PRESS RELEASE

RASHTRAPATI BHAVAN, NEW DELHI

July 17, 1998

Following is text of a message of greetings from the President, Shri K.R. Narayanan to H.E. Mr. Nelson Mandela, President of the Republic of South Africa on his eightieth birthday:

"Your Excellency,

On the occasion of your eightieth birthday, I extend to Your Excellency joyous felicitations on behalf of all the people of India, and wish you many more years in the service of your people, and the people of the world.

Your Excellency has given to our times a quality of leadership that occurs rarely in human affairs. Your personal courage, political vision, and strategic planning for a mass struggle, have given your life an epic dimension. Your people's 'long walk to freedom', under your leadership, struck in the hearts of our people an empathetic chord and evoked memories of the epic struggle for freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The examples of Chief Albert Luthuli, of Oliver Tambo and of Your Excellency, together with the exceptional response of your people, constitute a lesson for the world - a lesson in hope, in forbearance, and in resolute faith.

Just as South Africa rightly regards Mahatma Gandhi as one of its own sons, so do we in India see in you a kindred spirit. Your Excellency, when you were arrested and tried, India was distraught; when you were jailed, India felt that someone very close to her had been incarcerated. And the campaign for your release became, for us, a national mission in which the whole country participated. Across the political spectrum of our democracy, every political party supported your crusade against apartheid. And when Your Excellency, after 27 long years of imprisonment, stepped into the light of freedom, all of India rejoiced. It was only natural that India conferred on you its highest civilian decoration, the Bharat Ratna which means, literally, 'Jewel of India'.

Your struggle and your life have transformed the lives of your people. They have come to symbolize the hopes of all subjugated and oppressed people everywhere. Your Excellency's inauguration as the first President of the new South Africa has, therefore, opened a chapter of hope, not only for your people but for the politically, socially and economically disadvantaged all over the world. It has also opened a new chapter of equal importance, that of reconciliation and cooperation on terms of equality between different constituents of the "rainbow" society that you are seeking to build in South Africa. It is a new endeavour that is significant not only to South Africa but to the world. On your birth-day may I wish you every success in your historic endeavours for your people and for humanity. And may Your Excellency be surrounded by the sunshine of your people's affection for many more years.

                                                                                                          (K.R. NARAYANAN)"

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