If you see the building from a distance it may not ring a bell, but on closer look you will read Sudan. Yes this is the iconic Sudan Block at the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla, Pune, India. In recognition of the sacrifices of the Indian troops in liberation of Sudan in the North African campaign during World War II, Sudan Government, in 1941, donated one hundred thousand pounds. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation in 1949 and the work was completed in 1954. The then Sudanese Ambassador Syed Rahamatalla Abdulla performed the naming ceremony on May 30, 1959. Earlier in 1958, India offered a six –acre plot in the Chanakyapuri area of New Delhi for the construction of Embassy of Sudan.
National Unity Day was introduced by the Government of India and inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The objective is to pay tribute to one of the founding leaders of the Republic of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel known as the Iron Man of India. As the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of Independent India, Vallabhbhai Patel is credited for the integration of over 550 princely states into India and for consolidating and modernizing the administrative service. Sardar Patel shaped the narrative of a modern, strong and self-reliant India.
National Unity Day is celebrated by the people of India, organizing variety of events. Embassy of India in Khartoum invited friends of India and the Indian community to celebrate the 141st Birth Anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Saturday, 5th November at the Indian Community School in Omdurman. The celebrations involved school children to participate in essay competition, dressing up as freedom fighters and leaders of India, speeches and patriotic songs. Ambassador of India H.E. Amrit Lugun opened a photo exhibition on Sardar Patel, paid floral tributes and gave away prizes to the winners of the essay competition. There was also a screening of a short film on the great leader. Ambassador spoke to the large gathering talking about India’s history of freedom movement and Patel’s contribution to nation building in myriad ways.
The name of Indian Army’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh rang a bell in my mind. He is the man who planned the successful surgical strike on the terrorist’s launchpads on Thursday along the de-facto border of Pakistan. He is the official who briefed the media and today is the face of the Indian Army. Yes, he is the same gentleman whom I had befriended in Khartoum. He was then the Chief of Operations with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in 2006. I had saved his professional card as you can see, he was Colonel Ranbir Singh, YSM when he was in Sudan.
I remember him as a gentleman, well read and always smiling. In fact, I had written about him in the local English daily Khartoum Monitor on Sunday, November 19, 2006. I have uploaded his picture which I had taken when he spoke on the occasion of Guru Nanak’s Birthday at the Embassy of India, Khartoum. The soil of Sudan has made me meet up with many luminaries from India. My salute to DGMO Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh. We are proud of you.