JANUARY 12, 1983
I am delighted that this evening's most enjoyable dinner gives me the opportunity of thanking you publicly for the welcome which your Government, and in particular the Prime Minister and the officials concerned, have given us. My wife, my brother and I are all deeply touched by the warmth of our reception on this Silver Jubilee visit and are sincerely appreciative of the courtesies extended to us.
You have been kind enough to refer to the guidance I give as Imam to my followers in the Ismaili community and to the many philanthropic activities initiated by my grandfather, Hazrat Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan (A.S.),activities which I have indeed endeavoured to expand and improve upon. The leaders of my community and I have decided that my Silver Jubilee Year should be dedicated to the social and economic improvement of the people of the Third World and it is particularly pleasing to me that in addition to my family's long and close historical ties with India, I shall be either announcing or opening a number of new philanthropic projects during the Jubilee celebration. These include the completion of a major housing development for the urban poor of Bombay and new Aga Khan Rural Support Programme for India, starting in the state of Gujarat.
The bulk of the Third World's population is rural and I must pay tribute to the way the Indian Government has devoted huge amounts of time, effort and money towards improving the basic conditions of life for many millions who live in the countryside. The results of your programmes, for example, in making the nation self-sufficient in food, have been substantial and show just what can be achieved despite the awe-inspiring diversity of your country and an almost equal diversity of problems. Furthermore, this has been done within the parameters of a democratic society. I can assure your Excellency that the rest of the world profoundly admires your dedicated maintenance of democratic institutions on such a giant scale.
The dangers facing democracy worldwide are increasing under the stress of economic pressure and unemployment. Recent years have demonstrated, not only in the developing countries but also in the older western democracies, how fragile democracy can be when political morality collapses under the strain of events. The preservation of democratic institutions requires a strong sense of integrity and discipline. Striking a balance between freedom and unbridled licence demands constant pragmatic adjustments in all areas of life. India has achieved that balance and I am confident she will continue to maintain it.
Your Excellency spoke of India's policy of friendship with nations. My office as Imam is an entirely nonpolitical one, but the Islamic faith lays great emphasis on the brotherhood of man and I, therefore, feel justified in expressing great happiness on the improved relationship between the countries of this subcontinent. Many forces exert pressure to divide nations; recession, the polarisation between the developed and the developing countries, divisions in religious faiths. In my view it is, therefore, all-important that countries in the same continent, troubled by similar economic and other problems, should find common areas of endeavour and strive to assist each other. You referred to `the voice of sanity.' That voice does always need to be heard and I congratulate you on India's determination that it should be.
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