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Transcript of Media Briefing on forthcoming PIO Parliamentarians’ Conference

January 05, 2018

OSD (PR), Abu Mathen George​: Dear friends, thank you for joining us for media briefing on the first PIO Parliamentarians’ Conference. To brief you we have Secretary CPV and OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay. We are also joined by Jt. Secretary who deals with the Overseas Indian Affairs Shri Manoj Mohapatra. I would request Secretary Sir now for his remarks and then we will take few questions.

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Namaste and good afternoon to all of you. We come back to you with one more conference, a very unique conference that is going to be held for the first time. As you know perhaps that India has one of the largest, I think by rough calculations it has the second largest diaspora and number is approximately 31.2 million people overseas. Broad distribution is 13 million is the people of Indian origin, essentially meaning citizens of other countries of Indian descent and approximately 17 million people who have Indian passport but they are staying overseas. So 31.2 million approximately is the number that we have.

We have been engaging with them quite comprehensively and as you have seen in the last few years Hon’ble Prime Minister has been himself very active in engaging them and his message has been very strong. He has urged them to connect with India, keep one foot here one foot overseas, so that they will not miss the opportunities that this country offers them.

So we are having this first ever PIO Parliamentarians’ Conference on January 09, 2018. As you are all aware 9th January, customarily we have been celebrating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. It is the day when greatest of our pravasis Mahatma Gandhi returned to India on January 9, 1915. As you are aware every year we used to have Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention. Since 2016 we have changed the format and it is held now once in two years. However the interim period is being used for more comprehensive, theme based interaction and engagement with the members of diaspora.

Last year we had 10 panel discussions where experts from overseas countries and India were invited and discussions were held under the chairmanship of External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. This year we have already had three and we will be continuing that series. However in between we have this particular conference that is going to be held. We have invited the sitting MPs at the national level, from all over the world, wherever these people are parliamentarians who belong to Indian descent, we have extended the invitation.

By a rough calculation there are over 270 people of Indian descent sitting in various parliaments and occupying various positions starting from the Head of Government, Head of State, Ministers as well as the Speakers and then the Members of Parliament. We have limited the invitation to the Members of the Parliament and I am happy to say that we have 141 Members of Parliament and Mayors together of Indian descent coming for this conference.

The break up is that we have 124 Members of Parliament coming for this conference and 17 Mayors. The total number of countries covered is 23 and we will be circulating through the confirmation as of today for your background information. Interestingly on every continent of the world we have sitting members of Parliament who belong to Indian descent and number seems to be growing.

The broad categorization of those who are coming here. Guyana has the largest number of representatives that are coming at 23, 20 Members of Parliament and 3 Mayors. Number two is Trinidad and Tobago, 16 Members of Parliament and 4 Mayors. It is followed by UK, which is sending 16 member delegation and out of which 15 are Members of Parliament and 1 is a Mayor. The fourth is Mauritius, 11 Members of Parliament and 2 Mayors have already confirmed. The other countries have numbers like 6, 4, 3, Suriname is 9. Some countries like Reunion Island 3, New Zealand 4, Fiji 7 and all of them are MPs, from Canada we have 5. This list is being circulated to all of you so you all will have a better idea.

Now let me come back to the program a little bit so that you have an idea as to what we have lined up for them. It is a one day engagement, starts in the morning. The inaugural will have our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, he will be inaugurating it. It will then be followed by the first thematic session and that thematic session will be on "PIO Parliamentarians – Journey of Struggle to Parliament.”

It is expected that they will be able to relate the story of their progress so far in their respective countries, how the Indian diaspora has journeyed so far, those things will be related by these parliamentarians. Then the third session of the day and the second thematic session will be "Resurgent India- Role of PIO Parliamentarians.” We are hoping that they will also be able to tell us as to how they wish to connect with India, what kind of interaction they would like to see, how may be they will be able to contribute to the growing relationship between India and those respective countries that they represent. This will be the second one.

The first thematic session will be chaired by the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha and the second thematic session will be chaired by the Deputy Chairman of Lok Sabha. For both these sessions we will also be having one special guest. For the first thematic session i.e. PIO Parliamentarians – A journey of struggle to Parliament, we have Shri Shashi Tharoor as the special guest. He is also the Chairman of the Standing Committee for the Minister of External Affairs. For the second thematic session we will have Shri Anant Kumar, the Minister of Chemical and Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs in the Union Cabinet. He will be the special guest for the second thematic session.

We have a valedictory session which will be chaired by the Hon’ble Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu Ji. After that there will be cultural program and later a dinner hosted by EAM. That is the broad program of the day. The conference is expected to break the barrier in communication, emotional or cultural, due to the lack of technology and opportunity in the past. It will also be able to highlight the potential that exist for cooperation between the countries where our diaspora is in good number and India. It will also perhaps create an awareness about how large the extended Indian family actually is, in the sense that more than 30 countries have people sitting in the parliament of Indian descent. So in a sense India has accomplished the theme Vashudhaiv Kutumbakam i.e. the whole planet is our family, in a true sense.

We have no doubt that the conference will see certain up gradation of our relations with these countries from where these members are coming. So I’ll pause here and I’ll be very happy to take a few question to further clarify any questions that you might have. Thank you.

Question: Will any of these sessions will be open for media where we can have interactions with the members?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Those who are interested can contact XP Division in this regard.

OSD (PR), Abu Mathen George​: We will be putting up a detailed media advisory. There will be some limited spaces available because of the space constraints but some access would be made available.

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Venue is Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra.

Question: Sir is conference ka maksad kya hai, jo saare delegates aayenge unka kya agenda hoga?
(What is the purpose for organizing this conference which is being done for the first time, what would be their agenda?)

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: That’s an interesting question. I think the first and foremost is allowing an opportunity to connect with India. It’s quite likely that many of these people are coming to India for the first time. Second is really to see in the long term, it is not expected to yield results overnight, long term to see how this diasporic family could actually contribute to furthering the relationship with those countries and facilitate people to people contact which has been emphasized again and again by both Hon’ble Prime Minister as well as Hon’ble External Affairs Minister.

So this is the first time such a conference is being held. Its also to create awareness amongst ourselves as to how big is the extended Indian family and to give them an opportunity to connect with India first hand.

Question: Is there any reason why there is not any single MP who is coming in the session?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: I think the Senate in Congress is in session, that is what we have been told by our mission.

Question Contd.: Any reason why the Parliament speaker has not been involved in the program?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: See what happens is we have limited it to the sitting MPs not to speakers and ministers. That was the policy because then we will also have multilayered protocol arrangements may not be required and the discussions will be held with one single agenda, because ministers are coming off and on but MPs in this great number have not come to India at all. I must mention that each country will get a slot to speak either in the thematic session 1 or thematic session 2 for three to five minutes. So they would also be able to outline their own vision as to how they see India both as a country and diaspora. So every country will have a slot to speak.

Question: You have got 23 countries who will be represented over here. Any particular issues that the government would like to take up with them, you are saying it is broad agenda, we want to have a contact with them and this diplomacy is also for the long run to have our contacts and our friends in every country. Having said that any key issues that you would like to bring up in that conversation and will there be separate meetings also. Like for example if you have UK, you have 10 MPs from the UK or 10 from Malaysia or 5 from Canada, would there be some separate meetings also taking place on the sidelines of this event?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Well, we have not really identified any specific issues to be taken up with them because this is the first meeting. What we think that this will have a fairly good fall out, as I said many of them are coming for the first time so they may not even be aware as to what development India has seen in the last 25 years of so, what has been our journey of economic reforms, what is the growth story because it is likely that some members are still haunted by the old memories of slums and poverty everywhere and India struggling to manage its food supplies. So it is an opportunity for them to update also, their image of India, their perception of India and have a firsthand interaction, so that is one thing.

I would say it is not really about concrete outcome, to begin with it is a kind of spiritual exercise also. For many of them it would be a catharsis because they would be coming to their mother mother motherland for the first time after, maybe, generations of spending time outside. So to begin with it is to establish that connection afresh in contemporary times, I think it is the foremost important objective, if there is one, to this whole conference.

Question: Are the participants both male and female and what are their ages?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: I am sorry I don’t have those details.

I would like to just add taking cue from you that there have been some requests for meetings and those meetings are then separately being organized by territorial divisions. For example there is an interest from UK, because such large number of Members of Parliament normally do not come together so this is an opportunity, so some of them would be interested, we are also facilitating some tourism for them so that they go around Delhi. So there would be a fall out but I don’t think the focus is really on that. Focus is really on let the wires be connected and maybe whatever enlightenment comes out of it, that is what we are looking for.

Question: Is the event going to be annual?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay:
This is the first ever, after the conference is concluded we will take a stock and see if it is useful then there would be a positive consideration.

Question: Any particular names that you can share among those who are coming and that you can share now?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: We have names but I would rather resist from saying those names here right now.

Question: Is there any expression of interest from any of these visiting MPs to go and watch the proceedings of the Parliament here because we have had parliamentary delegations from countries coming time to time?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: No, at that time parliament would already be adjourned.

Question: You have mentioned that some Heads of Government and Heads of State are there who are of Indian origin, has the invitation been extended to any of them?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: As I said we have not extended the invitation to even the ministers or speakers, they are also members of parliament but we really wanted only one level that is really the parliamentarians.

Question Cond.: Ministers could also be MPs?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Yes, but the invitation has not been extended to them.

Question: I think you told that there are 1700 MPs and ministers and Heads of States are there of Indian origin, so have we chosen among them or what has been the format of inviting that only 124 are coming?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: I just said that over 70 of them in the category of Head of State, Head of Government, Speakers and Ministers. In many countries the number is really down because a large number of people are in the government and Ministers were not invited this time.

Only sitting MPs have been invited, nor the former MPs or who were not MP now but holding good position in their political parties?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay:
Yes, only sitting MPs have been invited, we are then able to focus appropriately on this.

Question: Do you have some kind of statistics on how many of PIOs are there who are heading the government or head of states?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: There are a number of them, again this conference didn’t do that exercise but we have Prime Minister’s input because the Prime Minister of Ireland, Prime Minister of Mauritius are the names that come straight away to me, they are all of Indian origin.In this particular group we might have specific names that we can tell you. We have Bharat Jagdev from Guyana and we have Kamala Bisheshar coming from Trinidad and Tobago, both of them have been in the position of Head of State, Head of Government category, but currently they are sitting MPs.

Question: Sir, we have long been exercising this Pravasi Bharatiya conglomerations either here or outside so what has been the outcome till now, what have we got from it, anything in particular?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay:
That is an interesting question. Today if we see there is a heightened interest in India outside, the diaspora has played a major role in it. The second thing is that from own experience I can tell you that diaspora and India have a very symbiotic relationship. If India becomes confident, diaspora becomes confident and vice versa. In a country like US you have 4 Congress member, one Senate member of Indian origin, two Governors, so they do carry a soft corner for India and whether we nominate them or not they become ambassadors for us.

Now that again indirectly gets reflected in economic links, cultural links, people to people links and while these are not quantifiable in terms of benefits, they are certainly contributing. If today you see that India’s image outside is fairly good, fairly appreciated, a major role has also been played by the diaspora and this is not a small thing because in today’s world particularly image holds everything, perception determines everything, so to that extent there is a sea change, I would say, overseas the way they perceive India now.

Question: Diaspora ki baat hui, 2014 se format change hua PBD ka, abhi EAM Sushma Swaraj ne Hindi ki baat kahi hai. Hindi ko maanyata dilaane ke liye kaafi koshishein ki jaa rahi hain lekin abhi tak unhone jo samasya batayi thi ki paison ka sankat hai aur 132 deshon ka samarthan chahiye Hindi ko wahan pahunchaane mein. UN taiyyar hai bhasha ko accept karne ke liye, to usmein kya ye jo sammelan hai kahi se wo madad kar payega ya uske aage ki kya koshishein hain, us par thoda prakaash dalenge?

(There was talk of diaspora, format of PBD has changed from 2014, recently EAM has talked about Hindi. There are a lot of efforts for getting Hindi recognition but what she has told that we need support of 132 nations in the UN to take it to the UN. UN is ready to accept the language, so is this conference going to be helpful in promoting the cause of Hindi, can you elaborate on that?)

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Dekhiye aisa hai ki Hindi jo hai, wo hamaare liye bahut mahatvapoorn bhasha hai, aur bahut prathmikta isko di jaa rahi hai. Aap jaante hain ki Pradhan Mantri khud jo hain apne sab bhashan, abhi-bhashan, vaktavya wagairah sab Hindi mein hi hota hai aur isi tarah se Hindi aage badhegi. Mujhe lagta hai ki Hindi ka safar sahi disha mei ja raha hai aur kitane bhi sankat kyon na ho hum unko paar kar paayenge.

(Look, Hindi is a very important language for us and a lot of importance and preference is being given to Hindi. As you all are aware that Prime Minister himself delivers all his speeches, statements etc. in Hindi and that is the way Hindi will become prevalent. I believe Hindi is moving in the correct direction and we will be overcome whatever obstacles comes during this journey.)

Question Contd.: Is sammelan mein usko lekar kuch hoga?

(Would there be anything related to that in this conference?)

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Is sammelan mein hoga, Fiji se log aayenge wo Hindi mein baatcheet karenge, Mauritius se log aayenge, wo sab Hindi jaante hain aur wo Hindi mei baatcheet karenge, yahi to iski sub-stories hain ki Fiji ke jitani bhi log aayenge wo sab Hindi mei baat karenge.

(Yes it would be there in this conference. Members who will come from Fiji they will deliberate in Hindi only, members from Mauritius know Hindi and they will also be interacting in the conference in Hindi only. These are all going to be the sub-stories of the conference.)

Question Contd.: Main baat kar raha hoon us agenda ko lekar jo Videsh Mantri ne Sansad mei kaha aur is sammelan ka kahin koi link hai kya?

(I am asking if there is any link with what EAM has said in the Parliament and this conference.)

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Main kah raha hoon ki link hai, wo ek sakaaraatmak bhaav se wapas jaayenge to unka utsaah aur prem jo Bharat ke baare mein hai, jo Hindi ke baare mein hai wo 10 guna badhega aur pyaar ki bhawanaa ko koi quantify nahi kar sakta.

(I am saying that there is a link. When they all will return with a positive outlook then their enthusiasm and love for India and for Hindi would be 10 times more than earlier and there is no way to quantify love and reverence.)

Question: Is there no member of parliament from the SAARC member countries?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Humne SAARC deshon ko ismein sammilit nahi kiya hai, Sri Lanka ko chhodkar.

(We have not included countries from SAARC in this conference, except Sri Lanka.)

Question: You did not send the invitation to any other country other than Sri Lanka?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: Yes, that is right.

Question: Why was Sri Lanka singled out?

Secretary CPV & OIA, Shri Dnyaneshwar Mulay: It is nothing like that.

OSD (PR), Abu Mathen George​: Thank you very much sir, thank you all. This concluded this special media briefing.


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