RIYADH: It was the Modi diaspora connect show, albeit with a difference. The usual glitz and song-and-dance spectacular was missing; but the rhetoric was soaring and inspirational as Prime Minister Narendra Modi chatted casually with Indian workers, shared food, heard them out, showered praise on them, and let them take selfies with him.
Unlike glitzy shows in Western capitals, the community event in Riyadh was structured into two parts: a smaller meeting with around 600 prominent Indians at a luxury hotel in the Saudi capital and a bigger interactive meeting with around 1,000-odd blue collar workers, who comprise nearly 80 per cent of around 2.9 million-strong Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia. There was no class angle it, but these were organised keeping in mind different profiles and interests of the Indian community.
Bonding with Indian workers at the L&T workers and residential complex at Dahiat Namar, located around 40 km away from central Riyadh, the prime minister lauded the efforts made by the workers for the Metro project they are building, saying “your hard work and toil has brought me here.” He stressed that the work being done by Indian workers abroad not only earns money, but also raises the stature of India. The 2.9 million Indians living in Saudi Arabia send home around $10 billion in annual remittances. In his emotive address, Mr Modi underlined that in future, the Riyadh Metro would bear an eloquent testimony to their contribution to the Saudi capital. “I feel I am a part of your family. Your happiness is mine,” he told an audience comprising assorted workers, including masons, carpenters, brick-layers and plumbers.
“Eating together, hearing each other’s thoughts & experiences… at L&T Workers’ Residential Complex in Saudi Arabia,” the prime minister tweeted. L&T, India’s engineering and infrastructure colossus, is executing around $6 billion worth of work on one line of the Riyadh Metro Project, the single largest contract won by an Indian company in any foreign country.
The 2.9 million-strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia is a vital pillar of India’s multifaceted ties with the Gulf powerhouse, and hence promoting their interests and welfare is among key priorities of Mr Modi during his first trip to Saudi Arabia, India’s largest supplier of oil and a key trading partner.
Alluding to the “e-migrate” initiative of the Indian government, Mr Modi said it would facilitate people who wished to work abroad. He said more “worker resource centres” would be opened, and the MADAD portal was a way to immediately reach the government.
In the city centre, at Hotel InterContinental, the tone and tenor of the interaction with the Indian community was different. He spoke to the Indian community in a measured voice, lauding their multifarious contribution to their adopted homeland and holding aloft the rapidly growing India as a beacon of hope amid the global slowdown.
Nearly 600-odd Indians, cutting across religious and linguistic denominations, stood for at least three hours for the man who has promised to remake India into an economic powerhouse and an influential global player. There was no place to sit for them they waited patiently and uncomplainingly for their leader.
After the national anthems of India and Saudi Arabia were played, Mr Modi shunned his usual florid eloquence and spoke to them about how India was making rapid progress in all fields and how the world is looking at the India story anew. This was the pithiest speech Mr Modi has delivered to a diaspora audience, but it was effective and inspiring for the audience.
Speaking in Hindi, the prime minister said: “The world’s attention is towards India due to the economic progress in India. India can contribute a lot to the world.” “In a very short span of time India has once again given rise to new expectations at the world stage,” he said.
“While the entire world is facing economic problems, the World Bank, IMF and other credit rating agencies are saying that India is a ray of hope.”
Singing a hymn to India’s young demographics, Mr Modi underscored that India has the potential to be the prime source of talented and skilled manpower for the world. “The world needs a workforce that is talented and well versed with technology,” he said. “India has the capacity to give the world the manpower it requires,” he stressed.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine-journal focused on international affairs, and CEO of TGII Media Private Limited. He is in Riyadh to report and analyse India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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