Chairman and Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Awardees and members of the fourth estate, friends all over the world, especially in India and Pakistan and here in the Philippines.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation has done me a great honour by conferring this award on me for Peace and International
Understanding this year.
I am very happy to share this award with my friend I. A. Rehman from Pakistan for it puts people of our two countries before anything else in the best traditions of peace and democracy. I am also grateful to the Foundation for recognizing the work that I have been doing in the larger global context on issues concerning nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. I must be the first one to acknowledge here in public that but for my wife, Lalita’s contribution and support much of all this would not have been possible. Coming from a minority of one in a family of four women I had very little choice but to be democratic and listen!
We have seen for far too long the Jammu and Kashmir issue, as an argument about which government will assert sovereignty. But if governments are to be in the service of people, if armed forces are to be in the service of peace, then the rights of the people must come first. Millions of families are divided across the border that was created by making freedom in South Asia among the more bloody chapters in the history of struggle against colonialism. The tragedy and the tears cannot be undone, but it is a moral imperative that people be allowed to move across borders without fear, so that they can pursue normal lives—celebrate births and weddings and mourn the deaths of dear ones in dignity and peace.
We have over the past ten years tried in our own small way to make the people in both our countries aware of the enormous challenges and opportunities that face us. Peace is what the people want for they are very clear what the peace dividend has in store for them and their children. The Treaty of Westphalia 1648, which created the concept of the ‘Nation State’, has in its wake sharpened the prejudices which were built in at the time of partition of the country. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan has further endangered the security environment of the region. We can alter history, alter people’s minds, sow seeds of hatred but cannot erase the oneness of ‘humanity’. “Humanity above Nationality” should dominate modern thinking for this cuts across borders, race, color, caste, creed and gender. The role of the military must also not remain static. It must trim its sails in keeping with the times. Your President Mme. Arroyo’s own courageous decision to pull back your troops from Iraq has been acclaimed the world over. Whilst this might have made her unpopular with a few it has gained her many friends and admirers including myself.
This beautiful planet of ours is but a mere speck in this universe. In the ancient Indian scripture ‘Vedas’ we have a saying, “Vasudeva Kuttumbakkam” which means, ‘The world is one family’. We need to keep it that way.
I wish to conclude by once again thanking the government, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and the beautiful people of Philippines for their warmth and hospitality that they have shown us during our stay here.
Salamat and Namaste.