We were extremely privileged to have The High Commissioner for India, His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, deliver the Lecture. He read English at King’s College, Cambridge and has served over 20 years in the Indian Foreign Service. He was India’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations (1997-2003) and then Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to East Timor (2003-04). He was appointed UK High Commissioner in 2005. He is currently involved in many forward thinking organisations including The Loomba Trust, The Ditchley Foundation and The Imperial War Museum.
Often quoted, he came to fame when he said, before the Afghani Taliban actually destroyed the huge Buddhist rock carvings in Bamyan, that:
“If [they] did not wish to retain the country’s inheritance, his Government would be happy to arrange for the transfer of the artifacts to India, where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind, in the full knowledge and clear understanding that they were treasures of the Afghan people themselves.”
In The House of Commons, he announced his Lecture as “Encounters with Gandhi”. His articulate and eloquent talk ranged over many of our global crises pointing out where and how Gandhi’s exemplary model of courteous diplomacy and deep respect for his opponents had been successfully applied in our own times and when, and sometimes why, it had failed. These were the telling insights of a diplomat at the peek of a very distinguished career. He made it very clear that he had advocated and practised non-violent approaches to resolving differences throughout. We ignore at our peril the wisdom that such experience has clearly brought.
Shri Kamalesh Sharma spoke to nearly 200 people packed into Committee Room 14 of The House of Commons. This had been organised for us by The Prime Minister’s envoy on inter-faith matters, John Battle MP PC. The meeting was chaired by Lord Bhikhu Parekh, a Patron of The Gandhi Foundation. Bhikhu spoke concisely of Gandhi’s actual and potential contribution to the 21st Century. Lord Parekh’s family trust, The Nirman Foundation, sponsored this year’s Lecture and will do so again for a further 2 years; this will allow The Foundation to expand its horizons and your suggestions for this year’s Annual Lecturer will be gratefully received.