President of the Republic of Fiji




India Cultural Centre, SUVA Thurs, 9th January, 2013 6.30pm


Your Excellency the High Commissioner for India, Mr Vinod Kumar
The Director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Dr Kamal Kishor Mishra
Professor Satendra Nandan
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening, ni sa bula vinaka, salam alaykum, namaskar

I am indeed greatly honoured and pleased to be here this evening to address you all and launch this remarkable volume entitled “India-Fiji: Experiences to Remember”, edited by Do Kamal Kishor Mishra and Professor Satendra Nandan. I am happy to note that the volume is published in Suva.

I am delighted to see so many of you who have contributed to this unique collection of remembered experiences of your visit to India.

Then there are, as well, moving recollections of experiences of life in Fiji. There are also a few recollections of people from India on their experiences in Fiji.

I have had the pleasure of reading the articles and essays. I would like to congratulate the authors for their feelings and their thoughts and their recollected experiences and encounters with individuals and institutions. It makes fascinating reading especially the details and personal observations and their private memories of many demanding, educational and colourful journeys.

It is an engaging and interesting collection. The Foreword by Dr Karan Singh, an eminent cultural and political figure in India, is particularly relevant. I am sure it will be appreciated by readers, especially those in Fiji. Dr Singh is also the president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations which has sponsored the publication of this volume here.

I recall that Dr Singh visited fiji many years ago and it is clear that he has a deep affection for our country and our people. I hope that he will be able to visit Fiji again soon.

This volume contains the writings by 65 writers on the 65th anniversary of Indian independence. All the articles explore the relationships – educational, emotional and spiritual – between our two nations, with many cultures, traditions and faiths. And, above all, trust and mutual understanding of our own journeys towards freedom, democracy and a good life for our people. These are the shared journeys of our people. The historical journey that began in the last quarter of the 19th century continues with new vibrancy and vitality in the first quarter of the 21st century.

These are deeply human stories about our common humanity.

They strengthen us in many ways through many bonds of affections and remembrances.

It is a wonderful adventure of our people who believe in human values, traditions and cultures. We may belong to two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian, depending on our perspectives, but the ocean is one indivisible whole. Fiji and India are two modern, multicultural nations and they share a great deal together in their efforts and energy to improve the quality of life and the living conditions of their people.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first education minister, is about a communion of cultures. The ICCR has been awarding scholarships to Fijians from the beginning. Hundreds of Fiji students have had their opportunity to go for higher education to Indian universities.

Today, in a variety of disciplines, our students are being given around 30 scholarships annually.

Most of these young people, after the completion of their studies, return to serve Fiji in many capacities as professionals, journalists, teachers, among others.

Included in this volume are experiences of eminent sons and daughters of fiji, beginning with the first contribution by the late Sir Moti Tikaram entitled – “A Visit to India – in 1961”, when he was a member of a cultural delegation which was made up of the writer, and included a prominent Methodist Minister, the late Reverend Ramsay Deoki, a leading barrister and solicitor, the late Abdul Lateef and which was led by the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, then the Permanent Secretary for Fijian Affairs. The final contribution entitled – “At Home” is by Dr Krishna Kumar, the distinguished wife of the High Commissioner of India. In between those contributions, there are many equally moving contributions from a wide cross-section of prominent Fijians.

I am especially pleased to note that many pieces are from young scholars who have visited India at their own expenses or through ICCR awards. I hope that these journeys will continue to enrich the experiences of Fiji and India, both collectively and individually.

All the contributions are beautifully written with sincerity and feeling and with humour.

Words are vitally important: they can unite us, they can heal us, and they can lead us to new friendships. I have certainly inherited some new friends.

It is particularly meaningful for us to be associated with the largest democracy in the world at a time when fiji is embarking on a new constitution for a new fiji. Fiji and india sit together as members of the group of developing countries, the group of 77, and in many other fora.

And as the president of Fiji, I am profoundly proud of this interaction. I have found the articles interesting, engaging and entertaining and, may I say, educative. And I trust that they will do the same for all of you.

Ladies and gentlemen, i congratulate the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, the director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Dr Kamal Kishor Mishra and Professor Satendra Nandan for this inspiring initiative.

I hope that others will follow their example and continue to enrich our lives through reading, writing and editing.

With these few words, I have the honour to launch this wonderfully published volume of collected memories of our people.

Thank you, vinaka vakalevu, sukuria and bahoot dhanyavaad.