Retired Indian diplomat Pascal Alan Nazareth has suggested that inspirational leader Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of “self-suffering,” nonviolence, love and truth are what we must remember when dealing with current crises in the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nazareth was in İstanbul for the launch of his book “Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership,” which was published in Turkish this month under the title “Olağanüstü bir lider: Gandi,” published by Albatros Yayıncılık with a preface by eminent Turkish musician, author and director Zülfü Livaneli.The book was officially introduced to Turkish readers on Monday at an event held at Koç University, where Nazareth, Indian Consul-General to İstanbul Manish Gupta and Koç University Rector Umran İnan were in attendance.
Just one day after the launch of the book, Nazareth gave an exclusive interview to Today’s Zaman at the Indian Consulate General in İstanbul, focusing not only on his book but also on Gandhi’s teachings and their relevance to contemporary issues.
Nazareth, who has served as Indian ambassador to Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Liberia, the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and Togo, first had the book published in English in 2006. Turkish is the seventh non-Indian and 17th language in total the book has been published in, he said.
Having been highly praised by leaders of the contemporary world such as US President Barack Obama and Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari, the book is an insightful look into the components of Gandhi’s leadership and his achievements and impact in multiple fields: education, economics, the environment and so on. Readers can also find detailed information about the still-relevant leadership model of Gandhi.Nazareth said he had decided to write a book on Gandhi after he witnessed a series of “terrible things happening in India” towards the end of his diplomatic career, which has spanned more than three decades. “There were enmities among certain groups in India. Babri [Masjid], an old mosque built on the orders of [Mughal Emperor] Babur, was destroyed in 1992, [claiming the lives of thousands]. … Injustice was taking place.”“Then I said I needed to do something, to revive the memory of Gandhi; he had a wonderful approach to all of the religions. He had respect for all of them but he also believed in raising religion above, to the level of spirituality.”
“On the other hand, the entire map of Europe changed after Indian independence, led by Gandhi,” Nazareth said, adding that the increase in the number of member states of the United Nations following India’s independence from British rule was significant.
Hunger for principles of Gandhi
“Gandhi started off in India. What he did was based on nonviolence and truth; truth implies justice, and nonviolence implies love. Another element Gandhi used was self suffering. You must be willing to suffer but should never hurt anyone, according to him.”
In addition, Nazareth pointed out the significance of self-transformation in changing the world, giving the example of Gandhi’s refusal to move from the first-class carriage on a train, where he was being subjected to racial discrimination.
“When you read Gandhi’s biography, [you will see that] as a young man, he was very timid; he was afraid of spiders, dark and ghosts… But the train journey was his self-transformation.”
The diplomat, who is the founder and managing trustee of the Sarvodaya International Trust which is devoted to reviving Gandhi’s moral ideals in a manner relevant to contemporary scenarios, noted the more he read about the life of Gandhi the more he felt how little he knew about the leader. He emphasized that there is a hunger for the philosophy of Gandhi.
“Though he [might have only] 1 percent of success, Gandhi said it was my duty to fight with love and self-suffering. … And his message was carried all over the world. … His teachings are relevant even today. … An African-American is now the president of the United States thanks to nonviolent struggle.”
Nazareth explained that Gandhi had sympathy for the Jews, who he called the “untouchables of Christianity,” and stated that they should be treated justly in their home countries, suggesting that they adopt non-violent action. The diplomat then pointed to the recent death toll of Israel’s attack on Palestine, which cost the lives of thousands.
The diplomat’s book will also be published in other languages, including Hungarian, German and Swedish, in the next six months, in an attempt to fill the hunger for Gandhi’s teachings. Nazareth says he believes in a supreme energy pervading the universe, as Gandhi did, adding that he felt this energy was with him while he was preparing the book to be published in Turkey and launched at Koç University.
The diplomat said he had sent late Vienna-based Indian composer-conductor Daniel Nazareth 10 copies of the book and then learned that his friend had sent a copy of the book to Kosta Sarıoğlu, the translator of the Turkish edition. Nazareth continued that Livaneli was also very helpful, as he responded to the email asking him to write a preface in a very short time, adding that Nilüfer Akpınar, international coordinator for special programs at Koç University, also did a lot.
“I do not know what kind of a reaction the book will get in Turkey, but I expect lots of people will read it … since the Turkish people I know are very good readers,” Nazareth concluded.