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Diplomacy through centenary celebration

india Updated: May 25, 2007 20:39 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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In a rare example of Track II diplomacy, several dozen Pakistanis would cross over to India this week to celebrate the birth centenary of their British teacher at the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) in Dehradun.

During their stay, the Pakistanis would take part in a series of events to mark the hundredth birthday of Hugh Catchpole — the first civilian and last British principal of RIMC, the elite institution for moulding future defence officers.

The celebrations on Saturday where Union Defence Minister AK Antony would be present include unveiling a marble bust of Catchpole, release of a coffee table book on him as well as the release of a special postal cover to mark the occasion.

Born at Ipswich, England on May 26, 1907, Catchpole had joined RIMC as an assistant master in 1928 and went on to become the principal in 1947. He stayed back even after independence till his contract expired in 1954.

Thereafter, at the request of Rimcollians from Pakistan, he set up the Cadet College, Hasan Abdal and later went on to head the PAF Public School at Sargodha from where he retired at the age of 60.

Besides being an extraordinary educationist, Catchpole who remained a bachelor was a humanist and philanthropist and donated his life savings to the schools he taught and the school and college he studied with generous endowments.

The 100th birthday function is the Phase II of the centenary celebration, which began in February when 35 boys and their teachers from schools in Pakistan competed with their Indian counterparts at a cricket tournament at RIMC for which the Chief of Army Staff had instituted a silver cup.

According to RIMC authorities, there has been an overwhelming response from Catchpole's students and around 125 of them are congregating here at their own expenses from Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK, USA and the Middle East.

"This is an unprecedented example of enhancing people to people contact between India and Pakistan, which is also an avowed aim of our government under the Track II diplomacy initiative," said a RIMC release.

After the events here are over, cadets from RIMC and former Rimcollians from India would cross over to Pakistan on June 10 at the invitation of the centenary committee to take part in the celebrations organized there.