On his way back to Washington from a visit to South Carolina, India’s newly appointed ambassador to the U.S., Navtej Sarna, paid his respects to the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta on Feb. 13.
In his formal remarks, Antony Thaliath, executive director of The Gandhi Foundation, welcomed the ambassador “to the birth place of the American civil rights movement and where Gandhi and King’s ideals are very much alive.”
“Freedom from oppression and the abolition of discriminatory laws are values that we must uphold today as we did in the past through peaceful means,” he added.
Mr. Thaliath also said that the foundation was in the process of starting a Gandhi Peace Center in Atlanta near the King and Carter Centers to create a “peace triangle,” in an effort to have Atlanta known formally as “a city of peace.”
In addition, he cited Dr. King’s visit to India in 1959 during which he visited the Gandhigram Rural Institute in Tamil Nadu, explaining that the Gandhi Foundation here started a “Gandhi King Center” there three years ago. The foundation also is exploring the possibility of setting up “Gandhi King Centers” in Gujarat and elsewhere in India.
Raj Razdan, regional vice president of the National Federation of Indian American Associations, then introduced the ambassador, who assumed his current post in Washington in November of last year after serving as India’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom from January 2016 to the end of October.
“I am delighted to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King,” Mr. Sarna said. “It is a moving sight to see a Gandhi statue in a foreign land.” He also congratulated the foundation for its work in Atlanta and its efforts in India. And, he added, that he wanted to help realize the foundation’s plans for the Gandhi Peace Center.
A member of India’s foreign service since 1980, he has served in Moscow; Tehran, Iran; and as India’s ambassador to Israel from November 2008 to August 2012.
Once Mr. Sarna, and his wife, Avina, and Nagesh Singh, India’s consul general based in Atlanta, placed garlands on Gandhi’s statue, the dignitaries and surrounding entourage visited the King crypts where they were welcomed by Greg Pridgeon, vice chair of the foundation.
Prior to his move to London last year, Mr. Sarna was in the Ministry of External Affairs where he oversaw the hosting of the India-Africa Forum Summit, which was attended by representatives of 53 African countries.
He also is the prolific author of many fiction and non-fiction books, the most recent being ‘Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life’ that was released last year.
After paying his respects at the King crypts, Mr. and Mrs. Sarna toured the King Center and then departed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport to return to Washington where the next day he hosted a Congressional reception at the Capitol to celebrate India’s engagement with the 115th Congress, which was attended by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia’s 4th District.