THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRI PRANAB MUKHERJEE AT THE CEREMONY CONFERRING HONORARY DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF CIVIL LAW AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS
His speech is reproduced below.
Hon. Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius,
Sir Ramesh Jeewoolall, Chancellor of the University of Mauritius,
Distinguished guests and dear students,
1. I am delighted to be here among you. I have been in your country for nearly two days now. I have been mesmerised by the natural beauty of this island which is rivalled only by the warmth and friendliness of its people. I have been touched by the gracious hospitality accorded to me. I am, above all, struck by the profound awareness that this island's success is vested, in large part, in the education of its citizens. Mahatma Gandhi's brief stopover in 1901 had set the stage for a peaceful revolution in the area of education in Mauritius. Nurtured by the efforts of Barrister Manilall Doctor and other stalwarts, the seeds of social transformation continued to grow after Independence, thanks to the visionary leadership of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who was deeply aware of the power of education. He had said and I quote "In the modern world, education has a vital role to play in the life of a nation, particularly in developing countries, where people are becoming more and more conscious of their duties and responsibilities in shaping the future of their countries" - words which ring true even today. Investment in education continues to reap rich dividends for Mauritius and has been one of the reasons for the praiseworthy level of development that we see in Mauritius today.
2. Excellency, Sir Ramesh Jeewoolall, Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, it is indeed a privilege to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Law from your esteemed University. I thank you for this high honour. This University has a rich tradition of providing quality education that responds responding to the contemporary needs of Mauritian society. I wish all its distinguished faculty members, scholars and students every success in their academic pursuits. May you achieve, with distinction, your motto of "bridging knowledge across continents through excellence and intellectual creativity".
3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen , I am especially happy to be here as Chief Guest for the 45th Anniversary of the Independence Day of Mauritius. On this occasion, I extend to all Mauritians the good wishes of the Government and the people of India. While enjoying last evening's colourful and dignified ceremony at the Anjalay stadium, I could not help marvelling at the long way that Mauritius has come - since its independence in 1968. Every Mauritian, regardless of his ethnic or religious background should be proud of the remarkable achievements of this country . Not only has Mauritius triumphed in the realisation of its democratic and secular ideals, but it has also registered a commendable rate of economic growth, and established for its citizens the strong institutions that make Mauritius a well integrated and progressive people. Today Mauritius figures high in economic and social development indicators in Africa and has become a role model to many countries because of its economic success story.
4. During my visit to your country, I have had the opportunity to review the entire canvas of our bilateral co-operation with President Purryag, Prime Minister Ramgoolam and other distinguished leaders . All of us place great value on the unique bilateral relationship between India and Mauritius and agree that the friendship and trust between our governments and our people is based on enduring ties of kinship and brotherhood , our common history and culture and our shared vision for the future . In recent years, we have been able to leverage these linkages to evolve a modern, dynamic and mutually beneficial partnership, guided by close and frequent high-level political interaction - and strengthened by robust people-to-people contacts. The abiding strength of our bilateral partnership is amply reflected in close and strong engagement at various levels.
5. I am happy to note that several agreements have been signed during my visit in key sectors of our respective economies including tourism, health and medicine, co-operation in the addressing the issues related to senior citizens and disabilities. These agreements reflect the diversity of our engagement and will definitely benefit the people of both countries.
6. Ladies and Gentlemen, India has the third largest higher education system in the world with hundreds of universities, thousands of tertiary education institutions and millions of students studying in colleges and universities. We have a highly developed curriculum, globally reputed for its high quality - particularly in engineering, medicine, management , material science and technology, nanoscience, remote sensing, environmental studies, renewable energy and space science to name a few. With over 600 million Indians below the age of 25, we have prioritised the education and training of our youth over the next two decades to carry forward our development agenda. Needless to say, India is committing huge resources to towards this end.
7. Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, cooperation in the field of education has always been an important dimension of our bilateral relations. Nearly 100 scholarships are offered annually to Mauritian students to pursue under-graduate, post-graduate and research studies in various streams in India. This is in addition to 290 slots for short term courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. In recent years, we have seen an upswing in the number of Mauritian students availing of these scholarships. Many Mauritian students also enrol themselves in Indian universities on a self-financing basis. We welcome them in India. As the next generation, young people should have a say in determining our responses to the variety of challenges that our developing nations face today. I recall the words of Gandhiji who said, about living and learning, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow . Learn as if you were to live forever.” I hope these words inspire you too.
I once again thank the University of Mauritius once for receiving me and I wish you all great success in the future.