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India, Pak come together to commemorate Gandhi Jayanti at UN

By Yoshita Singh
October 03, 2012 14:02 IST
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India and Pakistan came together to commemorate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at the United Nations, celebrated as the 'International Day of Non-Violence', a day after they sparred over Kashmir.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri hosted the commemorative event on Tuesday at the UN headquarters in New York and was joined by his Pakistani counterpart Abdullah Hussain Haroon.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, who had responded to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's reference to Kashmir in his address at the UN General Assembly, presided over the event.

The General Assembly had adopted a resolution in 2007 declaring Gandhi's birthday on October 2 as the 'International Day of Non-Violence'.

Puri underscored the increasing relevance of Gandhian ideals by citing the high number of references made to the Father of the Nation during speeches by world leaders at the 67th session of the UNGA, including by United States President Barack Obama.

Puri further said Gandhi belongs jointly to India and Pakistan and his relevance was equally strong in current times.

"No matter which we way look at it, the Mahatma belongs jointly to us (India and Pakistan), sometimes some of us claim that we are the rightful heirs but if you look at what the Mahatma preached, the relevance is equally strong," Puri said.

Haroon described Gandhi as a "remarkable" man and recalled that Gandhi had visited his residence in Karachi and written a "lovely letter" to Haroon's family when his grandfather had passed away.

The Pakistani ambassador pointed out the greatness of Gandhi in having ensured that at the time of partition Pakistan was promptly returned its financial dues.

"Pakistan owes a debt of gratitude to a person who put himself even further at risk in ensuring that the right thing is done. That is what embodies the entire life of the Mahatma.

"We must never forget that it is from one base that we have all risen. We can have minor differences," Haroon said.

He credited Gandhi with giving satyagrah his own flavour and added that "Gandhi was a man who even in his death wished to belong to the world community. For anyone to claim him individually or as a national entity alone can only be narrowing the scope of the vast vision of such a person."

Underscoring the tenet of democracy that Gandhi advocated, Haroon said Gandhi saw democracy as more than a system of government. For him, democracy was a moral system that distributed power and assisted the development of every social class, especially the lowest.

"Democracy meant settling disputes in a non-violent manner and it required freedom of thought and expression. For Gandhi democracy was a way of life. Today at the UN and the world we can do much better if we accepted his beliefs," he said.

Describing Gandhi as a simple human being, Krishna said he wanted to set an example by practising what he preached.

Krishna said while the world of today is vastly different from the one that Gandhi lived in, conflict and inequality continue to be an inevitable part of the human condition.

"Gandhi shunned violence in any form as an instrument to force the pace of change. Conflicts can be resolved and inequalities can be contained. The Gandhian way is a real, live option that informs ands illuminates. We must have the courage and strength of mind to follow in his footsteps," Krishna added.

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Yoshita Singh at the United Nations
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