New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Mongolia on Thursday conferred its highest civilian award, the North Star, on two Indian scholars who are experts on that country.
Mongolian Foreign Minister Lundeg Purevsuren conferred the award on Lokesh Chandra, president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), and Mansura Haider, former academic adviser at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), at ceremony at the Mongolian embassy here.
Speaking on the occasion, Purevsuren said that India and Mongolia were two of the oldest nations in Asia.
“India is Mongolia’s spiritual neighbour,” he said.
The ambassador also recalled the contributions of professor Raghu Vira, Lokesh Chandra’s late father and a renowned scholar who invited students and scholars from Mongolia and revived the cultural and scientific ties between the two countries even before diplomatic relations were established.
“These endeavours have been continued by his son and president of ICCR, Lokesh Chandra, who himself made immense contributions to Mongolian studies in India,” the ambassador said.
India and Mongolia are this year commemorating 60 years of diplomatic ties.
Purevsuren said that historical materials in the Persian language were valuable for chronicling Mongolia’s history.
“Mansura Haider has done surveys and written numerous papers based on the Persian sources for decades,” the envoy said.
Lokesh Chandra said that the 13th century conqueror Chengiz Khan gave the Mongolian people an identity.
“He opened the east and the west to each other,” he said.
“My father went to Mongolia 60 years ago because he wanted to know more about these Asian people who could govern Europe.”
Describing the Mongolians as the glory of the Asian People, he said it was the late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who first advocated Mongolia’s membership in the UN at its 15th session.
Mansura Haider, who was also formerly professor and dean of the faculty of arts in Aligarh Muslim University’s history department, said Mongolia was like an extension of India.
She said India is reflected in various aspects of Mongolian people and culture.
“For example, the trident of Shiva is on the Mongolian flag. It was also on the sceptre of Chengiz Khan,” she stated.
Haider said that when she was doing her Ph.D., her mentor told her that to study central Asia, one has to study Mongolia.
“As I studied, I realised that Chengiz Khan and his descendants have been much misrepresented in history,” she said.
ICCR Director General C. Rajasekhar said that it was very significant that Mongolia decided to confer its highest civilian award on two persons of the same foreign country at the same time.
“Though Mongolia shares its boundary with two major countries like China and Russia, it considers India as a spiritual neighbour,” he said.
Rajasekhar added that the ICCR, in association with the International Congress of Mongolists, would be organising an international conference on Chengiz Khan and his legacy in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator in August this year.