“I am very happy to join you once again in this wonderful annual homecoming of Pravasi Bharatiyas. I extend a very warm welcome to each one of you.
I extend a very special welcome to His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand, the Governor General of New Zealand, who is our honoured Chief Guest this year. He has taken keen interest in revitalising relations between India and New Zealand and has been a source of great encouragement for the expansion of our bilateral relations in all fields. His achievements in the fields of law, jurisprudence, public service and international relations, and his deep knowledge of several languages are a matter of inspiration for the entire overseas Indian community.
I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of a very accomplished global Indian who is no longer with us – I am referring to Professor CK Prahalad, one of the foremost management gurus of our time. We will solely miss his vast knowledge and experience in the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians and other bodies where he made valuable contributions to the evolution of public policies particularly directed at raising the living standards for the poorest section of our community. We honour Professor CK Prahalad by dedicating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Oration to his memory this year.
The year gone by has been a busy year for Indian diplomacy. We had the honour of receiving leaders from all countries which are permanent members of the UN Security Council in India. The world expects India to play a more important role in the management of global polity and economy. India’s rise as an emerging nation is welcomed as a positive factor in international relations. Our contributions whether in the G 20 or in the Climate Change conference held recently in Cancun were noteworthy and derived from our unique experience of tackling the challenge of developmental challenges, our emphasis on values and our tradition of building consensus among different sections and interests.
We have this year become a member of the United Nations Security Council for a period of two years. We will play our due and commensurate role in international bodies and we will seek to promote what is good for India and good for the world at large.
Last year I had the opportunity of visiting many countries with large Indian communities, to renew our contacts and bonds of affections. I visited Saudi Arabia, Canada and Malaysia. In Malaysia I had the privilege of inaugurating the Little India district in Kuala Lumpur with Prime Minister Dr. Najib.
It was a very emotional experience for me. It was a symbolic acknowledgement of the contributions that have been made by many other ‘little Indias’ to local communities across the world. I felt very proud when leaders of these countries praised and appreciated the role of Indian communities in their nation building efforts and processes.
India’s soft power is an increasingly important element in our expanding global footprint. This is a matter which came up yesterday in Prime Minister’s Advisory Council and several distinguished members led emphasis on the more effective use of India’s soft power. The richness of India’s classical traditions and the colour and vibrancy of contemporary Indian culture are making waves around the world. The Government of India has decided to establish new Indian cultural centres in US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, France and Australia. I urge the Indian communities in these countries to support and patronise these centres so that they become effective instruments for projecting the diversity and splendour of composite Indian culture.
The welfare of the large number of workers that emigrate from India is a matter of special concern to us. To improve the conditions for migration overseas we have signed Social Security Agreements with twelve countries and finalised Labour Mobility Partnerships with two others. We are negotiating a generic arrangement with the European Union. As a further measure we have now extended the facility of the Indian Community Welfare Fund to all Indian Missions. I take this opportunity to commend the efforts of my colleague Mr. Vayalar Ravi in this matter.
Our Government had introduced the Overseas Citizen of India card and the People of Indian Origin card to facilitate visa-free travel to India as well as to provide the rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in India. We have recently reviewed the functioning of these schemes, and have decided to merge the OCI and PIO cards into a single facility. We hope to iron out some of the problems that have arisen in the implementation of these schemes.
This year the North Eastern States of India are the partner States for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. I represent the beautiful state Assam in Parliament and I know what boundless potential the North Eastern region has to contribute to our nation building given the right opportunities. Providing gainful employment opportunities for the youth is a real challenge. I encourage the diaspora to join hands with local and national efforts to accelerate the pace of development of this region.
I am glad that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is planning to initiate a ‘skills initiative’ for overseas employment of people from the North Eastern region. Towards this end, we will identify an Institute of Excellence to promote technical skills in the region in the areas of hospitality and healthcare.
Since we met last year, we have enacted a law which has accorded Non-Resident citizens the right to register themselves in the electoral rolls of their constituencies. Our government is framing appropriate procedures to give effect to this new legal provision which will give NRIs their legitimate right to participate in the country’s electoral processes. I have no doubt that their participation will be welcomed by the constituencies in which you do participate. They will bring a breath of global fresh air to our politics, I sincerely hope.
Despite the uncertain global economic scenario, I am happy that our economic recovery is progressing very well. In the last two quarters, our growth rate of Indian economy has been 8.9% and we expect that for the entire year it will be around 8.5%. We expect that from the next year onwards we will be able to grow at a rate between 9 and 10%. This growth is vital to fund our ambitious social development programmes and create employment opportunities for our young population. I will also create new bonds of interactions and connectivity between India and the overseas Indian communities.
We are examining seriously how to make systemic changes that ensure more transparent procedures and safeguards in our governance processes. I believe our democracy is sturdy, vibrant and has their own inbuilt mechanisms for redressal and course correction. We need to build consensus on far-reaching changes that may be required in processes of governance and in our legal or electoral systems. We are determined to work sincerely towards this end.
I believe that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has become an important event in our calendars because in this era of globalisation and instant and constant connectivity a new bond has been established between India and her own children who live around the world. It is a new bond based on our pride in the achievements of people of Indian origin worldwide and their pride in India's re-emergence as a cradle of creativity adventure and enterprise.
These interactions have enabled you to discover a new India and feel enthused by our progress. When you see the knowledge explosion in Bangalore, the entrepreneurial vibrancy of Gujarat, the creativity of Tamil cinema, the awakening of a new India, you feel proud to say you are a person of Indian origin.
Similarly, there is today great appreciation in India of the impressive achievements of the people of Indian origin around the world. Your hard work, your creativity inspire us.
I do sincerely believe the coming of age of the Pravasi Bharatiya has enabled the international community to recognise that India and the people of Indian origin have a new message for the world at large.
India has a message for the world. It is the message of pluralism, of tolerance, of the balance between individual rights and collective responsibilities. It is this message that every daughter and son of this great Mother Land of ours symbolises. Each one of you – living in different countries, different faiths, different languages, different beliefs - are a symbol of that great idea of "unity in diversity" that India represents.
Yesterday, at the meeting of the Prime Minister's Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians, I was struck by how many of the distinguished members spoke about education and health care and what more India should be doing to develop Indian brain power. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that the sterling achievements of our diaspora represent a triumph of the value that Indian culture places on education. We hope to use the wisdom, experience and resources of the global Indian community to develop a world class education system, particularly in the field of higher education.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I am very happy to inaugurate today the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra which we hope will become a focal point for interaction, for exchange, for facilitation and for advocacy for the NRI community.
With these words, I wish you success, prosperity and fulfillment in all your endeavours in the year ahead.”