MOSCOW: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday remembered how then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took the Indian-Russian relationship to a new level during Bangladesh’s War of Independence and the then USSR stood like a rock with India.
She also stressed that Indira Gandhi “was an influential and tireless global voice for peace and disarmament.”
“Indira Gandhi took the Indo-Soviet link to a new level altogether, giving it solid strategic content as well. At India’s moment of grave crisis in 1971, leading up to and during the Bangladesh’s War of Independence, the USSR stood like a rock with India, something that Indira Gandhi never forgot.
“There was a genuine warmth and a rare chemistry between Indira Gandhi and the Russian leaders,” Mrs Gandhi said in her address at the Indira Gandhi Exhibition in Moscow, organised marking the Indira Gandhi’s Centenary Anniversary.
“This photographic exhibition on the centenary anniversary of Indira Gandhi, which is inaugurated today, covers the life and times of a remarkable political personality, India’s only woman Prime Minister. Incidentally, many mothers in the Soviet Union named their daughters after her,” she said.
She also said that India and the Soviet Union shared a special partnership that began in the early 1950s under India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and resulted in laying the foundations of India’s industrialization, “foundations that are still very visible”.
About Indira Gandhi’s contribution to disarmament, she said: “Just before she was killed in October 1984, she joined five other heads of state to issue a forceful appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Mrs Gandhi also said that her mother-in-law had “many and varied interests. She counted academicians, scientists, authors, poets, sculptors, painters and musicians across the world as her close personal friends – a good number of them from your country”.
She also said politics was Indira Gandhi’s calling but nature was her passion and she was among the first political leaders anywhere in the world to take up the cause of environmental protection.
“She was only one of two heads of government to address the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in June 1972.
“Even while she was preoccupied with political matters, she was concerned about the Siberian crane. Just a few days before she was assassinated, India and the USSR signed a treaty for the protection of migratory birds,” she said.
Mrs Gandhi also said that it was only appropriate that Moscow was the first place where this photo exhibition was on display outside India.
“The exhibition tells the story of a courageous, compelling and charismatic leader who left an indelible imprint not only on her own country, not only on the India-USSR relationship but on the world stage as well.
“That India and Russia enjoy such excellent relations is in no small measure due to her legacy, a legacy that has been consolidated by President (Vladimir) Putin and successive Indian Prime Ministers,” she concluded.