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External Affairs Minister's address at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

January 07, 2015

Hon’ble Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Sarbanand Sonowal ji;
Hon’ble Member of Parliament from the UK, Ms. Priti Patel;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Senior Officials present here;
And above all my young friends;

It is a pleasure to join you all for the inaugural session of the Youth Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas.

As India’s External and Overseas Affairs Minister, I get the opportunity to meet statesmen and leaders from across the world. Most recently I was in South Korea. But I must say it is a special joy to interact with this gathering of youth from across the world who share a special bond with India, a bond of the heart.

It is also very appropriate that we should be meeting so early in the new year, which always brings tidings full of hope and promise. So let me wish everyone present here a very happy, fulfilling and prosperous 2015.

Let me also take this opportunity to welcome you all to Gujarat, a state that is known for its rich traditions, entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness and work ethic. You, the young generation of Pravasis, are also known for the same attributes. But this Youth Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas is not just about match-making, it is also about discovering your roots, and learning about and appreciating your heritage. If I were to put it in a nutshell, this Youth PBD is about 3Cs.

The first C is Connect.

Today, an estimated 25 million people of Indian origin and non-resident Indians live and work outside India.

The Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas is essentially a platform to connect this Indian diaspora with the motherland. We started this initiative in 2003 under the Prime Ministership of Atalji. The idea was to develop consciousness of the concept of the global Indian family, define India’s new approach towards the Diaspora, provide a forum to discuss issues and concerns of people of the Diaspora and to involve the Diaspora in the development and advancement of India.

With this PBD we have come full circle. Not only are we doing this event in Gujarat, we are also holding it at a time when we mark 100 years of the return of the greatest ‘Pravasi Bharatiya’, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who arrived back in India from South Africa on January 9, 1915.

Friends, the India of 2015 is very different from the India that Mahatma Gandhi returned to in 1915. No longer does the world consider it as a country mired in poverty and underdevelopment. Today, India is seen as a rising power, and appreciated across the world for the way it has converged strong democratic institutions with rapid development.

And the biggest asset of this new India is its youth.

Even though India is an old civilization, today it has also one of the youngest countries in the world, with more than 50 per cent of our population being under the age of 25, which means that soon one fifth of the world’s working age population will be in India.

Herein lies the importance of the Youth PBD. Just as you connect to each other through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and e-mail, the Youth PBD is our attempt to connect with you, the new generation of Pravasis growing up all over the world.

This is also the platform for you to connect with the new generation of Indians who are confident, aspirational and transcending the old boundaries of caste and class.

The second C is Celebrate.

We want the Young Pravasis to take pride in the history and civilizational heritage of India which is their cultural inheritance. Hence it is necessary for you to know about your roots and the place from where your fathers or forefathers originated.

All of you know how a barrister called M.K. Gandhi came back to India a hundred years ago and brought about momentous changes to this land, which made him a Mahatma. What many of you may not know is that despite the fact that he was already a very successful lawyer and political leader in South Africa, Gandhi thought that it was necessary for him to get to know India better before he launched himself into the national freedom movement.

He went around the country on trains, always travelling in third class, to be among the people, and observed many things about the country. This voyage of discovery opened his eyes to the true face of India and its problems, which he then set out to solve.

We thought, therefore, that the sessions that we place before the delegates for the youth PBD should enable them to know more about India. That is why the first plenary session is called ‘Bharat ko Jano’ to know more about India, its traditions, and its art and culture.

‘Bharat ko Jano’ will tell you that zero and the decimal system were India’s gift to the world. The value of ‘Pi’ was first calculated by Budhayana in the sixth century. The world’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. The earliest school of medicine known to humans was Ayurveda which was consolidated by Charaka, the father of medicine, some 2,500 years ago.

Of even greater importance are the ideas and ideals that India has bequeathed to the world. Ideas such as non-violence, tolerance and respect for diversity and difference. These are enshrined in our way of life and have shown the world the way to live with peace and harmony. That is why India is today hailed as the world’s largest democracy where 1.25 billion people are reaching for their destiny through the medium of pluralist politics. Just last month the people of Jammu and Kashmir voted overwhelmingly for peaceful change by braving the bullets of the separatists to register the highest voter turnout in 25 years.

Indians have always been empowered by democracy. Now we are also trying to empower them through technology. That is why we have a second plenary session called ‘Bharat ko Mano’ which will tell you about the remarkable strides that modern India has taken, especially in the fields of science and technology. The nation which gave the world the concept of zero, has also mastered the nuclear cycle, sent expeditions to Antarctica and even unmanned missions to the moon and Mars.

In fact the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission ‘Mangalyaan’ was recently named among the best inventions of 2014 by TIME magazine. The spacecraft, which took just four years from feasibility study to arrival at Mars orbit, cost approximately 25 million dollars, less than the budget for the Hollywood film ‘Gravity’. India also became the first nation to reach Mars orbit in its very first attempt.

India’s soft power has also been spreading around the world. Whether you have Californians doing yoga, Britishers taking to chicken tikka masala, Brazilians hooked to a TV serial set in India, or Egyptians dancing to Hindi film songs, they have all contributed to the image of the new India.

The intensity of India’s international engagement has also increased manifold which can be seen from the calendar of high level visits both to and from India. Prime Minister Modi’s out-of-the-box initiatives and whirlwind tours have raised India’s global profile. In a few days from now President Obama will grace our Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest.

What excites the world most about India today is the Indian economy which is now the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity and is showing new dynamism under the NDA government.

Our government was elected on the platform of pro-people good governance. And though we have been in office for less than eight months, we have been able to effect a complete transformation in the business sentiment vis-à-vis India.

We have addressed both policy and regulatory issues, which have resonated well with global rating agencies and major financial institutions which are projecting increased economic growth in India after two years of depressed growth. Those of you who want proof need not step out of this city. Because just three days from now the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is being held with an attendance by more than 10,000 delegates, including global political and business leaders.

To enhance ease of doing business, the Government has taken multiple steps to simplify procedures, rationalize rules and increase use of technology for efficient and effective governance. Efforts are on to identify obsolete laws and regulations which need to be repealed. Skilling our people, particularly the young, is also a priority.

There is also a clear focus on infrastructure. Several steps have been taken to enhance financing of infrastructure, and we have moved towards a more transparent policy on natural resources. Given the enormous requirements for infrastructure development over the next few years, foreign investment is going to be extremely important.

And this brings me to the third C – Contribute.

We want you, the Pravasis, to contribute to the development of India. We want you to participate in the vision that Prime Minister Modi has for India’s future.

We have launched several programmes that have the potential to transform India.

The Jan Dhan Yojana, the world’s largest programme of financial inclusion, has just crossed the 100 million mark and 98.4 per cent of households in India now have bank accounts.

The Swachh Bharat campaign for cleanliness has become a mass movement. This is an issue that affects not only people’s health but is also an attack on social ills like untouchability and manual scavenging.

The ‘Make in India’ programme signals our commitment to transforming India into the manufacturing hub of the world.

The ‘Digital India’ initiative aims at delivering government services electronically by 2018. It will encompass not only e-governance, but also broad­band for all, IT-enabled education and telemedicine. We have already rolled out biometric attendance in government offices as a practical example of this initiative.

The Smart Cities programme aims to build 100 smart cities in India which will be well-planned, technologically integrated and environment-friendly.

The Government has been working in mission mode to implement all these programmes. You can contribute to them and become an active partner in these ventures. Our Government is fully committed to good governance, efficiency, accountability, transparency, and speedy decision making.

There are tremendous opportunities today for you to join us, especially in the fields of manufacturing, infrastructure development, education, health, skills development, science and technology, research and innovation, knowledge economy and youth development as part of our effort to realise India’s full potential.

Friends, just as Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest ambassador of peace, non-violence and truth during his time, you can become the ambassadors of the new India. Today, the pravasi is the most significant example of India’s ‘soft power’. Through your work abroad as software gurus, tech wizards, eminent academics and trail blazing businesspersons, a clear and powerful message of India’s capabilities has been conveyed to the world. Your honest work-ethic, law abiding and hard working nature have contributed to the global image of India and Indians.

Most important of all, you have retained a bit of India in your hearts. Even though situated thousands of miles away, you have kept the spirit of Bharat alive. For some of you this may be the very first visit to the land of your fathers or forefathers. For some others it may be yet another link in the voyage of discovery that you have embarked upon. But for all of you, I am sure, it is an occasion to reflect upon your heritage, and to touch base with a country which will always consider you as one of its own, regardless of the colour of your passport or the land of your citizenship.

So Global Indians come, Connect, Celebrate, Contribute and become a part of the momentous transformation taking place in the country to build Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat.

Thank You.

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