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Speech by Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs at PBD Virtual Conference “Role of Diaspora in Promotion of Indian Culture Abroad”

December 09, 2020

His Excellency Mr Avinash Teeluck, Hon’ble Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Government of Mauritius,
Her Excellency Dr Vindhya Vasini Persaud, Hon’ble Minister and Member of Parliament, Government of Guyana,
Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, President, ICCR,
Shri Dinesh Patnaik, Director General, ICCR,
Ambassador Virendra Gupta, President, ARSP,
Distinguished Chairpersons of the technical sessions,
Distinguished Experts from abroad and India,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Namaskar!


I am delighted to welcome you all to this virtual conference on the important subject of "Role of Diaspora in Promotion of Indian Culture Abroad”, being jointly organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Overseas Indian Affairs Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with the Diaspora Research and Resource Centre, Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP). This conference constitutes an important part of the annual flagship Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2021.

Through such an initiative we celebrate our extended family that is residing all across the world, and is, in true spirit, ambassadors of the great culture of our country. We are proud of the fascinating story of the Indian diaspora, starting from the ancient times and never looking back, reaching the current state where we have over 30 million strong Indian diaspora spread over in more than 100 countries. In the present time, Indian Diasporas have emerged as a powerful entity since they are recognized as ‘soft power’ in the realm of foreign policy strategy and also as an agent or catalyst of economic development of countries of origin besides their active role in the host countries.

The Indian Diaspora is the second largest diaspora in the world, and is counted among the most successful expat communities anywhere in the world. Today, they occupy high positions in the fields of politics, economy, industry, technology and education. This heterogeneous group drawn from different historical and cultural contexts of migration are identified and held together by their ‘Indianess’ and a deep cultural and emotional attachment towards Mother India.

The success stories of our diaspora are countless. We all recount the recent electoral victories worldwide and I would like to recall the formations of Government under His Excellency President Irfan Ali in Guyana and His Excellency President Chandrikapersad Santokhi in Suriname. Indian origin leaders have also done exceptionally well at the recently-held elections in the United States. Vice President-elect Her Excellency Ms Kamala Harris, with family roots in India, is the first woman to reach the apex of power in the US. There are leaders of Indian origin in Congress, Senate and scores have won seats in the State legislatures in the USA. We are all proud of their victories, congratulate them and wish them all success.

The Indian diaspora living abroad has provided a global identity to India as a land of flavors, rich heritage - through its music, dance, Bollywood etc. and they have been in the forefront in passing Indian traditions, culture, values, morals and mores from one generation to another. They have also encouraged their host country to adopt many aspects of Indian culture and heritage. India is recognized internationally for its intellect, scientific temper, way of life through Ayurveda, Yoga amongst many such examples. While, diasporas have seamlessly integrated with the countries of their adoption, they have also maintained very close links with their ethno-cultural roots in India. They have been bridges, mediators, facilitators, lobby and advocacy groups for taking primacy of India’s national security and economic interests and soft power projection. With the collective efforts of 130 Crore Indians, we embark on a new journey of hopes and aspirations. While India is moving ahead on the path of development at a rapid pace, the goodwill and support of our Indian diaspora abroad cannot be overemphasized.

The Government of India and the Indian society have always valued and appreciated the contribution of diaspora in enhancing India’s position, prestige and standing abroad. This long-standing partnership has culminated in strong two-way efforts and initiatives through a series of institutional and operational arrangements for greater mutual consultations for improved synergy between the diaspora’s expectations and the Government of India’s policy framework. In this context, we may recall our extensive diaspora-specific programmes namely- exchange programmes, ICCR scholarships, youth exchanges, Distinguished and Academic Visitors Programme of ICCR, ICCR-sponsored artists in performing and visual arts, ICCR’s academic programmes through Indian chairs for promoting Indic studies, Indian languages, Indian history and culture, Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme (ITEC), cultural fests, Indian Cultural Centres abroad and many more.

The Government programmes and schemes have always been based on regular consultations with the diaspora and one of the most effective initiatives for this has been the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD). The next PBD is scheduled on 9th January 2021 and we were looking forward to receiving all of you again to carry forward this important dialogue. There is a definite advantage and charm of in-person interaction. However, the exceptional circumstances due to Covid-19 have forced us to go virtual.

We were also looking forward to sharing with you in person the various policy initiatives for shaping the idea of "New India”, including the concept of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. We also wanted to share with you the impact of Covid-19 globally, on India and specifically on diaspora and brief you on the initiatives taken by India for addressing this unprecedented challenge, including for softening its impact on Indian diaspora. However, our interactions would have to be through a virtual mode.

The socio-economic influence, standing and expectations of the Indian diaspora have been evolving fast and it requires new and more effective tools of engagement. We are accordingly approaching this theme "Role of Indian Diaspora in promotion of Indian Culture Abroad” with an open mind and are willing to discuss/explore the measures, including at the level of policy, institutional arrangements and execution. In the session, we will look forward to listening to your ideas for refining these tools under the four subthemes relating to cultural promotion, cultural exchange programmes, culture as a vehicle of soft power and engaging the youth.

GOI-diaspora partnership for cultural preservation and promotion has worked very well. However, a significant share of cultural penetration abroad has been carried out essentially by the diaspora organizations. Building on this strength, a time seems to have come to explore new ways of further enhancing the diaspora’s role in promotion and preservation of Indian culture abroad. We completely realise that the character, capacity and needs of diaspora evolve with each generation and this process has accelerated in the digital era. The interests, needs and expectations of the youth are changing fast and policy adaptations need to keep pace lest it causes any disconnect.

Our objective is to make this government-diaspora collaboration for cultural promotion abroad more effective, focused and self sustaining, with a special emphasis on engaging with the youth. Let the diaspora take a greater ownership of the process.

Finally, I wish to profoundly thank the partner organizations for their support and all of you for your valuable time and hope that deliberations and discussions in the coming sessions would be fruitful and constructive.

New Delhi
December 09, 2020

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