Hailing Aung San Suu Kyi as "one of the most remarkable figures of our time", Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said her visit to India after a quarter of a century is "something of a homecoming" and an opportunity to renew links that go back to two generations. Gandhi said that Suu Kyi’s vision of "politics as an ethical calling" has inspired people the world over.
Inviting her to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture here, Gandhi said that just like Nehru, the Burmese leader is a synthesis of the best of East and West, but rooted in her own country and its culture.
"She exemplifies all qualities he (Nehru) most admired -fearlessness, integrity, moral and intellectual courage, perseverance,freedom from anger and bitterness and unqualified devotion to betterment of the life of her people through the path of dialogue and national reconciliation," she said.
Gandhi said Indian people revere Suu Kyi for sacrifices she has made and recalled the warmth of relations between Nehru and her father, General Aung San adding they held each other in high esteem.
"At a more personal level, I am delighted to have this opportunity to renew links that go back two generations," Gandhi said recalling that in January 1947, when Aung San was on his way to London for talks on Burma’s independence, he stayed with Nehru as his personal guest in his home.
"Both shared a vision of the peoples of Asia, newly emerging from colonial rule, meeting together, holding together and advancing together. As a first step towards this goal, your father had proposed a pan-Asian conference, which materialized in Delhi in March 1947.
"A few months later on receiving the news of your father’s tragic assassination, Nehru wrote to your mother, mourning the loss of a friend and comrade to whom Burma and Asia had looked with hope. You are the worthy inheritor of a noble father’s legacy... I am deeply privileged to extend to Suu Kyi a most heartfelt welcome," she said.
Noting that the Nobel Peace Laureate from Myanmar has been unswerving in her loyalty to the principle of non-violence, Gandhi said that Suu Kyi has been the "keeper of Mahatma Gandhi’s flame" in her own country.
She added that there are millions of Indians who have taken her to their heart for who she is and what she stands for.
Gandhi also recalled that more than 20 years ago, Suu Kyi was prevented from coming here to receive the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding.
The Congress President said that Suu Kyi first visited India in 1961 with her mother as Burma's ambassador and set up house at 24 Akbar Road here, which currently houses the Congress party headquarters.
Recalling that Nehru had said his greatest challenge was to build a just state by just means, she said, "It is a challenge which is still with us. It is a challenge which you also confront".
"Suu Kyi’s vision of politics as an ethical calling has inspired people the world over. As in the case of Mahatma Gandhi, her life is her message. To stand alone against power, whatever the cost, even to the point of defying the pointed rifle, requires extraordinary inner strength and resolve.
"To do so, not in order to acquire power or high office, but to empower a whole people, is even more heroic. Daw Suu Kyi’s vision of the full life explains the devotion and enthusiasm she inspires," Gandhi said.