ADDRESS BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN,VICE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BISHKEK HUMANITIES UNIVERSITY
SEPTEMBER 19, 1996
Your Excellency, President Akaev,
Hon’ble Madam Rector,
Esteemed Members of the Faculties,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is rare for a person being accorded the privilege of two honours on the same occasion. You have to-day given me the honour to inaugurate, jointly with His Excellency President Akaev, the Gandhi Studies Centre of this University. And you have also conferred upon me the highest academic honour of the University. I am overwhelmed by these most generous gestures. But I take it that they are really gestures of friendship to my country, and an expression of admiration for one of the greatest sons of India, indeed one of the greatest and noblest men of our time, Mahatma Gandhi.
The Bishkek Humanities University has been founded to promote the study of different cultures, languages and philosophies. Kyrghyz Republic and the Central Asian region as a whole were the birth-place of different cultures, languages and philosophies. From here issued forth wave after wave of peoples to neighbouring countries and regions who carried with them new beliefs, customs and manners as well as religious and political influences. And it received in turn new streams of religious and spiritual ideas and mathematical and scientific knowledge from other countries. It was from the Ferghana valley in Kyrghyzia that Babur came to India and founded the Mughal Empire which shaped the destiny of the Indian sub-continent for centuries. Much earlier Hindu and Buddhist influences came to Central Asia affecting profoundly the patterns of life and culture in this heart of Asia. Your great epic “Manas” has inspired and thrilled many Indians. I wish to inform you that we are naming a road in Delhi after “Manas” and our Television is planning to make a film on this epic.
India like the Kyrghyz Republic is a luxuriantly pluralist society of different religions, languages, customs, philosophies. All the religions of the world are present in India in addition to religions which are original to India. We have the third largest Islamic population in the world after Indonesia and Bangladesh. This luxuriant pluralistic society make us accept tolerance and peaceful co-existence of different faiths, cultures and languages as a natural and inevitable condition of our existence. The Charter of this University, therefore, strikes an answering chord in our minds and hearts.
Mahatma Gandhi articulating the philosophy of India once declared: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” To accept the infinite variety and differences of life and to hold on one’s own identity in the midst of it all, has been the philosophy of life advocated by the Gandhiji. Not only the Kyrghyz Republic and India, but the world as a whole is pluralistic and multipolar, and not monolithic and unipolar. What is interesting to-day is that advance of science and technology, particularly the miraculous advances in communication technology, have, in fact, made the world what has been called a global village -- the ancient Indians have called the whole of humanity a single family. The message of Gandhiji to the world to-day is that humanity, with all its diversities is one and it is imperative for mankind to live and let live in peace and harmony together. The Bishkek Humanities University and the Mahatma Gandhi Studies Centre, are pursuing the same objective and ideal. These studies would have the practical effect of counter-acting the trend towards intolerance and narrowly nationalistic and irrationally fundamentalist and terrorist movements that endanger world society.
When I say that the world is one, I do not underestimate the importance of every group, and every nation maintaining its own identity and its own sovereignty. There is a fashionable doctrine expounded particularly from political theorists and thinkers from the developed countries, that the nation-state and national sovereignty, have become anachronistic in the present age. I should, however, like to say that the Charter of the United Nations, has adopted as one of its fundamental tenets, respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States. It was recognized that independent states are the basic building blocks of an international system. To deny this and to assert that the nation-state has become outmoded is, in fact, an argument for the expansion of the sovereignties of the mighty powers over the weaker countries of the world.
Mahatma Gandhi had his own vision of a world order. He said once: “My service of India includes the service of humanity. Isolated independence is not the goal of world states. It is voluntary inter-dependence. The better mind of the world desires to-day not absolutely independent States, but a federation of friendly inter-dependent States.” This concept of an inter-dependent one-world has not yet come about, but the trend of events is in that direction.
The regional co-operation movements in different parts of the world seem to me to be steps in that direction. The European regional co-operation movement is one instance where the nation - states have preserved their identities and sovereignties, while becoming willingly equal partners, in a larger grouping. In South East Asia ASEAN is moving towards the same objective. In the Commonwealth of Independent States there is the potential for such a development. In our own region, SAARC is evolving a regional co-operation system that maintains the independence of the nations constituting it. I believe that it is not a dream but a possibility and an inevitability. In Central Asia the Kyrghyz Republic and other States are involved in creating a regional co-operation system. I consider it as the revival and revitalization of an ancient strategic centre of the world. It will be a beneficial grouping of nations in free and equal co-operation, not directed against any other group or nation. I am glad to see that the Kyrghyz Republic, under its wise leadership, is working towards it. We in India would like to co-operate with such a Central Asian regional organization pursuing its own objectives and ideals in friendship with the rest of the world.
To-day you have honoured Mahatma Gandhi by establishing a Mahatma Gandhi Studies Centre. As an Indian I am grateful to this University and to the Government for this friendly gesture. And I am profoundly thankful for the academic honour that you have conferred upon me. May I wish the Bishkek Humanities University a brilliant future. We in India will be glad to share our knowledge of Gandhian values and democratic experiences with this University and with people of this country. I am confident that this University will be yet another cultural and intellectual link between India and the Kyrghyz Republic. A University, it has been said, stands for humanism and tolerance, for the pursuit of knowledge and the adventure of ideas. May I wish the Bishkek Humanities University every success in the pursuit of these noble objectives.