By Dr. R.K. Raghavan
PRESIDENT of the Republic of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind is visiting Cyprus from Sunday onwards. This follows President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to India last year. At least two former Presidents and two Prime Ministers of India have been to the island in the past. This frequency of such visits highlights the strength of the bond that unifies the two nations.
President Kovind (72) had a distinguished academic career, with both commerce and law degrees from the Kanpur University in the State of Uttar Pradesh. He enrolled himself as an Advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1971. Thereafter, he served the Government of India in several legal positions, until he was elected to India’s Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), where he served two consecutive terms of six years.
He was a member of various Parliamentary Committees, where he distinguished himself with his sound knowledge of law and legislative processes. Subsequently, he was appointed Governor of the Eastern State of Bihar. He was elected to the Presidency last year, a position which he has adorned with great distinction. His interests in areas of international relations, international law and human rights mark him out to be a great statesman.
President Kovind’s visit is expected to further cement the relationship between India and Cyprus. There is so much that the two countries can learn from each other. This is especially in the context of a nearly identical past, in the sense, that both won their independence from British rule within a decade of each other. Also, they are democracies of profound strength. India’s Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi is a well-known name in Cyprus.
There is actually a bust of him which adorns Parliament Square in Nicosia, on what is called the Nehru Street, after India’s first Prime Minister. There is also a street that has been named after India’s former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, a street in Engomi on which the Indian High Commission is located. During his visit, President Kovind will be unveiling the bust of one of India’s greatest poets, Rabindranath Tagore, a Noble Laureate, whose Gitanjali, is an immortal piece of literature, that is read all over the world. This will be in the campus of the University of Cyprus. India has also great respect for Cyprus’ first President Archbishop Makarios, in whose honour, a road in India’s capital New Delhi has been named.
Most significantly, the two countries have been of extensive mutual support in international forums. India’s unqualified support in favour of Cyprus to solve the problem it faces in the north of the island is well known.
A few MoUs are expected to be signed during President Kovind’s visit. This is expected to bring the two nations further together. President Kovind’s visit comes against the background of efforts made in both countries to promote a strong trade and business relationship. It is quite likely that these efforts will bear fruit in the years to come.
There are more than 6000 Indian nationals in Cyprus, either for education or work. I am told that Cyprus is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for Indian students to pursue higher education. In the same manner, more and more Cypriots have been visiting India’s historic sites. Some of them have told me of their desire to go there again and again. This shows a strong affinity people-to-people in the two countries. I expect all Indians living in Cyprus to project themselves as India’s ambassadors and convey the message of love and mutual respect. In addition, the Indian High Commission has plans to bring several prominent artistes to Cyprus in an endeavour to expose Cypriots to facets of Indian tradition and music. In sum, this is a great relationship that deserves to be nurtured with immense care.