Wrapping up his tour of Israel with an address at Hebrew University, where he was awarded a doctorate, President Pranab Mukherjee underlined that India derived its strength from its diversity.
“Since my arrival I have been asked how India is managing the largest democracy of the world,” he said.
“For us, diversity is an integrating factor. There are three substantial major ethnicities here… India’s strength is its unique capacity to bring its apparent contradictions on one platform.”
The president also quoted Jawaharlal Nehru to say, “India is a country held together by strong but invisible threads…. She is a myth, an idea… but very real and pervasive.”
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Talking about India’s “significant” Jewish population, he pointed out that Hebrew was being taught in India’s educational institutions long before the State of Israel was established.
Mukherjee also said he comes at a time when “India is at the threshold of a new era of modernisation and economic growth”. He went on to talk about the government’s Make in India and Jan Dhan Yojana programmes, citing them as part of India’s initiatives to invite foreign investment and to stimulate the manufacturing sector.
He said India sought Israel’s participation in another of its programmes, Digital India, and invited students “to participate in the transformation of India”.
Chairman of board of governors of the university Michael Federmann said it was a great privilege that “an honorary doctorate from here would be sitting at the head of the Indian State”.
President of the university, Menahem Ben-Sasson, said: “It happens once in 90 years that we have such a visit. We needn’t have to wait for long,” he said.
Before he boarded the flight back home, Mukherjee was hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for lunch.