India's President Shri Ram Nath Kovind urged parliamentarians of Indian origin to build economic partnership between their countries and India as well as to to link the priorities of their countries development with India’s. The President at the time was delivering the feature address inaugurating a conference of legislators of Indian origin in Delhi on January 10.
The conference was organized by the Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad Bharat (ARSP) and the People of Indian Origin Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PIOCCI). It was held at the Ashoka hotel. Some 141 MPs and mayors from 23 countries attended the conference. The theme of the conference was building bridges of friendship and how cultural, economic and business linkages could be developed between the people of India and the diaspora. There were some 23 MPs from Guyana and 20 from Trinidad.
In addressing the global meet, ARSP Secretary-General and PIOCCI patron Shri Shyam Parande noted that the Indian diaspora was very vibrant and has had very close ties with India. He posited that the ˝emergence of a global body of Parliamentarians of Indian origin ˝would help to make this world a better place to live in˝.
In delivering the feature address, the President said that the conference is a milestone in that it brought together parliamentarians and public representatives of Indian origin from countries across the globe. ˝It is a new and welcome addition to the commemoration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. The Divas itself marks the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa on January 9, 1915˝.
He also noted that the diaspora ˝has climbed to appreciable heights in almost all the countries where it finds a home. It has contributed to the well-being of those countries enriching their economies and adding to intellectual wealth and their local culture˝.
The President noted that “members of the Indian diaspora work very hard on farms in countries as far apart as Italy, Bolivia, and Tanzania. They are instrumental in the tech start-up ecosystem of Silicon Valley, USA. They form the backbone of the economy of Dubai and other major business cities in the Gulf region˝. He added: ˝The global financial centers of New York, London, and Singapore would simply not be the same without the Indian diaspora”.
The President told the PIO legislators: “For the Government of India, engagement with PIO parliamentarians – or indeed with the wider Indian diaspora community – is not a transactional relationship or a zero-sum game. Rather, we look upon the community and look upon you – the PIO parliamentarians and elected and public representatives – as a living bridge. You have a role in enhancing understanding between your countries and the country of your parents and ancestors”.
He said the gathering ˝is not merely the remembrance of a historical anniversary. It is the celebration of a very contemporary, very accomplished and very high-achieving community. It is a tribute estimated at over 30 million strong Pravasi Bharatiya community that can be found in over 100 countries – from Trinidad to Fiji, from Argentina to Australia, and from the United States to the United Arab Emirates. Of these people, about 13 million are People of Indian Origin or PIOs as we know them, and some 17 million are Non-Resident Indians or NRIs˝.
The President invited the PIO MPs to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President's official residence. ˝ It belongs to all Indians, to all those in the Indian diaspora and to all PIOs˝.
Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, who was the Guest of Honor, pointed out that the overseas Indians were all pioneers in their respective fields and had made exceptional contributions in their chosen professions. He said that the BJP led government had been making earnest efforts to strengthen its engagement with the Indian diaspora. He also stressed the importance of such conferences which he said ˝provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and the people of the land of their ancestors for their mutually beneficial activities. These conferences are also useful in networking among the overseas Indian communities˝.
ARSP President Shri Virendra Gupta, India’s former ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, said that the ARSP had been actively engaged in providing an interface for the diaspora during the last four decades. ˝In doing so, the roles of those who were politically active in their adopted countries had been recognized˝.
Ms. Priti Patel, till recently a minister in the UK cabinet lauded the idea of a PIO conference of MPs. “This international conference is very significant because we have seen the coming together of the Indian community from around the world. We will now be able to use this significant global network of parliamentarians to help secure the economic interests and development of India. Many of us represent modern establishments and economies including entities like the IMF, World Bank, UN P5 Security Council, etc. As a part of our expertise, we also need to leverage our diaspora network.”
Other speakers included President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and the Industry Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh.