Photo : Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi-ji and External Affairs Minister Shrimati Sushma-Swaraj-ji both told Parliamentarians of Indian origin that India is proud of their achievements and of the Indian diaspora. Some 141 MPs and Mayors (Chair of Regional bodies) were given a very warm welcome by the government of India at this special conclave of legislators of people of Indian origin from around the globe. The meeting was held under the auspies of the Minister of External Affairs (MEA) Shrimati Sushma-ji. All expenses were paid by the government of India. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi-ji. Attendees included Ministers of State in the MEA Shri M.J Akbar and Shri V.K Singh and other Ministers of government. This first 'PIO Parliamentarian Conference' was held at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (hospitality center for PIOs) at Chanakyapuri.
There are some 280 PIOs sitting in Parliaments of various countries out of which several are holding crucial positions. The present PMs of Portugal, Ireland and Mauritius are PIOs. PIOs served as head of states or government in Singapore, New Zealand, Trinidad, Fiji, Guyana, and Surinam. Only sitting MPs and mayors were invited; no ministers, heads of government/state or Parliament Speakers were invited.
Some 141 Indian origin MPs and mayors from 23 countries accepted the invitation to attend the conference called to boost ties between India and the countries where the MPs are domiciled. Delegations came from Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Curacao, Jamaica, US, Canada, UK, Holland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Fiji, etc. Guyana had 23 delegates, including 20 MPs and three mayors while Tinidad and Tobago sent the second-largest delegation of 20, with 16 MPs and four Mayors. Britain sent the third largest delegation of 16, with 15 MPs and one mayor. Mauritius sent 13. There are five Indian origin legislators in US Congress but none attended the Delhi meet because Congress is in session.
Photo : Minister of External Affairs of India Sushma Swaraj
The parley allows the MPs to connect with their past in India and contribute to the growth of new India. Besides, it will also help India have more friends in foreign countries rooting for its interest. The Indian Government believes that increasing engagement with the MPs will help India with having more advocates for its cause on various issues on the global stage. As pointed by Shri Dnayeshwar M. Mulay, Secretary Overseas Indian Affairs and Passports, “Indian diaspora and the PIOs in countries like the US and UK have played an important role in pushing for India-centric policies with successive Governments. And have been very active and strong advocate of India’s cause”.
Modi told the MPs, "No matter where you are, I believe your ancestors will be very happy to see you all here. Everywhere Indians go, they integrate into the diaspora. They take up the culture, sports and the other everyday things of their surrounding environment".
He said: "Your achievements (as legislators in your countries) are a point of pride for us. Even when you are nominated for political office anywhere, we are very happy. You affect geo-politics and the world and frame laws. Indians watching these developments are very happy to hear about your achievements."
Modi said: "Whenever I travel, I like to meet people of Indian origin. I have met many of you like this. The reason is that you are permanent ambassadors of the country. My government has tried to connect to Indians overseas and solve their problems. Earlier we had different schemes and ministries but now it is all integrated under the external affairs ministry. Sushma Swaraj is working for you constantly. Overseas residents can help us in many ways. You send remittances and we are thankful for that. You can also invest in India. We know your experience is important for the betterment of India. You can take India to the world. We want to be with you when you succeed".
Modi informed the august body that India is not the kind of country that was projected in the mdeia years ago. He said India has developed rapidly in the last few years. "India is changing. We are ranked high on the World Competitiveness Index, Logistics Performance Index and other such indices. Organisation like World Bank, IMF, Moodys all look at India positively. Sectors like air transport, mining, computers, electrical equipment have all seen enormous investment in the last three years. Our motto is 'Reform to Transform'. We want transparency and freedom from corruption. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has eliminated multiple taxes across the country. There is no sector where we have not brought reforms. India is a young State, and the government is working for its youngsters. Multiple schemes are in place for them".
He also said India has made maor advances in infrastructure in the country in highway, waterway, airway, railway, and even information tech way. He said that “new railway lines and national highways are being built. Where the shipping industry had zero growth earlier, now it is up to 11 percent“.
He reminded the gathering of the greatness of Indian culture. "We believe in 'Vaasudev Kutumbakam' – the world is one. The values of Indian culture and civilisation can guide a world gripped in increasing instability. On my suggestion, World Yoga Day (adopted by the UN) was celebrated on such a large scale“.
On aiding the world, Modi-ji informed the gathering that India is among the first responders in a crisis. ˝In Yemen, we saved not just our citizens but also people from 48 other countries. Indian soldiers laid down their lives in World War I and World War II even though the country did not have any economic interest in the wars. Our relationship with a country is not based on give and take, it is based on humanity. We don't have an interest in exploiting anyone's resources or taking away anyone's territory".
Modi thanked the MPs for taking time out of their busy schedule and coming to the conference. He said that he hoped to meet them again next year at the PBD.
Before the PM spoke, Minister Sushma-ji also showered praises on the MPs and the diaspora and credited Modi for India9s growing global stature.
Besides the addresses from the PM, External Affairs, Minister, Vice President, and ither Ministers, there were two sessions featuring special guest senior Congress leader and chairman of the parliamentary committee on external affairs, Shashi Tharoor. The session was presided over by deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The second session had Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar as special guest with e deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha chairing.
The PIO MPs were scheduled for tourism, cultural and sightseeing activities. Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu closed the conference with a valedictory session that included Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.