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Welcome Address by Minister of External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs at the Inaugural Session of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015

January 08, 2015

Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modiji,
Our Chief Guest, Hon’ble President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar,
Our Guest of Honour, Hon’ble Foreign Minister of South Africa, Madam Mashabane,
Our Special Guest, Hon’ble Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr. Showkutally Soodhun,
Hon’ble Governor of Gujarat, Shri Om Prakash Kohliji,
Chief Minister of Gujarat, Smt. Anandiben Patel,
Hon’ble Minister for Communication & Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad,
Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, General V.K. Singh,
Hon’ble Minister of State for Finance, Shri Jayant Sinha
Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Shri Sunil Soni,

Distinguished Colleagues,
Delegates and my dear friends from the Indian Diaspora,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me, at the outset, extend a very warm welcome to all of you, to this Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. It is apt that this year PBD is being held in Gujarat, marking the 100th Anniversary of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa. Bapuji gave shape and character to India's freedom struggle. He demonstrated the power of non-violence, by precipitating the disintegration of the mightiest empire in the world at that time. He also fought against indentureship and the exploitation of Indians around the globe.

It is a fitting tribute to Bapu that we have with us today Hon’ble Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana, as the Chief Guest. Our warm and friendly relations are embedded in historical, cultural and traditional links. We have just commissioned well-known sculptor and Padma Shri awardee, Biman Das, to build a monument dedicated to the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in Guyana. Excellency, we look forward to taking our relationship to greater heights, for the mutual benefit of our peoples.

Friends, it is also a particular pleasure for me to welcome our Guest of Honour, Hon’ble Madam Mashabane, the Foreign Minister of South Africa. Excellency, your presence here today underscores the value you attach to our common legacy and cooperation in the struggle for freedom from colonialism and oppression. I am happy to note that South Africa is a partner country at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit being held in Gandhinagar from 11-13 January 2015.

We are pleased to have with us Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, Hon’ble Mr. Showkatally Soodhun.

The historical and civilizational connection of Mauritius with India is so deep that they take pride in calling the country "Chhota Bharat”.The PIOs in Mauritius celebrate the arrival of Indian indentured labourers as 'Aapravasi Divas'which I had the privilege of attending two months back. Gandhiji visited Mauritius in 1901 and as a tribute to him the National Day of Mauritius is celebrated on March 12, which is the date of launch of the Dandi Salt Satyagraha.Owing to the strong Diaspora ties and the great pride in our shared ancestral heritage, Mauritius has been an active participant in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) since its inception in 2003.

I respectfully welcome the Hon’ble Prime Minister without whose guidance and leadership this event would not have been possible at this scale. I welcome Governor of Gujarat Shri Kohliji for gracing this occasion.I welcome Smt. Annadiben, Chief Minister of Gujarat; Gujarat happens to be the partner state of PBD this year. I welcome my colleagues Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad and Shri Jayant Sinha who have helped us in releasing the commemorative stamp and coin. I welcome my colleague Gen. V.K. Singh, MOS who has personally supervised all arrangements for the PBD. Last but not least, I welcome Secretary MOIA Shri Soni who has executed our decisions with speed and efficiency.

Friends, the term diaspora, in ancient Greek, refers to "a scattering or sowing of seeds". The presence of Indians abroad can be attested to from the days of remote antiquity. Our classical texts describe the long journeys that saints and monks undertook for the spread of knowledge, peace and love. This was followed by several waves of outward migration over centuries, from the medieval period to the colonial and then the post-independence era, resulting in diverse communities of people of Indian origin in various parts of the world. The present-day travel of Indians as professionals, labourers, traders and entrepreneurs to the rest of the world is a continuing saga of Indian Migration.Our common bond, however, continues to be the mother tree – India.

The Indian diaspora today constitutes an important, and in some respects unique, force in world culture. In the past couple of decades, it has grown into an energetic and confident community of over 25 million that has given India a presence in many parts of the world. However, it is not a one-way interaction that benefits only one side. It pleases all Indians when the Overseas Indian community is respected for its work culture, discipline, successful integration with the local community and for its outstanding contributions in their countries of residence. A successful, prosperous and politically influential diaspora is an asset to India, much as a strong and self-reliant India would be a source of strength and inspiration for the diaspora. This synergy acts as a vibrant bridge between us and sustains our relationship.

The Government of India is determined to work closely with the diaspora to leverage each other’s strengths to mutual benefit. The Prime Minister himself has taken the lead in reaching out to the Overseas Indian community and engaging you. We welcome entrepreneurs, investors and professionals from the diaspora to partake in our endeavour to develop the motherland and restore it to its past glory. I promise you that it will be a mutually rewarding and satisfying partnership. I believe you have the unique insights, perspectives and the extensive natural links that can make this partnership work.

I again welcome the delegates who have joined us from far corners of the globe. I hope the deliberations in the next two days generate new ideas to address issues of concern to you and help enhance the quality of your engagement with India. The doors of my Ministry are always open to you all. We would welcome your new ideas and suggestions on how we can work closely together. With these words let me welcome you once again.

Thank You.
Jai Hind.


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