In a gesture that will go well with millions of Indian soldiers back home, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi laid a wreath at the famous Indian memorial at Menin Gate in Ieper saying it felt a shame to be alive when men so brave are dead.
Over 50,000 Indian soldiers laid down their lives in the Fields of Flanders during the 14 months of war during 1914-1915 fighting on behalf of the Allied armies of Belgium, France and Great Britain during the First World War against the Imperial German Army.
Wearing a sandalwood-maroon coloured saree and an overcoat to beat the chill, Sonia briskly walked up to the Indian Memorial established on November 10, 2002, at an elevated place in the Menin Gate and placed a wreath.
She wrote in the Last Post Memorial book quoting American poet Emily Dickenson, "My being here to pay homage to the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the prime of their youth and so far away from their beloved motherland reminds me of the poet's line, 'It feels a shame to be alive when men so brave are dead, one envies the distinguished dust, permitted such a head -- the stone that tells. I salute their memory.'"
The nearly 30-minute memorial ceremony on Friday evening was held as a chilly wind blew at the St Martin's Cathedral at dusk.
Indian Ambassador Dipak Chatterjee expressed gratitude on behalf of the Indian government to the Belgium government for setting up a memorial in honour of the Indian soldiers who had laid down their lives during the First World War defending the Channel Harbour and the territory of Belgium.