Pranab Mukherjee visits Waterloo, Belgium, on Thursday. (PTI)
Brussels, Oct. 4: Not far from the battlefield of Waterloo, a favourite site for Pranab Mukherjee who hates visiting any place as a tourist, the President said Pakistani “non-state actors” do not drop down from heaven.
“Non-state actors, that is the phrase they used, then I responded by saying that non-state actors are not coming from heaven. Non-state actors are coming from territory under your (Pakistan’s) control,” Mukherjee told a local news channel.
But he added: “I can change my friends if I like but I cannot change my neighbours. I shall have to accept the neighbour the way he is.… Whether I like it or not does not matter. Therefore, it is for me to decide whether I live with my neighbour in tension or in peace. We opted for peace.”
Mukherjee made a point of visiting Waterloo, the site of the great war that ended Napoleon’s ambitions and marked a milestone in the evolution of modern Europe, in the course of his busy schedule in Brussels.
A younger Mukherjee had visited the site first in 1980 as commerce minister to suggest to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that India recreate a similar tourism site. He was apparently stumped by a smiling Indira who asked him to come up with a battlefield where ancient Indians had won.
“Europe has gone through centuries of war… the Hundred-Year War between England and France… the Napoleonic Wars, the two World Wars…. European civilisation has overcome baser instincts and today they can be credited as having given the world many great ideas… the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and now the idea of a common market and a European Union,” Mukherjee told Indian journalists in an informal chat.
In the past 50 years, it has been Europe which has been advocating peace, he said.
“The Europe, which used to shoulder guns earlier, now advocates peace…. France keeps England in a close embrace,” he said.
Europe, Mukherjee pointed out, had earned peace dividends — a common market and an unprecedented political union — adding perhaps that was the lesson the Indian sub-continent should learn.
“When Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan, India entered into an agreement which is known as Simla Agreement. In that agreement, India ceded all occupied territories that the Indian Army had captured. As many as 91,000 prisoners of war were returned. This was just to show the goodwill that is our basic foreign policy,”the President said.
Mukherjee wrote in the visitors’ book at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, quoting Gandhi: “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”