International Affairs


Dr. Manuel Paredes Manrique, Rector of the University of San Marcos, Distinguished faculty members, and students, Friends

I am grateful to you and to the University of San Marcos for the honour being bestowed on me today. The fact that your University is the oldest institution of higher learning in both the Americas make me even more sensible of the honour.

This historic building in which we are gathered today, with its graceful arches and beautiful courtyards, is reminiscent in many ways of the architecture of the Indo-Islamic period of Indian history. Some Peruvian scholars have noted that there are several iconographic motifs in Peru's colonial art that can be singled out as having their earliest origin in India. The aesthetically striking 17th century balconies of Lima and the splendour of some of the colonial palaces and churches evoke in many ways the luxury of Moghul palaces in Agra and Delhi.

There is a special link that India has with Ibero-America. In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered South America. He believed that the lands he discovered were either parts of Asia or the sub-continent of India itself since his intention was to reach India by sailing westward from Spain. He called the regions he discovered "Las Indias", and the people he encountered there he named "Los Indios". For three to four centuries thereafter the Indian appellation stuck. Even the laws and statutes drawn up for the governing of the new colonies of Spain came to be known as "Derecho Indiano" or Indian Law.

It is in the study of a country like Peru that we realize that the ancient, original inhabitants of these lands were the creators of highly evolved civilizations in the pre-colonial period. The Incas of Peru have fascinated students of history around the world for their great prowess in empire-building and the systematic manner in which they unified the far-flung regions of their empire with solid institutions and a common language. In the study of such ancient American civilizations one finds that they share much in common with the ancient inhabitants of India, including their intimate knowledge of the stellar constellations and some of their social customs. In colonial times, apart from the cultural and social exchanges that took place, the botanical exchange between India and the New World was particularly interesting. Sugarcane, which has played such an important part in the history and economy of Latin America came to Spain from India. In exchange we received the potato, whose original homeis Peru. Spanish Jesuit priests also brought the quinine of the jungles of Peru to India.

Today, the possibilities of interaction between our two parts of the world have multiplied in a manner unimagined in the past. My young friends who are students at your University can access up-to-date information on India on the Internet. The power of the human mind has enabled us to reach out across the oceans traversed by our forefathers in methods of instant communication. India and Peru are thus engaged in a new voyage of discovery with dimensions as important as the historic voyage of Columbus. Today, this new voyage is building a new arc of friendship between us. And we do so in a new age of democracy, freedom and equality, putting the inequities of the colonial age behind us.

I come to this time honoured institution as the representative of a country whose traditions have always accorded the highest value to knowledge and learning. The Father of the Indian Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, believed deeply in the ancient Indian aphorism, "Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaya" - education is that which liberates. He said that education and knowledge should include all training that is useful for the service of mankind. Another great Indian, Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "The great use of education is not merely to collect facts, but to know man." And he wanted through education to lift man from his parochial moorings to the international plane by transforming him into the universal man.

In developing countries such as ours, education is a powerful instrument for development. The task of education is to inculcate a respect for democracy, freedom, human rights and social justice for every man, woman and child. Education must also develop our human resources in the fields of health, help in the empowerment of women and also enable our young citizens to face the challenges of the global market place.

At the time of our independence, less than 20 per cent of our people were enumerated as literate. Mindful of the importance of education as a fundamental input to development, we have spread literacy and education at every level. We have consolidated efforts at the grassroots level to promote literacy which we hope will further jump from the current level of 52 per cent to a substantially higher target. Already our National Literacy Mission aims at imparting literacy to an additional 100 million people by 1999. This will further bolster our programme to attain higher levels of excellence. Impressive strides made in the promotion of higher education have been testified by the fact that country now has 207 universities. 6.4 million students are beneficiaries of the educational facilities provided at the vast network of colleges and universities. Apart from our own people, nearly 10000 students from abroad are also studying in these higher centres of learning. I hope that in the future we will see increasing exchanges between the faculties of universities and also our students. Through such exchanges, we can face the tasks and challenges of national development with greater knowledge and confidence. Our rich cultural traditions will also be helpful in providing a special meaning and content to this interaction.

Although I have been in your country for a brief while, I am already deeply moved by the spontaneous affection and affinity for India that I see on the faces of your people and in the warm welcome that my wife and I have been accorded everywhere we have gone. Let us work together to strengthen the foundations of the friendship and understanding between our two countries by intensifying our knowledge about each other so that coming generations of Indians and Peruvians may mutually benefit from this important enterprise.

Thank you

Jai Hind