I owe my position to my family: Sonia

Addressing a gathering in Belgium, the Cong chief attributes her position to her mother-in-law Indira and her family.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2006 17:30 IST

Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi attributed her position to her late mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and her "remarkable family" as she inaugurated the centrepiece exhibition on Indian spiritual art at the Bozar India Festival in Brussels on Saturday evening.

In a personal tribute to a packed but select Indian and European audience consisting of businessmen, EU-India officials, academics and press, she provided extraordinary insight into her personal life, "I was 18 when I met my husband. I am reminded of my mother-in-law who said, 'One's real education is the university of life'."

Sonia Gandhi is in Belgium on a three-day trip to inaugurate a spiritual exhibition called 'Tejas - Eternal Energy, 1,500 years of Indian art' at the largest ever India exhibition to be held in 15 years.

Gandhi expressed great eagerness to view the "unique" exhibition that "profiles the Indian civilisation's journey through 1,500 years of India's past".

The awe-inspiring display, consisting of some 200 bronze and stone sculptures that trace the origin and journey of Indian spiritual philosophy, has left the country for the first time since Indian independence. The efforts followed a mammoth logistical endeavour involving a meticulous selection procedure from 30 museums across India, the INEP agency said.

Gandhi reminded Europeans of India's cultural diversity saying, "India is the birth place of four major religions. India welcomed Christianity long before Europe did."

Referring to India's relationship with Belgium, she said, "Our ties go back at least to 1723."

As India's ties with Belgium deepen following a highly successful Belgian delegation to India led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in the first week of November, Gandhi said: "Belgium is the second largest trading partner for India within the EU. Our bilateral trade crossed 8 billion euros in 2005, much of it from the diamond trade."

"I would like to express my appreciation of the contribution that the Indian community has made to our economic relations and to the Belgian economy," she added.

"I hope Belgian companies will also actively consider taking advantage of the growing and buoyant Indian economy."

Acknowledging the Belgian prime minister's efforts she said, "Your visit provided new momentum to our ties."

Verhofstadt responded in equally emotive rhetoric saying: "India is not only the greatest democracy on earth and a born-again economic superpower but the cradle of civilisation."

Paying homage to her dynasty, he conferred Belgium's second highest civilian honour of a 'Grand Officer in the Order Of King Leopold" on Gandhi.

"Please accept this as a token our highest esteem for your achievements in favour of Indian society as well as for your beloved husband and your mother-in-law, Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, both prime ministers assassinated while preserving democracy in India."

First Published: Nov 12, 2006 15:55 IST