In his first speech as the country's 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday termed the ongoing combat against terror as the 'fourth world war' because militancy could rear its evil head anywhere across the globe. He also pledged to protect the Constitution not just in words but also in its true spirit.
The acceptance speech — watched by the country's top brass in the majestic Central Hall of Parliament and millions across the country on television sets — had Mukherjee stating that the occupant of the highest office is required to rise above personal or partisan interests.
Besides terming corruption as an "evil" that has to be conquered, he also stressed on the eradication of poverty because "no humiliation was more abusive" than hunger.
A significant part of Mukherjee's speech, however, dwelt on the subject of terrorism. "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 early 1990s. The war against terrorism is the fourth," he said. "India has been on the frontline of this war long before many others recognised its vicious depth or consequences."
Invoking the names of prominent national figures, including Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, the new President linked major events in the country's history to challenges currently being faced by it.
"I was a boy when Bengal was savaged by a famine that killed millions. The misery and sorrow is still not lost on me. We have achieved much in the field of agriculture, industry and social infrastructure, but that is nothing compared to what India — led by the coming generations — will create in the decades ahead," he said.
"There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger... we must lift those at the bottom," he added.
Speaking on graft, Mukherjee said: "It is an evil that can depress the nation's mood and sap its progress."