By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI â€“ With his distinct trait of always looking into the future, President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam completes his term on July 24, leaving behind a historical stamp in many areas.
International recognition of this distinction is marked by Kalamâ€™s being selected for the prestigious British award, the King Charles II Medal.
Kalam is the first Indian President and the second head of state after Japanese Emperor Akihito to be selected for this honor. Making this announcement, President of the Royal Society Martin Rees said in London (July 11): â€œPresident Kalam has led India at a time when science and technology investment in the country has radically increased.â€
â€œHe has played a major part in preparing a road map for transforming India from developing status into a developed nation. As a scientist himself, he has also made a great contribution to scientific advances in his country.â€
Kalam, with a specialization in Aeronautical Engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology, was better known as the â€œmissile-man,â€ when he stepped into Rashtrapati Bhawan in 2002.
During an exclusive interview sometime back, Kalam aired his views on certain key issues to this correspondent. On two opposite labels attached with him, his being known as a missile-man and also an advocate of peace, he said: â€œFor peace, one has to be strong enough to defend oneself. Missiles are necessary for this strength that leads to peace.â€
In Kalamâ€™s opinion, development is the best defense against terrorism, as he said: â€œPoverty, unemployment, illiteracy and discrimination are some factors that lead to the frustration which contributes to terrorism.â€ Earlier, while addressing an international parliamentary conference in New Delhi, he said: â€œNations have been destroyed by war. Has the world eliminated terrorism? No. Not at all.â€ To eliminate the problem, he emphasized, we need to address the root causes of terrorism causing â€œfrustration, anger and violence.â€
He is the first Muslim from South India to occupy the countryâ€™s highest constitutional office. Kalam is the only Muslim president of the country who has completed a full term. The other two Muslim presidents, Dr Zakir Husain (in office from May 1967 to May 1969) and Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (August 1974 to December 1977) died in office before completing their terms.
Kalam is credited for developing Indigenous Guided Missiles at the Defense Research and Development Organization as the Chief Executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). He was responsible for development and operationalization of AGNI and PRITHVI Missiles and for building indigenous capability in critical technologies through the networking of multiple institutions.
Kalam received Bharat Ratna, the countryâ€™s highest civilian award, in 1997, for his pioneering role in Indiaâ€™s missile program. He was also awarded the coveted civilian awards – Padma Bhushan (1981) and Padma Vibhushan (1990).
With a background in high tech development, Kalam was project director of Indiaâ€™s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III), which successfully put the Rohini satellite into near orbit in 1980, making India a member of the exclusive Space Club.
Being associated with the Indian Space Research Organization for two decades, Kalam was responsible for the evolution of its launch vehicle program.
Kalam served as the Scientific Adviser to Defense Minister and Secretary, Department of Defense Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999. With his guidance leading to the weaponization of strategic missile systems and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in collaboration with the Department of Atomic Energy, India became a Nuclear Weapons State. He is also credited for Indiaâ€™s self-reliance in defense systems by progressing multiple development tasks and mission projects such as the Light Combat Aircraft.
As the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government of India, in the rank of cabinet minister, from November 1999 to November 2001, Kalam was responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for many development applications.
With a focus on transforming India into a developed nation, as Chairman of Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) and as an eminent scientist, he led the country with the help of 500 experts to arrive at Technology Vision 2020, the road map for transforming India from the present developing status to a developed nation by 2020.
In addition to his academic engagements, Kalamâ€™s literary pursuit is marked by his books- Wings of Fire, India 2020 â€“ A Vision for the New Millennium, My Journey and Ignited Minds â€“ Unleashing the power within India.
Even the last few days spent by Kalam in office have been marked by his doing full justice to his being ranked as the first citizen of the country.
Launching the e-court project in New Delhi, Kalam said (July 9): â€œOur society is going through unique dynamics due to the shortage of leadership with nobility. The only hope the nation cherishes and looks to is the judiciary, with its excellence and impeccable integrity.â€
Asserting the need of an e-judiciary system, he said: â€œMy visualization of a typical scenario is where the citizen files a case for a civil dispute of a piece of land in the e-court using his or her national ID Card and gets justice within two weeksâ€™ time.â€
Displaying his concern for mentally challenged children, Kalam gifted two Army horses to the Central Institute of Mental Retardation (CIMR) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (July 12).
During his term in office, the 76-year-old Kalam became a favorite among Indians, especially children.
Giving importance to focus on positive news and on need to live in harmony, in his addresses, he repeatedly urged people to stop associating any religion with terrorism, missiles with war and sufferings with defeat. In his opinion, â€œSuffering is the essence of success.â€
Not surprisingly, millions of Indians wished to have Kalam as the president for another term.