New Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi and former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi today came in for fulsome praise by many top African leaders as they recalled the historic ties Africa shared with India.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were among those who mentioned, during their speeches at India-Africa Forum Summit here, the contribution of the Gandhi and Nehru families in strengthening ties between the continent and India.

"We would like to recall the historical ties that bind us over the last century, emphasising particularly the role of two of your visionary prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi," said Zuma as he addressed the summit, attended by 54 African countries.

Calling Nehru an active participant at the famous Bandung Conference in Indonesia in 1955 and subsequently a founding member of the Non Aligned Movement in 1961, he said the principles enshrined in the Non-Aligned Movement were reflected in our South-South solidarity interactions in today's challenging times.

"Indira Gandhi, in her first 11 years in office from 1966 to 1977, changed India's African policy through the introduction of the Africa-India Development Cooperation and India's support for liberation struggles in Africa, including South Africa.

"The actions of these two Indian visionaries have created the base of strong solidarity between African member states and the Republic of India," he said.

In his address, Mugabe said Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru led the way through non-violence and showed the path to rid India and Africa of colonialism.

The 91-year-old Mugabe also termed the Indian National Congress as a "great party" as he recalled Africa's ties to Gandhi and the Congress.
Moroccan King Mohamed VI noted that his grandfather and "great" Nehru worked together in anti-colonial struggle in Africa.

Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had last night stayed away from the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for African leaders, apparently sending a message that it was outraged over the "insult" to the legacy of Nehru.

Noting that calling such conference of African leaders was the idea floated by the Congress-led UPA way back in 2006, a senior Congress leader said the Prime Minister was projecting it as his "original idea".

Kwame Nkrumah, Haille Sellasie and many other great leaders established a solidarity that led in 1961 to the formation of the NAM based on the principles of South-South cooperation.

Lesotho Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili said Mahatma Gandhi inspired India and Africa to destroy colonialism.

"It is truly befitting that we are gathered here today, representing the peoples of Africa and India, during this month of October, which is the month in which Bapu Mahatma Gandhi was born," he said.

Mosisili said that with his peaceful demeanor and strategy, Gandhi set an example for independence and civil rights movements across the world.

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