President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday expressed concern over a string of alleged attacks on Africans in the country, saying it would be most unfortunate if the people of India were to "dilute our long tradition of friendship with the people of Africa".
Addressing the delegates of 7th Annual Heads of Mission Conference who called on him, the President said,"It would be most unfortunate if the people of India were to dilute our long tradition of friendship with the people of Africa and the welcome we have always extended to them in our country. African students in India shold have no reason to fear for their safety and security."
He said no impression which is not in line with our ethos or core values of our ancient civilisation should be created. "We shall have to create appropriate awareness in the
minds of our youngsters who may not know the history, age old relations (between India and Africa)...India has had trading relations with African countries for centuries and everyone of the 54 countries of Africa has a thriving Indian community doing business, industry etc.
"We cannot allow these to be jeopardised in anyway and create a bad precedent which is not the ethos, which is not part of the core values of our civilisation," a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement quoted Mukherjee as having told the delegation.
The President said he was happy that ministry of External Affairs in consultation with ministry of Home Affairs is proactively following up on the few isolated incidents that have occurred and working closely with authorities to ensure the safety of African students in India.
Mukherjee said the bonds between the people of India and the people of Africa have been forged since time immemorial. "As a political activist, as a member of parliament, I have noticed how close we (India and Africa) are with each other. Almost a century ago Rabindranath Tagore wrote a beautiful poem titled Africa expressing his anguish, pathos, sense of pain on apartheid," he said.
Mukherjee said leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana stood shoulder to shoulder with Jawaharlal Nehru at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung in 1955 and in founding the Non-aligned Movement in 1961.
"Nelson Mandela was an embodiment of Gandhian principles. India led the long international struggle for the end of colonialism and apartheid in Africa," the President said.
The President said in 1946 Government of India decided to stop any trade relationship with South Africa till apartheid was not lifted. "At that time decision was a bold decision because South Africa accounted for five per cent of total international trade with India," he said.
Mukherjee said it was only in 1994, after the end of apartheid, that he as Commerce Minister restored normal trade relations with that country.
"Whole of India stood in support of African leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda during this freedom struggle," he said.
Earlier, the President termed terrorism as a menace which needs to be collectively tackled by the world community with determination.
"There is no good terrorist or bad terrorist. Comprehensive cooperation by all countries of the world is essential to tackle this global menace," he said.
He called upon the heads of mission to do their best to expand contacts between higher education institutions of India and foreign countries.