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India-U.K. ties an example: Manmohan

Saturday 9 July 2005, by SUROOR*Hasan

Speaking at Oxford, Prime Minister acknowledges the beneficial consequences of the Raj

Candid review of relations Constitution, testimony to enduring interplay ``India wrecked a myth’’

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AN HONOUR: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Oxford University Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes at a special honorary degree presentation ceremony. The Chancellor conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law at the 15th century Divinity School at Oxford University, Oxford, on Friday. - PHOTO: PTI

LONDON: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may have inadvertently set the tone for a brave re-assessment of Britain’s colonial legacy in India when, speaking at Oxford University on Friday, he acknowledged the "beneficial consequences" of the Raj. He said there were elements of the "British-Indian administration" such as the rule of law and free press, which India still valued and cherished.

After receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law, he said: "Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India’s experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too. Our notions of the rule of law, of a constitutional government, of a free press, of a professional civil service, of modern universities and research laboratories have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age-old civilisation met the dominant Empire of the day."

Assertion of right

In a candid review of Indo-British relations, Dr. Singh said India’s struggle for independence was more an assertion by Indians of their "natural right to self-governance" than an outright rejection of the "British claim to good governance."

He told an engaged gathering of academics, diplomats, civil servants and mediapersons that the principles of secularism, democracy and equality of all, enshrined in the Indian Constitution, had deep roots in India’s ancient civilisation but were also influenced by the ideas of European enlightenment.

``Learning from each other’’

"Our Constitution remains a testimony to the enduring interplay between what is essentially Indian and what is very British intellectual heritage," Dr. Singh said.

At the same, he noted that it was India which wrecked the colonial British myth that the sun never sets on the British empire. "I am afraid we were partly responsible for sending that adage out of fashion."

Yet, India-British relations set an example for the rest of the world in the way they sought to relate to each other.

Both India and Britain had "learnt" from each other and had much to teach the world. "This is perhaps the most enduring aspect of the Indo-British encounter," Dr. Singh said.

Dr. Singh, who did his D.Phil at Oxford in 1962, recalled his days in the city of "dreaming spires and lost causes."

The world had changed "beyond recognition" since then and, especially as an Indian, he saw a "renewed sense of hope and purpose," he said.

``Beacon for others’’

Earlier, Chancellor of Oxford University Chris Patten, who conferred the doctorate on Dr. Singh at a ceremonial function, where Latin took centre-stage, praised India for its democratic traditions.

India would continue to be a beacon for other countries because of its commitment to tolerance and pluralism, he said.

Lord Patten described Dr. Singh as a "brilliant economist" and "sagacious statesman," who had done a great deal to pull millions of men and women out of poverty.

The Chancellor emphasised the traditional links between India and the university, pointing out that 15 of the British viceroys to India were from Oxford.

He hoped that in future Oxford would become the first university of choice for Indian students.

See online : The Hindu

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