NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of incidents of violence with communal and casteist overtones, President Pranab Mukherjee today once again emphasised the importance of diversity, saying it is "our lifeblood" and ensures that "we value co-existence, dialogue, mutual understanding and peace".
He made the remarks in the context of India and Africa while addressing a banquet hosted for leaders of 54 African nations who are here for a Summit for which he hailed the "drive" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India and Africa understand each other and for both "diversity is our lifeblood" as it "enriches us and makes us even stronger. It ensures that we value co-existence, dialogue, mutual understanding and peace," Mukherjee said.
"These are perspectives on the human development that India and Africa share, these are perspectives that we can together contribute to the rest of the world for handling conflicts and crises," he added. These remarks of the President assume significance as these come against the backdrop of certain incidents in the recent times which had communal and casteist overtones, like the Dadri lynching, controversy over beef and burning of a family of Dalits in Haryana.
Mukherjee said the difficult decades of colonial rule and cruel oppression, economic deprivation and racial discrimination may be behind us but the challenges are far from gone and they have changed. "We have still to overcome poverty and disease, terrorism and drug trafficking, lack of education and training," he said. He said both India and Africa have stood in days of struggle and "we will stand together in this challenging dawn
of development. India is ready to share its democratic experience, its agricultural expertise, its capacity building potential, its healthcare institutions, its peacekeepers with our partners from Africa.
"Once again we are determined that our struggle will be based on principles - the principles of equality and partnership, of mutual benefit, of human dignity. For India and Africa, guided by the vision of Mahatma Gandhi who belonged to both, that is the only path."
Referring to terrorism, the President said India and Africa should fight it together as it "knows no boundaries or borders and has no ideology except that of wanton destruction." He spoke about extending cooperation in the field of agriculture between India and African countries.
Mukherjee said India commits to assist Africa in charting its own course through infrastructure development, institution building and technical and vocational skill development. "India's development partnership with Africa complements the various priorities set out in the Agenda 2063 vision document adopted by the African Union," he added.
Complimenting Modi for the summit, the President said it is the Prime Minister's drive which has "brought us together for this event." Going down the memory lane, Mukherjee recalled the days before India had its 'green revolution'. "We were not self-sufficient in food. In those days, we literally lived from 'ship to mouth'. Though India today is self-sufficient in food production, the land available for agriculture is continuously decreasing due to rising population," he said.
Noting that Africa is blessed with large areas of fertile, cultivable land, Mukherjee recalled the words of first President of Ghana Kwameh Nkrumah who had pointed out that "the Congo Basin alone can produce enough food crops to satisfy the requirements of nearly half the population of the whole world". Agricultural growth is not only important in addressing Africa's quest of food security but it also remains a key component of Africa's overall development.
"I am sure that the interactions you and your delegations had in the past few days would have discussed collaboration in the areas of increasing productivity; smart agriculture; environment-friendly farm mechanization; promotion of gene pool and better seeds, and other modern agricultural concepts," he said.