Karzai's acceptance speech after winning the Indira Gandhi prize
Your Excellency President A J P Abdul Kalam;
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh;
Honourable Mrs Sonia Gandhi;
There come moments in our lives when our emotions take the better of us. As I stand to receive a truly great honour, the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, I have to fight off an overwhelming torrent of emotions.
I am deeply humbled, ladies and gentlemen, by the generosity of your welcome and hospitality. May I thank the board of Trustees and the Jury of the Indira Gandhi Prize for honouring me with their prestigious award.
To me, this prize signifies the greatness of the person whose name it carries. We know Indira Gandhi, not just as a descendent of one of India’s finest political traditions and the first woman prime minister of India, but also as a leader of great stature in the world.
We remember Indira Gandhi as a leader who lived greater than life, and who left an important legacy which further enriched the celebrated tradition of her great father, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the father of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi. I am proud to have joined today the alumni of the prize that is dedicated to this inspirational leader.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our gathering here on this occasion is, among other things, a celebration of the cherished values and traditions that India and Afghanistan share in common.
We are here to celebrate the Holy Quran and its message of unity among humanity: “O humanity!” says the Holy Quran, “We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other.” The same message is echoed in the Hindu tradition of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – the world is a family – which teaches us to reach out to others beyond cultural and geographical boundaries. These messages of tolerance and co-existence reflect the values ingrained in the very fabric of our societies, and we must nurture those values.
For me today’s event is also reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi, his tradition of Satyagraha and his philosophy of non-violence. I remember that great visionary leader who defied colonial rule but did so without violence; who was prepared to die for the cause of freedom, but not prepared to kill for any cause.
Thinking of Gandhi also reminds me of another great leader of the region – Badsha Khan, better known in India as the ‘Frontier Gandhi – one of Gandhi Jee’s truest companions. Like Gandhi, Badshah Khan challenged oppression and the colonial rule, but opposed the shedding of blood. Sacrifice and service to humanity were the cornerstones of Badsha Khan’s struggle.
Regrettably, despite Ghafar Khan’s glorious legacy, the region where once his message of non-violence and co-existence resonated, is ravaged today by violence and bloodshed. Extremism and terrorism are wreaking havoc on people’s lives.
To the followers of Badsha Khan, my message today is that determination and perseverance are also among the values that Badsha Khan adhered to. Let us, therefore, challenge the continuation of violence in the region, and enable the voices of peace and co-existence to resonate once again.
Ladies and gentlemen,
More than fifty years into an independent, democratic country, the people of India should be proud to have fostered democratic politics and achieved prosperity. You have preserved the richness of your culture and spirits, and have combined it with great economic and scientific accomplishments. As a result, today India is a beacon of hope to those countries in the developing world that aspire to establish democratic rule and break out of poverty.
In Afghanistan, over the past five years, we also have begun a journey towards a future that India embodies today. Afghanistan has emerged from a dark era, when war and invasion brought death and destruction to our land. Today Afghanistan has once again become the home of all Afghans.
Together, we have created sustainable political institutions and are working to rebuild our shattered economic infrastructure.
Women are participating in public life, millions of our children are going back to school, and a strong and free press is becoming the hallmark of a tolerant, democratic society.
Of course, the path we have chosen is not without threats and obstacles. There are evil forces lurking around the corner trying to deny us a better life. Terrorism is one such evil that threatens our efforts.
However, our determination to succeed is solid and unwavering. We will continue on our path to rebuild an Afghanistan that is stable, strong and prosperous, able to contribute to a better and safer world. In this endeavour, we are grateful to India, alongside the rest of the international community, for augmenting the determination of the Afghan people with their generous support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, it is with deep gratitude and appreciation that I accept this honour today. To me, this honour represents an affirmation of the path we have chosen in Afghanistan. It is also a recognition of the value that our efforts in Afghanistan have for you in India. We are grateful for that recognition. This honour will give us more strength to complete our journey.