Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Indian Parliament on the unveiling of the statue of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the commemoration of the founding of the Republic of India

26 January 1995

Your Excellency, President Sharma;
Honourable Prime Minister Rao;
Mr Speaker;
Honourable Ministers and Members of Parliament.

It is an honour of the highest order and a profound joy for us, as representatives of one of the world's youngest democracies, to share today's commemoration of the funding of the Republic of India with you, who are the elected representatives of the Indian nation, in this Parliament which embodies your democracy, one of the world's largest.

For those who love freedom and hate oppression and poverty, this occasion is rich with meaning and emotion.

Our two countries are united by strong bonds of history and geography.

It is a history of shared commitment to freedom and democracy, to non-racialism and tolerance, to social equity and the eradication of poverty. It is a history of common experience of oppression and struggle for independence and freedom. It is a history of interdependence in struggle and mutual support.

If the fight for the rights of people of Indian origin in South Africa was one of the fires which tempered Mahatma Gandhi's leadership of the struggle for freedom in India, then the constant support and counsel which the people and government of India gave to all the oppressed people of South Africa, has done much to chart our direction and to make the victory of democratic forces possible. Our victory is the victory of India as well.

To India must go much of the credit for the fact that our aspiration for freedom and justice became one of the pre-eminent concerns of the international community for close on five decades. The world's commitment to freedom in South Africa is something which future historians will surely judge to be one of the hallmarks of the twentieth century's march towards democracy.

This occasion is given added poignancy by the fact that we have also been able to share today in honouring the memory of Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an independent India and a person whose influence upon the thinking of our liberation movement, and upon my own thinking, was profound and lasting.

Panditji taught that narrow forms of nationalism, intense and powerful as they may be in awakening people to struggle, are inadequate as a basis for achieving victory or for lasting peace. Our experience has shown us the truth of this lesson that exclusiveness must give way to co-operation and interdependence. It is a lesson, forged in struggle and inscribed in the rapidly changing world order, which we have taken to hear both in our task of addressing the legacy of apartheid in our country, and in our approach to the international community.

One of the greatest achievements of the people of South Africa, in the short history of our democracy, is the capacity that has been demonstrated in the past year to stand together, united, as we make our way from division and conflict to peace and a common striving for a better life for all South Africans. It is understandable, given our history, that people often speak of this as a miracle. Be that as it may, it is built upon a solid and lasting foundation.

Our Government of National Unity, with the support of virtually every sector of society, has embarked on a path of sustainable reconstruction and development. This, despite the fact that the resources available to end the scourges of poverty, ill-health and inadequate education are limited.

Our Programme of Reconstruction and Development involves the transformation of our society with the purpose of addressing the needs of especially the poorest. In order to achieve this, we have adopted policies for shifting national priorities, and for the prudent and efficient use of our country's resources. These are combined with measures to create an environment for growth, in which business, large and small, can thrive. It has led us to participate in the process of lowering barriers to world trade.

The consensus around these goals and policies provides a secure basis from which we can address the tasks facing us. Amongst the most urgent of these tasks are:

consolidating our newly won democracy, by extending it from the national level to democratically elected local authorities, and by replacing our interim constitution with a permanent democratic constitution;

translating the plans and policies for transformation into visible change in the conditions in which people live and work.

Achieving these objectives can only secure and deepen the peace and stability which have allowed us as a nation, at last, to address the needs of our people.

For a nation as diverse as ours, the consensus we have achieved around this issues confirms the strength that lies in diversity. That strength, in our situation, is also profoundly expressed by the seminal role played by South Africans of Indian origin in our history of struggle through all its phases. And we dare say that our achievements in reconciliation draw their inspiration in part from Mahatma's philosophy of Satyagraha.

Our visit to India, is therefore in a sense, also a goodwill mission in respect of our Indian compatriots back home, a re-affirmation of the bonds our nation as a whole has with their roots. If there was at any stage a concern about the position of minorities in South Africa, that concern was challenged by facts of history and struggle. Today it is evaporating like dew under a clear morning sky, as the nation forges itself into one entity - with all its diverse components not threatened minorities but part of the majority.

If I have dwelt on what might seem internal matters, it is because these policies and achievements lay the basis for transforming the heritage of mutual respect, support and solidarity which exists between the peoples of South Africa and India into a new era of partnership and co-operation between our governments and nations.

I will be speaking later today to a gathering of your country's business leaders, about the challenging and exciting possibilities that exist, now that the apartheid barriers to trade and investment have been removed. Many other areas for co-operation are being discussed between our two governments.

But it would be proper in this gathering, and on this day, to ask ourselves if our shared heritage does not confer upon our two countries a special responsibility, to jointly commit ourselves to contributing to the emergence of a new world order in which democracy, peace and prosperity prevail everywhere.

That would be a fitting tribute to the memory of an Indian leader whose contribution to the world was as great as his contribution to his own country, one who understood ahead of his time the essential interdependence of nations and who taught that no people in any one part of the world could really be free while their brothers and sisters in other parts were not.

That is the fundamental lesson we derive from the teachings of Pandit Nehru.

I thank you

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation