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Address by Vice President at the University for Peace, Costa Rica (March 08, 2019)

March 08, 2019

Distinguished Dean of the University, Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo,
Her Excellency, Lorena Aguilar, Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Mr. Narendra, Professor Emeritus
Mr. Alphons who is part of our delegation, In-charge of Tourism, Government of India, Member of Parliament,
Part of the delegation, Mr. Kashyap Ji,
And our Ambassador Shri Ravi Thapar,
Distinguished members of the academic community,
Esteemed members of the diplomatic corps,
Esteemed officials of the government of Costa Rica,
My dear students,
Distinguished Sisters and Brothers.

Pura Vida and Namaskar to all of you!

I am delighted to be here with all of you today at the University for Peace (UPeace). It is, indeed a humbling experience for me to be honored with the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa).

This is an honor for my country rather than to me as an individual. It is an honor you are bestowing to a country, a civilization and a culture that has been an ardent and consistent champion of peace since time immemorial.

It is a country that demonstrated to the world the power of ‘non-violence’. I am proud to belong to a country that produced Mahatma Gandhiji, a rare colossus whose ideas on peace and non-violence have been a source of inspiration for over a century to different leaders in different parts of the world.

I am privileged to receive this honor when the world is commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the extraordinary apostle of peace, who has been enshrined in your beautiful campus within The Peace Garden.

I am indeed grateful to the University for Peace for thinking of me and my country for this unique honor. To me, it is a recognition of the continuing relevance of Indian thought and vision in addressing contemporary challenges to world peace.

My dear sisters and brothers,

I am the Vice President, being a Vice President I am also Chancellor of some of the universities of India and also being in public life for more than 40 years, a number of other institutions and universities have offered to confer the honorary doctorate to me but I politely refuse saying that I don’t like such titles to be given to me as long as I am still active in public life.

But this honor which the university is bestowing to me, I have accepted it without any hesitation, the reason being this is a university set up by the United Nations. And secondly the award is for promoting peace, strengthening democracy and also empowering the underprivileged people.

This is what we are doing in India, this is a subject which is very dearer to my heart and I feel by accepting this honor it will send a positive signal to my countrymen to follow the work which we have been doing with much more vigor. That is the reason for my accepting this and then coming over here to this university.

The history of human kind is a fascinating saga of endless quest for peace. This quest progresses against the backdrop of a ceaseless conflict between the forces of war and forces of peace, between destructive forces of hatred and healing forces of love and development, between fanatical war cries of religious bigotry and the soothing forces of tolerance and inclusion, between the megalomaniac designs of despotic rulers and the caring, empathetic forces promoting the welfare and well-being of all.

The world today needs a vision that will rally most countries behind the forces of peace. The isolationist, fragmented, blinkered and divisive world view needs a radical transformation if peace has to have a chance.

Against this backdrop, your honor which I am receiving today is an honor to a timeless vision that is relevant to the contemporary world more than ever before. It is an occasion to recollect what India, the founding member of this University, has to offer to further the objectives of this University and to build a culture of peace around the world.

The University's founding motto of "SI VIS PACEM – PARA PACEM" which translates as "If you desire peace, prepare for peace”. The question is "How do you prepare for peace”?

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed”, says the preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO. It is the mindset that needs to change. Education is the most potent instrument for this transformation. Knowledge and attitudes are mainly shaped in our educational institutions but they are influenced significantly by the mass media, the social media, by the political leadership, families and communities. If defenses of peace have to be built, all these institutions have a role to play. However, the first step is to define the contours of a world view. It is here that Indian thought can be helpful.

Indian sages and philosophers had, around the 4th century BC, had given a universal vision of peaceful co-existence. Let me quote one verse that gives you a glimpse of this vision:

"Ayam nijah paro vaiti gananaa laghuchetasaam,
Udaaracharitaaanaam tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”

(Only the narrow minded persons consider some individuals as their own and others as alien. For those who have a liberal disposition, the whole world is merely a large family”. )

This is essentially about identity. We all have multiple identities, as a member of certain groups based on gender, language, religion, social group, common interest and nationality. The question is whether we can transcend these groups and identities and see others as our kin, as members of our large, extended family. The ability to appreciate and celebrate the fascinating diversity in thoughts, languages, cultures and religious beliefs is the foundation for the ability to live together. Peace begins with our search for the common bonds that unite us rather than when we look for and accentuate the differences.

The second useful thought process is the ability to see divinity in every human being. One of the ancient Indian philosophic texts, Ishavasya Upanishad, says, "Every living being in this universe has the same divinity within it.” Once we recognize that each human being is divine and has the same emotions and capabilities as anyone else, we cannot but be respectful of each other. There can be no oppression, no suppression and no exploitation. Non-violence is a natural, concomitant corollary to this world view.

In leading India to independence by following the path of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi had served as the inspiration for non-violent movements across the world. Today, the world acknowledges his contribution to peace by celebrating International Day for Non-Violence on the occasion of his birthday on 2nd October. Indeed, so integral is peace to India’s civilizational ethos, that every prayer in India invokes peace, or shanti.

The 21st century has been described as a paradoxical epoch that is at once full of hope for peaceful co-existence but is also full of possibilities of conflicts. In the last century, the extraordinary vision and a clear recognition of mankind’s shared destiny led to the establishment of the United Nations, and after seven decades it continues to represent mankind’s collective dream of peace. However, that collective dream of the United Nations is today threatened by diverse forces of disruption.

As the world becomes more and more globalized as we are living in an era of LPG i.e. liberalization, privatization, and globalization and closely knit due to the forces of trade, commerce and information technology, the threats to global peace have also become more pervasive.

Terrorism is the biggest scourge of our lives. It, along with threats like climate change and public health epidemics, do not follow the contours of political borders. In such circumstances, the United Nations, international cooperation and Member States acting in the spirit of cooperation are the only means of effectively facing these challenges.

UN itself would need to be strengthened. An expansion of the United Nations Security Council, which should include India - a country with one sixth of humanity, and the fastest growing large economy- will make it more representative and more effective.

Even, as we in India celebrate 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Mahatma or Great Soul, we continue to bear the impact of the most serious challenge to world peace. Terrorism has resulted in loss of lives of many innocent people. It has disrupted day-to-day living in so many parts of the world.

Radicalization on the basis of religion is gaining ground. Indeed, terrorism is actually a struggle between the values of humanism and acts of inhumanity and madness. It is a menacing threat to humanity that raises its ugly head and leaves a trail of destruction wherever it strikes.

We must combat it with all the collective might. Its unholy nexus with illicit financial and arms flows must be severed. As one of the most diverse nations of the world, the people of India have practiced the concept of peace and harmonious co-existence for thousands of years. But India has also suffered the pain of cross-border strife. Our endeavor towards peaceful development has only too often been de-railed by cross-border terrorism.

Terror has no religion, it has no cast, it’s an enemy of humanity. It should be curbed and we all should join together.

Simultaneously, concerted action has to be taken to correct the distorted versions of religious interpretation. As some people are trying to misuse religion to further their cause of mindless terror and violence.

We must build a larger collective effort to present a world view drawn from all the major faiths to encourage a greater understanding of the essential tenets that promote peace. These messages of peace need to reach wider audiences.

The universal message of Hinduism with the overarching themes of universal brotherhood and peaceful coexistence have been cited earlier by me. In addition, greater emphasis should be given to the "paths of peace” of Holy Quran which show that "God abhors any disturbance of peace” it very categorically says and that "God grants to the non-violent what he doesn’t grant to the violent”.

Focus should be on Christian teachings like "Blessed are the peace makers, for those promote peace”, "God wants us to live in harmony with one another” and "God is not a God of disorder but of peace”. And then if we move to Buddhism and Jainism, they have "non-violence” as the basic article of faith. These values and precepts have to be woven into the educational systems and inter-faith understanding should be further enriched.

This misinterpretation and misuse of religion, it has to exposed, it has to be condemned. People who are using it, they should be isolated and acted upon, that is the need of the hour. What is happening these people may be small in number but they create bigger nuisance and they create controversies and they create artificial barriers and the silent majority, I am not talking majority in terms of a particular community, silent majority of people are feeling sorry for what is happening but the violent minority of such groups, they are reacting in such a manner to destroy peace and order in the society, in the country and in the world.

So it is the duty of all citizens to stand united, speak in one voice, act together and take steps to see that these forces of distortion, these forces of negativism, these forces of division, they are curbed, they are isolated, that is the duty. And education which is the foundation for our younger generation must consist proper conveying of the messages of all religions, the essence of all religions and every religion preaches peace, brotherhood, love, affection. This is what is required and the culture of the world, of the humanity including India’s culture, culture is a way of life, religion is a way of worship. We should all focus on the way of life and that is taking care of others, thinking about others, expressing concerns and acting for the welfare of others, that is the need of the hour. These values and percepts have to be woven into education system and inter-faith understanding should be further enriched.

Another challenge to world peace is that of climate change. Here again, the Indian world view had adopted an integrated perspective clearly establishing the inter-relatedness of humankind and nature. As the Vedic sages have said,

"May there be peace everywhere, in the sky, in space,
all over our planet, in natureMay there be eternal peace.”

I am happy to note that there are some beautiful lines in Costa Rica’s national anthem that celebrate nature:

"Under the clear blue of your skyWhite and pure rests peace”

It is this reverence for nature that must be brought back into our global culture and consciousness. That is why wherever I go I say love and live with the nature. Nature and culture together for better future. If you are able to live and love the nature and protect the nature, the nature will protect you. This is the history, this is the experience. We should all, world over, all generations, all countries, youngsters should focus on this philosophy i.e. taking care of the nature so that the nature can take care of you.

No country is spared the effect of extreme climatic events, and no Government can ignore the consequences of its destabilizing effects. A particularly painful feature of climate change is that it tends to impact the vulnerable populations the most. Mitigating the effects of climate change remains one of the most pressing challenges to peace and human security of our times through causing water and food stress on the planet. It is, therefore, pertinent that the UPEACE has its campus in Costa Rica, a country that is at the forefront of leading these initiatives.

I am very happy, earlier I used to read about Costa Rica that evinced a lot of interest and coming here and seeing this beautiful country with the dutiful people, maybe small in size but large in heart of concern for all and not having an army is an indication the world, one day or other, should follow this example if really want to have peace. And you have no desire to attack others and you don’t want to conquer anybody, when you don’t want to hate anybody then what is the need for these forces but it is not that much easy, I am aware of it because of the challenges that are there. So for that you need to create a proper climate, change the mindset of the people and make people to see that it is not only prosperity that is required, it is not the material progress that is required, it is also equally important that you have happiness. Prosperity alone will not bring you happiness, calmness of mind. So you must focus, the world agenda must be peace for progress. There cannot be progress without peace. If there is tension there cannot be attention towards development, it is a simple thing and fact of life so we have to focus on building on peace. And for that we have to take effective steps.

India, despite having a historically low carbon foot-print, has been playing an active role in the global fight against climate change. In our multifaceted approach to address climate change, we have taken several new initiatives. With the motto of One World, One Sun and One Grid, India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Bhai Modi has launched in collaboration with the French Government the International Solar Alliance (ISA). ISA which is a partnership of 120 like-minded countries, aims to mobilize investments of $1 trillion for installing 1000 GW solar plants worldwide by 2030.

Inequalities and exclusion are major causes of conflict. Another major cause is growing inequality and also the exclusion of certain people from development.

Peace cannot be sustained in an environment where certain groups are marginalized or exploited. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscores this aspect and aims to "leave no one behind”, do not leave anybody behind, take them along. India has embarked on a number of programs that have the same inclusive approach called "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (Assistance to all and development of all). All countries in the world should adopt similar inclusive approaches to development which will avoid discontent and conflict.

Good governance with high level of accountability and transparency can also create a favorable peaceful environment.

India is undertaking ambitious actions for the social and economic development and poverty eradication. The rapid growth made by India in its development agenda has contributed to moving forward on the sustainable development goals.

I am also glad that I am speaking to you on the occasion of International Women’s Day. I do hope that all countries will give greater attention to women’s education and empowerment in their development architecture. Empowering women to actively participate in national development has been a key cornerstone of our policy.

India has experimented with giving leadership roles to over 3 million women in the local bodies, in municipalities, in Panchayati Raj bodies across the country and they are doing a great job. Since time immemorial women used to be given respect. Even in our philosophy those days, Gargi, Maitreyi, they used to come to the forefront and also use to argue and educate people in those days. These differences of thinking that women are not fit, they should only be confided to house, it has no philosophical background. It has come in between, it should go in-between. They constitute 50 percent so you must really empower them and for that the first thing is education. Educating a woman is educating a family, educating a man is educating a person. Taking this into consideration the entire world should focus more on women’s education.

The key ingredients of good governance are meaningful dialogue with the people and their active participation. This is also the essence of democracy where the voice of people finds the best articulation. India has had a long history of grass-root level village organizations called Sabhas, Sanghas and Samitis. These are forums of grass-root level democracy from the Vedic days.

Strengthening these forums of discussion, debate and incorporation of the voice of people in policy making creates a favorable environment for peace to thrive. In democracy you select and elect the people and these people should discuss, debate and decide. They should not disrupt. The best way in democracy is that everyone have their voice and then finally the majority of the parliament. That is why in my country also when there are difference in the way, I tell them come to the house prepared. Let the government propose, let the opposition oppose and let the house dispose with majority. That is the essence of democracy. There is no other method than democracy to provide governance to the people and that has been tested.

Enforcing the rule of law, creating speedy, objective systems of judicial redressal can enhance public satisfaction and reduce conflicts. Credible elections can reinforce the faith of public at large in democratic institutions and convince them that the ballot is more powerful than the bullet.

You can unseat any powerful ruler in a democracy simply, secretly, silently you can change the leadership. That is the beauty of democracy.

Peace is an integral part of the world we all want. As the world community resolved while formulating its goals for 2030, "We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”

Peace is not merely absence of conflict but a positive state of well-being in which each individual in society can feel free to grow and access opportunities equitably, where justice is dispensed without fear or favor, where the rule of law prevails, where there is no discrimination on any basis, where national fervor and international cooperation co-exist. This is one area where we have to focus our attention, the debate going on about nationalism v/s internationalism. There is nothing like that, national fervor is taking care of your own nation and then international cooperation and coexistence, they must go together. Where force is used only to defend not to attack and the focus of the polity is on improving the quality of people’s lives.

Science, technology, advancement, so called development because what is the purpose is making people’s lives more comfortable. People to be provided with more peace, tranquility and also happiness, that should be the aim of any reforms.

Peace, therefore, is synonymous with development and civilized existence. It is the basic prerequisite for progress. The world should focus on reducing the income inequalities and should ensure that persistent development challenges like illiteracy, malnutrition, hunger and poverty are adequately addressed. We should aim at creating a world where every person has equal opportunities to succeed, to make progress and lead a happy life.

I am happy to note that since its inception in 1980, this University has produced hundreds of students in the different programs of study and disciplines. As a strong, global knowledge player with a long history of learning, India is proud of its growing association with UPEACE, especially through this University’s India Initiative.

I have a fervent hope that your efforts in the university will trigger a thought process which will result in tangible action to promote peace in the world. It has to be a two-pronged approach. The first component should be collectively combating the forces of hatred, violence, terrorism and organized crime.

Simultaneously we should focus on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law, strengthening the delivery system and resolutely reinforcing just and inclusive governance and implement an inclusive sustainable development agenda. India, as usual, would be happy to be in the vanguard of this movement, I can assure you on behalf of my country.

My dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to conclude with a hymn from the ancient Indian literature that could illuminate the world’s future pathways to peace.

Om Saha Naavavatu
Saha Nau Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejasvi Naavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahaiv Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih

That means,

Let us walk together, let us dine together,
Let us acquire the competence and the confidence to grow together,
Let us not hate each other for any reason,
Let there be peace within each one of us and peace all around us.

That is the meaning of this shloka which has been there from time immemorial. So let us all follow the path of peace, take the universe, the world towards more development and harmony. Let us all live together harmoniously, happily. That should be our agenda the world should move in the direction. This institution founded by United Nations is a pioneering institution and this message should go across the globe.

I was so happy to know that there is the University for Peace and in fact I feel that in every university of the world, there should be a chapter or there has to be a course about peace and I hope that this piece of my advice about the peace will be remembered by all and every country and every university will take lead in taking such initiatives. I will go back to India with this message that this university which is working on the younger generation to create peace in the world needs to be really not only appreciated but also to be strengthened.

I would like to compliment the United Nations for taking this initiative and I would like to compliment the management, director and the other people here who are all responsible for maintaining this university, imparting training and teaching to the younger generation. I hope the products of this university, the younger generation, you are the hope of the future. You all take the message seriously and try to spread it across the globe where you go.

Thank you very much.

Jai Hind


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