New Delhi: Late South African President Nelson Mandela shared a close link with India through Mahatma Gandhi who he called his political guru. In fact when he was released from prison in 1990, India conferred him with the Bharat Ratna. This even before he got the Nobel Prize in 1993.
South Africa's beloved son Nelson Mandela will be remembered as much as an Indian leader and an inspirational figure in India. A man who led his people to freedom in much the way Mahatma Gandhi did, wrote in his early diaries from Robin Island about his inspiration for resistance that came from the Indian community that Gandhi had led in South Africa, a country often called the cradle of Satyagraha.
"The Indians influenced our struggle here and especially a man like Mahatma Gandhi. So we respect them, honour them," Mandela had said.
Through much of that protest movement, India supported Mandela and the ANC. In 1946, the then Prime Minister in waiting Jawaharlal Nehru announced that India would boycott South Africa until it abolished apartheid. It was a promise India kept, backing the ANC's demand at the UN and at all international forums. Mandela too kept in touch with the Indian leadership and in 1990 he was given India's highest civillian honour, the Bharat Ratna.
As south Africa's first black President from 1994 to 1999, Mandela drove close relations with India and the two countries forged bonds over groupings like IBSA and BRICS as a result of that closeness described by Mandela himself some years ago when he said, "We can count today amongst our allies the most powerful countries in the world. We can however not forget for one moment those that stood by us when it was neither fashionable nor easy to do so. Amongst those India takes pride of place."