Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee unveils a bust of Rabindranath Tagore in Ankara on Thursday.
Turkey also named an avenue in the city after the Nobel laureate, prompting Vajpayee to laud the gesture, saying it would “remain a symbol of the friendship between our two countries”.
Turkey has honoured “one of India’s greatest poets, philosophers; and we celebrate another valuable strand of Indo-Turkish connection”, he said.
Ties between the two will receive a boost as the Prime Minister also announced flights between India and Turkey from Friday. At a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vajpayee said Turkish Airways will fly from Istanbul to Delhi twice a week.
Recalling Tagore’s brush with Turkey when his ship docked at Istanbul for two days on way to Europe 80 years ago, Vajpayee said it left such a deep impression that he requested then President Kemal Ataturk for books on Turkish literature and culture for his Visva-Bharati.
“History records that Kemal Ataturk sent 41 books to the university.... These books remain the prized possession of the university,” he said. Though Tagore and Ataturk never met, there was a strong empathy between them. Tagore admired the nationalism and reformist zeal in Ataturk, Vajpayee said.
The Prime Minister said like many generations of poets, writers, scholars and reformists in India, Tagore was influenced by Turkey’s great sufi mystic Jalalettin Rumi. Rumi’s message of peace and tolerance, oneness of the human race and world without boundaries found a clear echo in Tagore’s consciousness, he said.
Sufism and Rumi continue to enrich the links between India and Turkey. A prominent Indian director has begun a project to capture on celluloid the multi-dimensional life, thoughts and works of this universal humanist.
“I am sure this project will receive the encouragement and support of the government, business and art community in Turkey,” he said. (PTI)