced by the country for scholars of these countries and attend institutions of higher education and centres of excellence in India.

The President extolled the historic ties between the two countries and desired that these would be strengthened and taken forward in the right earnest.

"Our relationship is based on the strong foundation of our historical ties-forged by our cultural and economic exchanges over the centuries. These bonds have contributed to the mutual understanding between our governments and our peoples and are at the root of our shared desire to collaborate in areas of our common interest.

"The cooperation between our two countries at the United Nations and other multi-lateral fora has also been close and fruitful. India appreciates PNG's steadfast support for India's candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and also the reforms of this world body which was established after the World War-II," he said.

Mukherjee said seven decades after the UN was created, the world has agreed on the urgent need for reform of its organs to make them relevant and effective in the significantly altered world of the 21st century.

"We count on PNG's continued support and cooperation in the United Nations and other multilateral fora," he said. Mukherjee also committed all help from India to the country in various spheres.

"India stands ready to share other knowledge and experience in the field of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and best practices for increasing food productivity. There are many complementaries between India and PNG on which our bilateral cooperation must be based.

"We are focused on skills development and innovation with special emphasis on simple and cost effective technologies that are easily adapted to be locally relevant, efficient and successful," he said.

The President said Indian enterprises and private sector are keen to work with PNG in harnessing its mineral, marine and hydrocarbon resources.

"As we identify the areas where we would both like to focus our joint efforts, I would say that in this area of cooperation the sky is the limit. We should waste no time in bringing the benefit of our cooperation to our peoples," he said. He also asked the students of the University to be the agents of "positive change."

"Your dreams will come true if you pursue them with courage, never hesitate to be an agent of positive change, judge your success not by your personal achievements alone but by the harmony and advancement that it brings to the people around you," Mukherjee said.