UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi did not refer to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal but mentioned the world community’s collective failure to move towards comprehensive disarmament when she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.
The occasion was the launch of October 2 as International Day of Non-Violence by the UNGA in an expression of the world community’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
In her 10-minute speech, Sonia dwelt on the continuing relevance of Gandhian philosophy and values in a world marked by challenges, including that of terrorism (now also by non-state players), violence against the poor and the vulnerable and violence against planet Earth reflected in manmade climate changes. She said the world is facing violence of various kinds.
Heard in rapt attention by members of 192 countries in the UNGA, Sonia’s audience included her son Rahul Gandhi, who was sitting right behind her before she took the floor. Present on the occasion were External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his deputy Anand Sharma. Later, Sonia discussed international issues with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a 30-minute session.
Sonia had taken the initiative to hold a global conference earlier in January, to mark 100 years of Gandhi’s Satyagraha. She followed up on the conference’s decision that the UN be urged to declare October 2 as International Non-Violence Day. A resolution, brought by India and cosponsored by 130 countries, was unanimously approved by the UNGA in June. On Tuesday, the UPA chairperson, who headed the Indian delegation for the launch of the International Day of Non-violence, thanked the world community for its support and underlined the need to walk the path of non-violence and become “human.”
“It is not the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi that is in question today....it is whether we have the courage to emulate his preachings and what he lived and died for,” Sonia said, making an impassioned plea that the Mahatma’s birth anniversary should not be turned into just another annual ritual.
Noting that Gandhi was a man of action, Sonia said his philosophy was not a sign of weakness or cowardice. In fact, he believed strength came from righteousness, not force, power came from truth not might and victory came from moral courage and not imposed submission.“To practise it in its true spirit demands strict discipline of mind; the courage to face aggression, the moral conviction to stay the course and the strength to do so without harbouring any malice towards the opponent,” Sonia said, adding that means and ends were inseparable in Gandhi’s thinking.
“Violence seeks to impose and overwhelm, which is why its victories are transitory. Non-violence seeks to engage and persuade, which is why its results are enduring,” she told an appreciative audience, noting that history has shown that violence only begets violence and hatred.
Sonia said according to Gandhi someone who achieves non-violence, is not a saint. “Let us strive to follow this path of non violence and become truly human,” she said, emphasising the need for understanding and accommodation.