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Address by External Affairs Minister on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2020 in New Delhi (January 09, 2020)

January 09, 2020

My Ministerial Colleague Shri Muraleedharan ji,
Secretary (EAST) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh,
My Colleagues in the Ministry
Dear friends
And those across the world who are with us today watching us

  • I am delighted to address you all on the occasion of the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. Let me take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2020. The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was a particularly special occasion for my predecessor, the late Smt. Sushma Swaraj. I would like to begin by recognizing her unique contribution and tireless work for the Indian diaspora and those working and traveling abroad. We all miss her very much.
  • January 9 is a historical day for Indians everywhere. This day in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after two decades of struggling for civil rights and basic human freedoms in South Africa. He did so not just for the Indian community, but for all oppressed people everywhere. His return to our motherland was such a momentous event that it was with good reason that former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee began the practice of observing January 9 as Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. Today, we not just affirm our bonding with Indians and people of Indian origin across the world. But by doing so, we also underline the historical global outlook of India and our commitment to Vasudaiva Kutumbakam – the world is a family.
  • The Pravasi Bhartiya community that numbers more than 30 million today can be found in every continent and virtually every nation. It is truly representative of what our society has to offer – whether in science and creative arts, in technology and medicine, in enterprise or engineering or in spreading Indian values, traditions, habits and soft power. Members of the diaspora have achieved great success in different walks of life and by doing so, define both India’s capabilities and branding. They are as prominent in the world of American technology and British healthcare as in Canadian services, European politics or African entrepreneurship. Their hard work and diligence keeps the global economy running, whether it is through leading major companies or building infrastructure. Whether it is the professionals of the Gulf or the innovators of Silicon Valley, the financiers of Singapore or the Yoga teachers of Suriname, their cumulative contribution to the image of India cannot be overstated. They may be the teachers of Africa or the hoteliers of America. But each in their own way, like drops of water coming together, have created a vast reservoir of goodwill for India.
  • In recent times what has been particularly notable is that the deep-seated Indian democratic belief is today being expressed by the diaspora in the societies where they live. Three Prime Ministers – Leo Varadkar of Ireland, Antonio Costa of Portugal and Pravind Jugnauth of Mauritius – are the source of great pride for all of us. This enrichment of pluralistic politics is also visible in a large number of legislators at the national and local levels, ranging from Canada, US and UK to Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
  • If the Indian society is a synthesis of the old and the new, so too is our diaspora. They have kept alive our roots, identities, heritage and the very way of life. Indeed, what makes the Indian diaspora somewhat unique is that much more than their counterparts from other societies, they have maintained the physical linkage and emotional attachment to the land of their origin. We need to nurture this relationship and I would like to underline today our Government’s deep commitment in that regard. A large number of programmes and events reflect this approach including of course the Know India Programme. The one that gets the most attention is, of course, Prime Minister Modi’s interactions with the Indian and diaspora community whenever he travels abroad.
  • While I emphasized the role of the diaspora in enhancing India’s standing in the world, there are many more tangible contributions that it has made. As our nation travels on its journey of modernity, the diaspora has in Prime Minister Modi’s words acted as a living bridge with the world. They have facilitated the flow of resources, technology and best practices in a variety of ways. Their networking energies and activities have helped improve global understanding of India and its aspirations. Most of all, they have helped in shaping the mindset of the upcoming generation of aspirational Indians who are so confident of engaging the world today.
  • So what can the Government do to nurture the relationship with the Indians and persons of Indian origin living abroad. These, to my mind, the answers fall into four broad categories:

    (i) We must make it easier to travel to India and that is exactly what motivates us today to reform our passport, visa and OCI scheme. By using technology, we have made consular, passport and visa services more people-friendly e.g. mobile Passport App, e-Passport, e-Visa, etc. The days of going to Embassies and Consulates for such purposes and services are now over.

    (ii) We strive to make it more secure to work, travel and live abroad. To that end, a number of initiatives have been taken for our migrant workers, including pre-departure training programmes. Grievance redressal mechanisms such as e-Migrate, and the Madad portal are also examples of relevance. Our Embassies have also been equipped to assist those more vulnerable and in need. In extreme cases, we have mounted operations to respond to humanitarian situations and natural disasters that affect our people. And I recall recent examples in Yemen and in Nepal.

    (iii) Our goal is to be the first and immediate responder to those in distress situations, whether they are travellers who have lost documents, students in difficulty, women in stress situations or workers who need support. What started out some years ago as exceptions – 24x7 helplines, open-house meetings, Consular camps, week-end assistance, etc. – today these are the norm. My predecessor used to say that help is just a tweet away. That is still so, but now the response to the problem by our Missions is often as fast as the response to the tweet itself.

    (iv) Keeping the bonds between India and the new generation of the diaspora is a major focus of our activities. Today’s event is but a small example of a larger endeavour that will continue to grow in the coming days. The living bridge must be renewed and refreshed.

  • As India rises in the world, its unique relationship with the diaspora would be one of its characteristics. The world may be increasingly be a common marketplace. But we also see it as a shared workplace and living space. We have historically impacted the world in its thought and activities and that aspiration continues to guide our approach. Today, we meet to recall the difference that one Pravasi Bhartiya made more than a century ago. May it inspire us all to each do what we can to contribute to the New India in the making.
Thank you very much.

Jai Hind.

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