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Pranab assumes office as Prez, pledges to protect Constitution

india Updated: Jul 25, 2012 23:46 IST

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Fight against terrorism is the fourth world war and India has been on the frontlines of this, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said while hailing the valour and conviction of the Indian armed forces.

Taking oath as the President, he said few minutes of peace will achieve far more than many years of war.

"...But the visible rewards of peace have also obscured the fact that the age of war is not over. We are in the midst of a fourth world war; the third was the Cold War, but it was very warm in Asia, Africa and Latin America till it ended in the 1990s," said the President, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

"The war against terrorism is the fourth; and it is a world war because it can raise its evil head anywhere in the world," the President said in his acceptance speech in the Central Hall of Parliament.

India has been on the frontlines of this war long before many other recognised its vicious depth or poisonous consequences, he said.

"I am proud of the valour, conviction and steely determination of our armed forces as they have fought this menace on our borders; of our brave police forces as they have met the enemy within; and of our people, who have defeated the terrorist trap by remaining calm in the face of extraordinary provocation," Mukherjee said.

Noting that the people of India have been "a beacon of maturity through the trauma of whiplash wounds", he reminded those who instigate violence and perpetuate hatred that "few minutes of peace will achieve far more than many years of war".

"India is content with itself, and driven by the will to sit on the high table of prosperity. It will not be deflected in its mission by noxious practitioners of terror," the President said.

Assuming office as the 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday pledged to protect the Constitution not just in word but also in spirit as the office demands he rises above personal or partisan interests.

Making a brief acceptance speech after being sworn-in as President in the Central Hall of Parliament, he termed corruption as an "evil" and said the greed of a few cannot be allowed to hijack the progress of the nation.

"The principal responsibility of this office is to function as the guardian of our Constitution. I will strive, as I said on oath, to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution not just in word but also in spirit," Mukherjee said in his acceptance speech after he assumed the highest constitutional post at an impressive ceremony.

His speech was punctuated by repeated thumping of desks and applause.

"I am deeply moved by the high honour you have accorded to me. Such honour exalts the occupant of this office, even as it demands that he rises above personal or partisan interests in the service of the national good," he said.

"There is no greater reward for a public servant than to be elected the first citizen of our republic," Mukherjee said.

The veteran leader reminded the gathering whose majority included top leaders of political parties, MPs, chief ministers and governors that "we are all, across the divide of party and region, partners at the altar of our motherland".

"A modern nation is built on some basic fundamentals: democracy or equal rights for every citizen; secularism or equal freedom to every faith; equality of every region and language; gender equality and perhaps most important of all economic equity. For our development to be real, the poorest of our land must feel that they are part of the narrative of rising India," Mukherjee said.

Touching on the issue of corruption, he said the weight of office sometimes becomes a burden on dreams. The news is not always cheerful.

"Corruption is an evil that can depress the nation's mood and sap its progress. We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by the greed of a few," he said.

Pranab Mukherjee, in a traditional horse driven carriage, waves to the media as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. AP/Manish Swarup

Calling for erasing poverty from the dictionary of modern India, he said, "There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom.

"Our national mission must continue to be what it was when the generation of Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, BR Ambedkar and Maulana Azad offered us a tryst with destiny: to eliminate the curse of poverty, and create such opportunities for the young that they can take India forward by quantum leap," he said.

He stressed that India's true story is the partnership of people maintaining "our wealth has been created by farmers and workers, industrialists and service-providers, soldiers and civilians."

Dubbing terrorism as the "fourth world war", Mukherjee said it is a world war because it can raise its head anywhere in the world.

Full text of Pranab Mukherjee's speech