Afghan President Hamid Karzai was on Monday conferred an honorary doctorate degree by President Pranab Mukherjee at a professional university in Phagwara.
Sharing the dais with Mukherjee, who was the chief guest at the convocation of Lovely Professional University, Karzai said he was humbled to have the degree from a university which was amazing by all standards of academic excellence and grandeur in size and the biggest university of India.
He tendered an apology to Mukherjee, Government of Punjab and LPU students for having come late, saying his plane had developed some problems.
Karzai said, "India, as a friend of Afghanistan, has made immense contribution in uplifting its youths. India has contributed two billion dollars from the hard-earned money of its tax-payers for the betterment of Afghanistan."
The Afghan President lauded India's fast growth in industry, technology and economy.
"India is on the path of progress and prosperity. It is one of the greatest civilisations on earth. The power and energy you (students and youths) generate is good for India and beyond," Karzai, who is here on a three-day visit, said.
He called India a great power of technology and sciences, and said it stood for the goodness of mankind.
Highlighting the need for development of education, especially higher education, in Afghanistan, he said the Chancellor of LPU Ashok Mittal had assured him to take as many students in his university from Afghanistan as the country sent on scholarships.
He said India had 2,000 Afghan students studying in its various universities and LPU had 22 Afghan students.
Delivering his convocation address, Mukherjee said, "Tolerance for polarisation, honesty, self discipline and upright conduct should be our guiding force." He underlined the need of vocationalisation of education. "There cannot be progress without innovation, research and development," he said.
Mukherjee said every university in India should establish at least one centre of excellence.
He said, "It's indeed commendable that LPU has extensively used technology to manage 40,000 students.
Education can change the minds of youth and build their future." Stressing on the need to re-evaluate core values of society to ensure women's safety, he said, "The time has come for us to introspect that if a society cannot respect women, it cannot move forward."
Noting that India was amidst a major demographic transition, he said every year around 12 million Indians are added to the working population of the world.
"By 2020, two-thirds of the working population will be in India. It would be a great asset if it's a productive asset. It will be a great liability if we don't instill the skills required for employment," he said.
Referring to prominent universities of India like Takshashila and Nalanda that attracted students from all over the world, Mukherjee said, "These universities illuminated the minds of students for over 1,000 years. Sadly, out of the 200 best universities of the world (currently), not even one is Indian university."
Lamenting the fact that India had to wait for 83 years for Nobel Prize for original research, he said at least one university should take the lead in world class research and development.
"I agree there is a shortage of faculty but we can take advantage of technology like e-classroom facility and transmit lectures by prominent faculty from one university to another.
Out-of-the-box thinking and innovative measures are the need of the hour," he said.