Madam Sonia Gandhi, President of The Congress Party of India,
Your excellence, former Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh,
Your Majesty The Queen Mother of Bhutan,
Ladies & Gentleman,
It has been written by the American Editor Nomen Callus: That someone once asked Nehru what he hoped his legacy to India would be, Nehru was said to have replied “400 million people capable of governing themselves”. This was the vision of the man when he set out, leading his party, the Congress party, to achieve Independence for this great nation of India. That was two years after the end of the Second World War. Immediately, it catapulted him into the pantheon of great leaders of the world.
Independent India immediately became the pace setter for the unravelling of the British Empire as the colonial territories everywhere including Africa sought to emulate it. Ghana, my nation, then the Gold Coast was first South African country, south of the Sahara that succeeded in gaining Independence, exactly 10 years after India, that was in 1957. Nehru and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s Independence leaders, had become such close friends that they cooperated with three other leaders to organise the Bandung Conference in April 1955 which later became the Non- Aligned Movement. They both championed the colonisation struggle religiously across all the continents of the world. Indeed to Africa, especially those countries which were British colonies, Nehru was the inspiration for our Independence aspirations. Many Africans looked at Nehru’s India as an example of what was politically plausible for their own countries in their struggle for their emancipation from the colonial rule. In my own country Ghana, it was not a coincidence that in the same month in August 1947 that India attained its Independence, the 3rd political party, the united Bacchus convention was formed to champion Ghana’s Independence struggle. Undeniably, Nehru’s support and understanding for Africa is aptly captured by this quotes of his:
“Reading through history, I think the agony of the African continent… has not been equalled anywhere”.
The first friendship that was established between Ghana and India was signified by their respective leaders Nkrumah and Nehru. I am happy to report that under my Presidency in Ghana, from January 2001 to January 2009, India was of tremendous assistance to my government in several factors. The crowning glory of the relationship was India under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offering Ghana, a grant and a soft loan in 2006 to build an Ultra modern presidential palace and also to pursue extensive rural electrification for the Ghanaian people. Before than the presidency was housed in an ancient slave castle in the capital city of Accra.
It was my singular privilege to commission the new presidency with the then Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Anand Sharma, now and the deputy leader of the Congress Party. Long before the soft loan for the palace, Nkrumah our first Prime Minister had named the Long Avenue in Accra, the capital of Ghana after his friend Nehru. This avenue, incidentally, leads directly to the forecourts of the new Presidential palace.
The Man, Nehru was a celebrated Nationalist and while fighting for his country’s freedom and was imprisoned for nine times for total of nine years. Another aspect about Nehru was his commitments to championing the cause of the poor and marginalised. Thanks to his travelling extensively throughout his country and many other parts of the world, he gets to know his people very well and came face to face with overwhelming poverty and deprivation of the peasantry as well as the situations of the ordinary citizens of his country.
Another attractive attribute was his ardent promotion of humanitarianism everywhere and especially in the land of his birth. This was his metrics of some of the policies and causes that I identified with, like the social empowerment through education for all and secularism and inclusive governance in the phase of rigid ethnic and religious diversity. His efforts to launch his country into modernity led him to support scientific innovation and industrialization. Deriving from his humanitarianism, he became a natural democrat and set India in the path of democracy and nurtured its institutions, parliament multi-party system, Independence Judiciary and a free press.
Nehru was not only a great leader to his people; he was also a great champion of world’s peace. His passion for peace and coexistence in the world was unparalleled for which he has been famously been quoted:
“The only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction”
As prime Minister, Nehru was a co author of Panchsheel- a set of five principles of peaceful coexistence to regulate the conduct of International relations. These five principles were Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Mutual non-aggression, Mutual non-interference, Equality and Mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence.
Indeed, through the sheer force of his conviction and resolve and I’ll say his personality, Nehru worldview and vision on peace among nations, encapsulated in his five principles of Panchsheel found his adoption at the April 1955, Bandung Conference of 29 Afro-Asian countries and his later adoption as a resolution of the United Nation General Assembly in 1961. The Panchsheel has been written by his creators, the acceptance to the voice of the newly established countries who were seeking the space to consolidate their hard won Independence as it provided an alternative ideology dedicated to peace and development of all in the face of the cold war.
And these five principles formed the basis of the International relations both on bilateral or multilateral basis. His vision culminated in the formation of the Non-aligned Movement by Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah, Egypt’s Nasser and a few others including Yugoslavia’s Joseph Broz Tito, who hosted the first conference of the movement in the capital city of Yugoslavia, Belgrade in 1961.
Such is the legacy of the leader, whom we are celebrating today – A leader, who went tirelessly to liberate his country from colonialism and led it at its best and sowed the seeds of true idealistic democracy. He once said:
“Failure comes only when we forget our ideal and objectives and principles”
This man never forgot his ideals and principles and consequently his life and his leadership of his country and in our words was a huge success.
Today, India that Nehru launched on to the path of an imagined country is the 10th largest economy in the world by nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to 2011 survey by International Comparison Program which involved the World Bank and certain economies based on purchasing power parity which is the estimate of real living costs, the Indian economy is the third largest in the world.
India today is the nuclear power in the world and among the world leaders in science & Technology. With its impressive Space program India is a part of elite club of nations that includes the United States of America, Russia, China and Europe in space exploration. Indeed, leaving its mission to mars, the planets have rarely been accessed; India became the first country to enter the Mars Orbit on 24th September 2014 and also the first Asian country to reach the red planet. In the area of art and culture, India is also, today a world leader, thanks to Bollywood. To top it all, the India, that Nehru became its first leader, is now one of the most enduring democracies in the whole wide world.
Let us all salute Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and thank him that because of his great deed and his unparalleled vision and consequently his great achievements, today over a billion Indians, live in the world’s largest pluralistic democracy. His desired legacy of leaderly people to govern themselves competently, I believe this is established beyond any doubt.
We wish his congress party well and his beloved nation of India, very well.