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In speech, African leaders heap praise on Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi

In the opening song-and-dance sequence at the inauguration of the summit, Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were shown along with Nelson Mandela and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: December 25, 2015 10:36:02 pm
India Africa Summit, African delegates, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, African leaders speech, Egypt president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, nation news, india news Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, talks to African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as other African leaders look upon the India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. More than 40 African leaders are in New Delhi to attend the IAFS 2015. (Express photo by Renuka Puri)

At least seven African leaders remembered Jawaharlal Nehru’s contribution in building India’s relations with Africa in their speeches. And, about 10 African leaders recalled Mahatma Gandhi for having started his fight against injustice from Africa.

In the opening song-and-dance sequence at the inauguration of the summit, Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were shown along with Nelson Mandela and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nehru was remembered by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and leaders from Morocco, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe. The Mahatma was mentioned by Mugabe, South African President Jacob Zuma, African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and leaders from Sudan, Liberia, Guinea, Madagascar, Namibia, Lesotho and Sao Tome. Many of them also mentioned NAM Summit and Bandung Conference — in which Nehru played an important role — although they did not name him.

Zuma said, “We would like to recall the historical ties that bind us over the last century, emphasising particularly the role of two of your visionary prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi.”

Calling Nehru an active participant in the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia and a founding member of the 1961 Non-Aligned Movement, he said the principles enshrined in the NAM were relevant in today’s challenging times. “Indira Gandhi, in her first 11 years in office from 1966 to 1977, changed India’s Africa policy through the introduction of the Africa-India Development Cooperation and India’s support for liberation struggles in Africa, including South Africa,” he said. “The actions of these two Indian visionaries have created the base of strong solidarity between African member states and India.”

In his address, Mugabe said Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru led the way through non-violence and showed the path to rid India and Africa of colonialism. The 91-year-old leader also termed the Congress as a “great party” as he recalled Africa’s ties with Gandhi and Congress. Moroccan King Mohamed VI said his grandfather and the “great” Nehru worked together in anti-colonial struggle in Africa.

Interestingly, Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, Wednesday night skipped the dinner hosted by PM Modi for the African leaders, apparently sending a message that it was outraged over the “insult” to the legacy of Nehru.

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