Address by President Nelson Mandela at civic reception at the Red Fort, Delhi - India

28 March 1997

Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma, President of India;
Shri Deve Gowda, Prime Minister of India;
Shri Sahib Singh Verma, Chief Minister of Delhi,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Citizens of Delhi and People of India.

I am honoured to stand here before you, citizens of the world who cherished the freedom of others as their own.

Even before India had its own independence, it led the world in putting the cause of Africa, and of South Africa in particular, before the conscience of humanity.

When India hosted the Asian Relations Conference here in Delhi fifty years ago, the voice of Pandit Nehru proclaimed India's vision of indivisible freedom. At that conference freedom fighters from South Africa's Indian community found the hands of Asia's freedom fighters reaching out to Africa, and the seeds of Afro-Asian solidarity were sown.

And that is why we cannot repeat too often that our victory is yours too. That is why we take this opportunity once again to thank you, on behalf of the people of South Africa, from the bottom of our hearts.

At the time of that conference, on the eve of decolonisation, the world was indeed as Nehru said, on a watershed dividing two epochs of human history and endeavour.

Today, fifty years later, we stand upon another watershed. The political freedoms for which we joined in struggle have been won and recognised as the rights of all peoples everywhere.

And yet, despite the advances we have made, much of humanity still lives in conditions which mock the rights they have gained. How many foresaw fifty years ago, in the bright dawn of liberation, that homelessness, poverty and hunger would still blight the lives of so many at the end of this century?

Self-determination eludes many nations which have gained formal independence, because the existing international order benefits some at the expense of others. Who foresaw them, that we might find ourselves now in danger of watching the entrenchment of inequality between nations and the widening of gaps?

We are in a period of momentous changes. New forces are emerging, old alliances are dissolving and new ones being formed. As the world becomes a single global economy, new regional blocks define the capacity of nations to pursue their economic interests effectively. The penalty for not adapting to these changes in the international environment will be increasingly severe.

Today, here at the Red Ford, let us revive Pandit Jawaharial Nehru's vision of a freedom and a better life that is not narrowly confined to this or that nation, but which embraces all humanity.

The developing world has the duty to sound the message that the greatest economic challenge of today is to create an international system that not only maximises global growth but also achieves equity; a system that allows those whom history and circumstance has placed on the margins of the world economy, to come of their own.

The world has a unique opportunity, developed and developing nations together, to build relationships based on co-operation; alliances born of shared aspirations rather than common threat; structures that will enable us to live and grow together.

As two nations which shared their march to freedom, South Africa and India accept their responsibility to help meet this challenge. We know that the ultimate test of our fidelity to our ideals is the extent to which our actions improve the lives of those whom Nehru referred to as the common man or woman, in our own countries and everywhere.

Guided by the Delhi Declaration which we are about to sign, let us all, Indian and South African, African and Asian, work together to realise the ideals of the visionaries who gathered here half a century ago; great men and women who chose the world as the theatre of their operations, and thus helped to equip us for the challenges we face.

We pay tribute to them. As we enter the new millennium let us join hands as partners for equity, peace and prosperity.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website