I welcome you in the midst of our extended family of Indians at this celebration of multifaceted talents of the Indian diaspora. Overseas Indians, who include Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), have carved a unique place the world over, with their relentless hard work, enterprise and innovation. They are bridge-builders between their ancestral land and their adopted countries, they have stretched the boundaries of achievement and excellence wherever they have chosen to settle and live.
Today’s event is special. It coincides with the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India, a historic moment that also marked the beginning of the long journey of national renewal and re-making of our nation and civilisation.
Mahatma Gandhi is easily the most famous and celebrated ‘Pravasi Bharatiya,’ the greatest pravasi of all times. We are fortunate to celebrate 100 years of the return of the ‘Sarva Shrestha Pravasi’; the one who remapped the destiny of India and lit up for the world a radiant and humane path of non-violent salvation.
Today, there is not a patch of foreign land which is not inhabited by Indians and glows with traces and influence of our multi-layered culture. Cutting across continents and countries, from America to Africa and from Australia to Argentina, persons of Indian origin and NRIs are making their presence felt in countless ways, big and small. The sun may have set on the British Empire, and Mahatma Gandhi ensured that it did, but the sun never sets and will never set on the extended community of overseas Indians who are shining and thriving in every part of the world.
It’s not that it’s been smooth sailing for them all the way; they have had their share of difficulties and hardships, but they have persisted, overcome, and made a well-earned place for themselves in their adopted foreign lands. And, in this process they have brought glory and honour to India. It, therefore, is a matter of joy and pride to honour outstanding overseas Indians and to confer on them the much-coveted Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.
Given the rich spread of talents and the proliferating number of outstanding overseas Indians, the choice is always difficult to make. It’s heartening to see overseas Indians making a mark in just about every field or arena. From business, the professions, academia, law, science and engineering to media, social activism and fashion designing to Hollywood as actors, film makers and producers, they are setting new benchmarks for excellence and achievement.
Overseas Indians are not just content with tried and trusted professions and vocations; many of them have successfully carved a career in politics, government, and diplomacy. In many countries, PIOs have become heads of state and government. This year, we have President of Guyana Donald Ramaotar here in our midst, and I warmly welcome him and thank him for finding time to be here.
Those gathered here in such large numbers live in different countries and regions and pursue varied professions, but there is one vital spiritual bond that unites them – it is the sense of organic connection to this ancestral land, the deep-rooted sense of Indian-ness that is civilizational and predates nation states.
They are proud and accomplished citizens of their own respective countries, but their heart also beats for India. They instinctively sense a stake and deep kinship in the unfolding India story. The rise of India, let me stress, is not just about India; the destinies of India and of the larger world are interlinked. For when 1.2 billion people of India attain their full potential, it’s not just India that will be energised and enriched, the whole world will be enriched and find itself redeemed.
This is a time of unprecedented hope for India.
Ever since the change of government in Delhi seven months ago, the world is looking afresh at the India story and is ready to bet big on India. And I am sure all gathered here also feel this thrill and excitement of a great nation trying to remake itself, and striving to reclaim its place in the community of nations.
Our government has been specially proactive in nurturing the bonds that bind Mother India and its children in distant lands. The Diaspora is close to Prime Minister Modi-ji’s heart. Where-ever he has gone, he has made a passionate appeal to NRIs and PIOs to be partners in India’s ongoing journey of development and national resurgence. We believe in infusing a new energy and vitality into this lasting relationship between India and its Diaspora.
In this context, we were happy to have so many young overseas Indians and the first ever day-long youth PBD that was held on the Day 1 of the conclave. Over 50 per cent of India’s population is below 25 years, and they are bursting with new hopes and aspirations. There is no bar for the dreams of youth, and it should be so.
It is hugely gratifying to see young overseas Indians taking the initiative to connect with the country of their origin, and build lasting connections with the Indian youth back home. So, we look to build on the success of the initiatives that we have had this year with ‘Bharat ko Jano’ and ‘Bharat ko Mano’ . We hope that they kindle the young with the spirit of – “Bharat ko Banao and Bharat Mein Banao.”
This is one of those rare times when if all of us show enough imagination and initiative, rise to the occasion and seize the moment, anything is possible. This is not just about talk; those gathered here today can make you contribution felt in many ways. The government of Shri Narendra Modi has only one mission: to re-make India into a great nation, a mission in which every Indian and equally every overseas Indian has a vital stake. It will be a perfect fit, a confluence of dreams and interests, and I have no doubt that with such interlinking and intermeshing, both India and the adopted countries of overseas Indians will benefit enormously.
The contribution of over 25 million-strong Indian Diaspora is deeply valued and cherished. The global Indian has become a brand synonymous with excellence, achievement and the indomitable human spirit to shine forth in all times, in all places and in all conditions. On this day, we have gathered to salute their never-say-die spirit. Today, we have gathered to acknowledge their achievements.
Just as Gandhiji upon his return sought to remake India, many of you can walk in his footsteps and help create new milestones in this journey of India. The idea of India is richer and more complex than many of you would think it to be, and we all here can partner in the India growth story in myriad ways. We all can walk hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder to make Gandhi’s dream true, and not just for India, but for the world, a peaceful world, free of conflicts, and flowing with genuine freedom and harmony.
(This is the edited text of India’s External Affairs Minister’s speech at Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards ceremony in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on January 9, 2015)
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