The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi are still relevant in a world vexed with “intolerance and extremism”, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday as he reminded the international community of the true values of harmonious co-existence and mutual respect.

Addressing the students and faculty of the University of Papua New Guinea (PNG) here, Mr. Mukherjee said the vision and teachings of the father of the nation “remind humanity of the true values of harmonious co-existence and mutual respect and the need to work together for the equality and freedom of all individuals.”

“Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation continues, to this day, to be revered all over the world as a beacon of peace and apostle of non-violence…in a world that is increasingly vexed by intolerance and extremism, the life and message of this great man remain an inspiring example of the power of truth and universal brotherhood,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee, who is the first Indian President to visit PNG, called his trip “historic.”

The University campus also has a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, installed in 1997, to which the President paid his respects before making the speech.

“Gandhiji had viewed education as an integrated approach to all round personality development. He was emphatic about the difference between learning and true education, knowledge and actual wisdom and between literacy and the real lessons that we learn from life.

“We, in India, have tried to adhere to these principles as we pursue our goals in the education sector through our national planning and human resource development programmes,” he said.

Stating that India attaches “high value” to the close friendship that exists between it and the island countries of the Pacific ocean, he said PNG has a key role in India’s extended “Act East” policy and views it as a gateway to closer cooperation with the Pacific Island countries.

He recounted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the Summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation in Fiji in 2014, had announced a number of initiatives for assisting the Pacific Island countries.

“These were aimed at supporting their efforts towards their developmental goals and aspirations and addressing their specific concerns related to climate change and sustainable development.

“I am happy to note that my government has delivered on these through financial assistance, deputation of Indian experts to PNG, training of your citizens in India and simplifying the visa process which has been reciprocated by government of PNG on Thursday at the banquet hosted in my honour,” he said.

The President extended invitation to students from PNG to take advantage of the scholarships announced by the country for scholars of these countries and attend institutions of higher education and centres of excellence in India.

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