International Affairs


Professor Ishan Dogramacci, President of the Bilkent University, Professor Ali Dogramacci, Rector of the University, distinguished members of the Academic Community of the University, Excellencies, Students and Friends.

I am immensely honoured to have been conferred this honorary degree by the Bilkent University. I value it as a precious recognition by the Academic Community in Turkey of my old association with this country, when I had the opportunity of promoting friendly relations between Turkey and India. I have received a few honorary degrees from other Universities, but strangely, those were in Science, Law, Sanskrit and other subjects of which I know very little. But here, in Bilkent University, I have been honoured by a degree in a subject which I studied seriously as a student and which I had the opportunity to pursue in practice throughout my career. I recall that when I passed out of the London School of Economics with B.Sc. honours degree in Economics and Politics, Mr. Krishna Menon, of whom you must have heard - one of our major politicians of the early era of independence - called me and told me, " I hope you would not now spoil the good degree you have got by taking a Ph.D from the London School of Economics". I did not relish that advice then but I have been extremely fortunate that without going through the tedious and hard work of preparing for a Ph.D in Political Science, I have been most thoughtfully conferred an honorary degree in this science by this new but great University.

Bilkent University has been founded by one of the great institution builders of Turkey, Ishan Dogramachi, who is a Paedeatrician, a scholar, a writer and internationally renowned world citizen and above all as his biographer has described him, " a remarkable Turk". I salute him on this occasion for the contributions he has made to Turkey, especially to its academic development. When I was here in the 1970s, this University Campus was a barren place. Today a magnificent University town has grown up here and more than that, the best students from Turkey, and from all over the world and the best faculty from different parts of the world are working in this University. I am extremely grateful to him and to the Chancellor, the faculty, and the Board of Governors of this University for the gracious gesture in offering me this honarary doctorate. I receive it as a gesture of friendship to my country, India, with which Turkey had a lot to do during the last nearly thousand years.

India and Turkey have known each other, interacted with each other, exchanged cultures, languages, customs and manners in a very significant way throughout these centuries. Today, Turkey is a modern developed nation, which is capable of competing with the European nations in the world market, standing at the door of full membership of the European Union. We, in India look up on Turkey as a grand bridge between Asia and Europe, a bridge which in the past transmitted historical impulses and cultural impulses and which today is eminently suited to transmit the great economic and technological impulses taking place in the world. I am visiting Turkey after nearly twenty two years and I see with my own eyes the remarkable progress that this country and its people have made during this period. We in India have also developed during this period and we are now in a position to co-operate with each other, exchange technologies, exchange knowledge, and enlarge our friendship into the wider arena of the world.

A University is today not just an institution preparing the youth for the future; it is its main job of course, but a world Institution which develops a broader intellectual vision appropriate to the one world, that is emerging. I should like to read out to you what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said of a University. "A University stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately then it serves the nation and the people". I am, therefore, exhilarated to see that this new University in Turkey is equipped to pursue the objectives Mr. Nehru had put before a University. Because we are increasingly becoming globalised, a one world vision has to be evolved while one is in the university. The concept of this University where scientific and technical knowledge is imparted along with social and humanitarian sciences is appropriate for the world today. In the classical times we have heard of 'complete scholars' like the great Italian scholars who were scientists and artists and who had considerable knowledge of social sciences and the humanities. In the modern world a scientist without the knowledge of social sciences and humanities is an incomplete scholar. So also a political scientist or a social scientist without knowledge of science and technology is also an incomplete scholar. Not that any one scholar can obtain deep knowledge of all subjects but there must be awareness, there must be consciousness of the inter-relationships between the various branches of knowledge in life. I am therefore, particularly exhilarated to know that such an attempt is being made in this University.

I should like to talk to you today something about India and something which links India and Turkey. We are linked together by two great concepts: democracy and secularism. India is a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society which has cohered together over the centuries. We have been, in the modern period, able to sustain this pluralist nation through the mechanism and through the processes of democracy. Without it the different religious groups, linguistic groups, regional groups, and economic groups would not be able to play together in harmony. Turkey is very similar to that. In fact we derived something of the impulse for democracy and secularism from this great country, from the creator of this Republic, the great Ataturk. All our nationalist leaders fighting for our independence were inspired and enthused by the victory of the Turkish liberation movement and the transformation of Turkey from an empire into a democratic, secular State. In fact, it is not possible for the present generation to capture the atmosphere of those days when Indian leaders and our mass movement itself were affected, were enthused by the events in Turkey.

We have, as I mentioned, a complex and composite society in India. And because of this great diversity Indian history has been a search for unity. I should like to read out to you a passage from Nehru who had thought deeply about Indian history and he wrote once, "some kind of a dream of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of the civilization. That unity was not conceived as something imposed upon from outside, a standardization of its strength or even of beliefs. It was something deeper and within its soul the widest tolerance of beliefs and customs was practised and every variety acknowledged and even encouraged." This is the background of our democracy and I think this is the background of Turkish democracy also. In practical terms this means for India, living together with different religions, particularly with the immense population of Muslims that we have in our country. The Jews came to India and we welcomed them, offered them hospitality. The Hindu Maharajas liked them and helped to build their synagogues. Then Christians came, they were welcomed the same way and then the Zoarastrians came to take refuge from persecution in Persia. They are still a flourishing community in India. We had our historic relations with the Arab world even before the Arabs became Muslims. When Islam arose in the Arab world its old cultural and trade relations were transformed by the relations between Islam and India. In the same way, as we dealt with other religious groups in India, we welcomed them. We were fascinated by the new belief, new concept of God and the new brotherhood of man which Islam preached. And in this association the Turkish nation had a big part to play. Coming from Central Asia, the Turks established a great empire in India. The British called it the Mughal empire, we didn't give that name but it is also known as the Turko-Indian Empire.

One amazing fact is that the interaction between the old civilization of India, the Hindu civilization and the Islamic Civilisation was a friendly experience in history in spite of the conquest. Actually, the interaction between the two religions were profound. As time went on, Islam was influenced by Hindu thought and Hindu thoughts were profoundly influenced by Islamic thoughts. While these interactions were taking place, during the reign of Akbar the Great, he even tried to combine the best in the two religions and to establish a new religion. This was one of the great experiments in Indian history. That experiment did not succeed partly because of the European intrusion into India. In the fifteenth century Vasco da Gama had already come to India and following the Portuguese other European nations came in. So the peaceful process of interactions and assimilation of each other's civilizations which was taking place in India got disrupted. And I think India today, the sub-continent today, would have been in a different state of affairs if the natural process of meeting, the encounter, the interchange between civilizations which was actively taking place in India as a process, was not disturbed, disrupted by European intrusion into India.

But that is a fact of history. We have to accept the facts of history. We have no grudge against history. As Bismarck once said, "we can not take revenge on history". All that statesmanship can do is to make sure that the wrong things which happened in history would not happen again. There is no point in trying to take revenge on the past. First of all, it cannot be done. The past is past, it is with us. And therefore true statesmanship means the acceptance of the past, the lessons of the past, so that the historical mistakes need not be repeated.

At the time of partition, our conception of the Indian sub-continent was outlined by Nehru in a visionary manner. He was sitting in jail and he wrote a great book called "The Discovery of India" where he wrote that "if by any chance the partition of India takes place, but even then I visualize that the two parts of India will co-operate with each other, will be friendly with each other and develop together". The same thing he wrote about three months after partition in 1947. He talked about our Muslim minority and I would like to read out this quotation from him: "We have a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want to, go anywhere else. They have got to live in India. That is a basic fact about which there can be no arguments. Whatever the provocations from Pakistan, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilised manner. We must give them security and the rights of the citizens in a democratic state". This was the approach of the Indian leadership soon after partition, an approach to which we cling with tenacity even today. Because that is the destiny of the sub-continent. It is not to quarrel with each other but to co-operate with each other and develop to the fullness of its destiny, through cooperation, as one of the greatest regions of the world.

I do not wish to talk to you only about Indian history. But facing an audience of youth, I should like to say a few words that may be relevant to them also. But these few words, I don't want to be in the form of any advice. You must have all read Oscar Wilde's famous saying that 'it is always silly to give advice; but to give good advice is fatal'. So I will not advise the youth today. Actually they know much more than the grown ups about the world. Even though we elders are in charge of the political destiny of the nations, the actual running of the world has actually passed into the hands of youth. The world itself is composed predominantly of younger people. In India, it has been calculated that about 60% of the population is below 40 years of age. And so our country is predominantly young. I think, so is Turkey. Elders occupy high positions but I find that even these high positions are being increasingly occupied by younger people. And in the present day world which has become interdependent and integrated culturally, the youth is the vanguard of the new world. In a globalised society intellectual and cultural influences are spreading all over the world and the youth absorb these influences and therefore the power has already been handed over, I think more than 60% to the youth.

The world has become globalised in one sense. Through computer communication and internet the world has really become one and I have seen in your library students accessing internet on computers. All this is possible today. At the same time a paradoxical process is taking place. Culturally and in our own experience we are shrinking into narrower groups. While the world has enlarged itself the groups, various types of groups have become more powerful than ever before. This is the great paradox. But one can explain it to oneself quickly. All human beings need some intimate experience. The global village is partly an abstract experience, it is not a life and blood experience. It is knowledge coming through, but there is a need to cling to something more intimate to which people can have a sense of belonging. This has made the smaller groups, smaller sects and small nations concentrating more on their own cultures and their own societies for the intimate consolation in life. The greatest problem of the world is to reconcile these two tendencies; to have the liveliness, the freshness, of intimate life in a community and at the same time to belong to a much larger world entity which doesn't give you emotional not to speak of spiritual satisfaction.

I believe that such a reconciliation will take place through education alone. I may advise the students that this period of your life is the only period you have in life to learn things. I often regret that I did not have the time or the opportunity to learn many more things. I am still living on the capital I have accumulated during my student days. That is my intellectual capital fund. I am still drawing upon it. Because once you are grown up, once you take professions, once you raise families, you would be caught in the network of a different kind of life and even if you wish to, you will not have time to learn new things. And therefore this is the period when you have to spend every bit of your time in imbibing as much knowledge and together with it as much experience in life as possible. How do you acquire it? A great Justice of United States, Justice Holmes, once said the inevitable comes to happen through effort. It may be inevitable that it should happen but as Justice Holmes said this inevitable really happens when you work for it and do hard work. And this is what I am sure Dr. Dogramacci and the faculty are doing by providing facility to the student community here. I am sure that it is inevitable that you should occupy the places which you covet in life when you go out of this University. But that can really happen only when you put in your efforts.

I do not know how to thank you, Prof. Dogramacci and Rector Dogramacci, for this wonderful gesture you have made to me personally and even more to my country and to my people. I thank you on behalf of India for your kindness, for the friendship you have shown to our people.

I have, as a very small gesture from us, brought a portrait of a great man, a great leader of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was our first Education Minister. He was a great scholar, an Islamic scholar who interpreted in his various writings Islamic thoughts to Indians and to Islamic people all over the world. He came to Turkey in 1951. He was the one who signed the first cultural agreement between India and Turkey. I should like to present to this University a portrait of this great man, great nationalist, great freedom fighter, great scholar and a great Muslim.

Thank you

Jai Hind