PM’s speech at inauguration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2007

  • PM’s speech at inauguration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2007

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January 07, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wish you all a very happy new year! I am delighted to welcome delegates from different lands to this blessed land of their ancestors. We feel truly proud that in this hall we find today the entire world represented. This gathering, ladies and gentlemen, truly symbolizes the ancient Indian yearning for “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – the whole world is one family.

We are one family. The whole world is our home. That is why I have often said that while the sun has set on all the great empires of the world, the sun will never set on the world of the Indian diasporal! From Fiji in the East, to Los Angeles in the West, from Cape Town in the South to Toronto in the North, the people of India origin are the world’s most globalised community.

Each time we have met we have had the honour and pleasure of hosting as our Chief Guest an eminent Pravasi. This year I am delighted to welcome amidst us Professor S. Jayakumar, the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore is a special friend of India. We are greatly pleased to have professor Jayakumar in our midst.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is a celebration of the global Indian. It is also a celebration of the home-coming of the global Indian. That is why we meet here in India in January. It is on the 9th of January that the “Greatest Pravasi” Mahatma Gandhi returned home from South Africa and inspired us to wage a non-violent peaceful struggle for freedom from foreign rule.

Our freedom struggle and the process of our nation building have been one of the greatest adventures of humankind cutting across race, language, religion and ethnic identities. India’s civilisational pluralism made it possible for us to reach out to the world and seek its support in our struggle for freedom and Independence.

When I went to South Africa last year I was moved by the deep bond that unites the peoples of India and Africa. In the past, this was the bond of our shared struggle against colonialism. Today, it is the bond of our combined effort to regain our due place in the comity of nations.

When I meet Heads of State and Government and business leaders in distant lands they tell me very proudly that the Indian community is a great asset, that people of Indian origin are highly creative, productive, enterprising, peace-loving and devoted to their communities and their neighbourhoods.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity today to express a special word of thanks to the Indian American community in the United States. We are happy that the United States has adopted a legislation that will enable the US to engage in cooperation with India in the field of Civil Nuclear Energy. This is an important step forward not just in India-US bilateral relations and also as an essential first step that will enable India to engage in cooperation in the Civil Nuclear field with other countries that are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This process will increase the range of options available to secure our country’s growing current and future energy needs. This initiative is therefore a vital input to the critical process of enlarging our developmental operations.

I thank the overseas Indian community and its leaders who played a very significant role in highlighting the importance of this initiative in the US and elsewhere.

I take this opportunity to thank the non-resident Indian communities in West Asia and other parts of the world for the handsome contribution their remittances make to the strengthening of our economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year the theme of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is “Rooting for the Roots”. Let me, however, suggest that your being here us not just about “roots”. It is also about “branches”. Even as you discover and nurture your ‘roots’, I urge you to extend your ‘branches’.

We in India wish to see you engaged in India’s great adventure of building an India free from the fear of war, want and exploitation. India has now emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. India’s growth process creates enormous opportunities for the cross border flows of trade, capital and technology. I would like overseas Indian communities to take full advantage of these opportunities. I would like you to reach out and invest in a new India. Invest not just financially, but intellectually, socially, culturally and, above all, emotionally. Your roots are what bring you here. Your branches are what will keep you engaged here in India’s developmental saga. Come engage with India.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am conscious of the importance of enhancing educational opportunities for the persons of Indian origin for study in India. I want Indian Universities to be more open to children of overseas Indians. India is the land of the ancient universities of Takshasila, Nagarjuna and Nalanda, to which students came from far off places. I am delighted that Singapore, along with China, Japan, South Korea and other countries in the region, is supporting us in the Nalanda Project. I agree with the sentiments expressed recently by Mr. George Yeo, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, that the Nalanda Project should emerge as “an icon of Asian renaissance”, and “a centre of civilazational dialogue and inter-faith understanding”, as indeed it once was.

In this gathering last year I had spoken of the proposal to establish a University of Persons of Indian Origin. This proposal has been under active consideration in the past year. We envisage the proposed University as oriented to meeting the needs of the overseas Indian community in the most sought after disciplines including Engineering and Management. Our aspiration would be to impart quality education at par with the best Universities in the world. The challenge now is to create the requisite enabling framework that will adequately meet these aspirations. We hope to do this in the coming months.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A proposal to establish an Indian Overseas Facilitation Centre is presently being developed and examined. This is envisaged as a source of investment advisory services for overseas Indian investors. This proposal is being developed on the understanding that an Indian entity, independent of the Government, though supported by us, and set up in partnership with industry, could be an effective instrument to liaise with members of the Indian Diaspora on matters related to investment in India.

To ensure that we reap India’s demographic dividend and benefit from the significant labour supply gaps emerging in countries with ageing populations, we must take a strategic medium to long-term view of overseas employment opportunities.

It is time for the overseas Indian worker to move up the wage chain and India to be perceived increasingly as a provider of skilled manpower. A suggestion has been made that a professional body should devise an appropriate strategy to give shape to this idea. Towards this end the constitution of a Central Council for the Promotion of Overseas Employment has been mooted. This proposal is being examined by the government.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want this interaction between overseas Indians and the people of India to inspire Indians at home to take a broader view of the world. When I was in Mauritius I said to some of the Mauritian people whose ancestors hailed from Bihar that they should go to Bihar and inspire the people there to make a Mauritius out of Bihar. I could say the same thing about other parts of the country. When we see Sikh farmers creating agricultural wealth in the trying climes of Canada, we wonder how much more our own farmers from the Punjab are capable of.

I sincerely hope that we in India can work together to create an environment in which the best of every Indian can find its fullest expression. I want every Indian living and working in India, to aspire for the global recognition that a Zubin Mehta, a Lakshmi Mittal, an Indra Nooyi, an Amartya Sen or a Kalpana Chawla gets when they go overseas.

India is known for its pluralism, for its inclusiveness, for its willingness and ability to provide a home for all faiths. Every great religion of the world has found a home here and is practiced in peace here. This pluralism, this sense of “live and let live”, this mutual respect and celebration of diversity helps us to live in peace in distant lands and among different cultures. That is why I say that every person of Indian origin is an ambassador of the idea of India.

India is an ancient civilization but a young nation. I believe India’s efforts for social and economic transformation in the framework of an open society and an open economy, committed to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human freedoms is of great historic significance. Our success will have a profound influence on the course of human civilization in the 21st century. I invite you to be active participants in this saga of great adventure and enterprise.

I once again wish you all a very happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.

Jai Hind!

x IBEF : India Brand Equity Foundation