INAUGURAL SPEECH

by Honourable Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Mr. Jagdish Tytler

to the  GOPIO Conference on

 NRI/PIO Business Networking for Trade and Investment and Contribution of Indian Diaspora in Europe

  4 October 2004, Brussels (Belgium)

 

It gives me great pleasure to be present here amidst such a receptive gathering of our overseas Indian brothers and sisters. Brussels has a large presence of Indian community which has played a very significant role to make this city a prominent commercial hub.

 

The Overseas Indian Community is the best and the brightest face of India. The achievements of Indian Diaspora can be attributed to traditional ethos, cultural values and its capacity to harmonize and adapt. Industrious, innovative and ever responsive to opportunities, the Persons of Indian Origin are among the most enterprising people in the world. I am also fully aware that you have made substantial contributions in several areas of our national development as well. The successes that you have achieved have no doubt raised the stature of Indian community and has also brightened India’s image.

 

To demonstrate our commitment towards our overseas Indian brethren, the recently elected Government has created an independent Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. This Ministry shall work towards forging a dynamic relationship with the overseas Indians, for facilitating their interaction with India in diverse fields and ensuring their participation in the economic, social and technological development of the country. We would like the Overseas Indians to be a developmental and intellectual bridge so that what was once seen as a "brain drain" can become a "brain bank" which the nation can draw on for mutual benefit.

 

I am sure that in the years to come, India will surprise the world even more by taking longer and bolder strides ahead. Government is conscious that we need to move fast in the right direction to realize our goal of making India a Developed Nation by 2020. In this endeavour, I invite ideas on how you can directly contribute in making Indian education, infrastructure, healthcare, financial services, tourism and other service sectors world class. We are not talking here just of Euros, but of ideas of individual initiative, of creativity and enterprise, of expertise, of community action.

 

The liberalization of Indian economy has opened up opportunities for investment. It is our effort to create an environment conducive to investment and with freedom to operate. This new Ministry will facilitate the endeavours of Overseas Indians and provide a single window mechanism. The Government is fully committed to enable this two way flow of ideas and opportunities.

 

The Indian Diaspora has been an important factor in India's relation with other countries. We are more alive today than ever before to the issues concerning the welfare of our kith and kin in distant lands. The 20th century phenomenon of the explosion in the means and the pace of travel and communications has brought about a closer interaction between Overseas Indians and their country of origin. It has also encouraged meaningful interactions between the far flung groups of the Diaspora. Today, instead of the earlier 'hub and spoke relationship' between India and her Diaspora, we have begun to move towards a network design of a 'web relationship'. India's emergence as a modem society and the achievements of our brethren has even led to Overseas Indians playing a major role in moulding public opinion in their adopted homelands. I seek your ideas and suggestions on how to further strengthen the bonds between India and the global Indian family, bonds which are based on shared values, culture, philosophy and heritage.

 

The European Union is one of India's largest trading partners and is home to a large and influential Indian Diaspora. This gathering will provide a unique opportunity for the Indian Diaspora in the region to network. It will also open a new chapter in GOPIO's efforts in developing strategic relations between the Overseas Indians and Europe and European Institutions.

 

Government of India has been recognizing and celebrating the Diaspora's Indian connection and its achievements and goodwill towards India by organizing the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD). During the last two years the event was held in Delhi and on both the occasions the event attracted participation of over 1200 overseas delegates from over 60 countries. This three­-day event is inaugurated by the Prime Minister and there are plenary and sectoral sessions with Cabinet Ministers, State Chief Ministers and high level dignitaries from across the Diaspora in addition to exhibitions, a food festival and entertainment evenings. On this occasion, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are conferred on prominent overseas Indians who have made outstanding contributions in various fields.

 

The expectations of the overseas Indian community have been raised by the earlier two Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and the initiative of the new Government to constitute an independent Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The event in 2005 would be organized at Mumbai from 7th to 9th January in a comprehensive and focused manner commensurate with the expectations of the overseas Indians. I am, therefore, making a personal appeal to you all to come and attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2005 in great numbers and make it a huge success.

 

You may be aware that our Government has decided that from Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2005 onwards, a group of 50, second or third generation Indian youths will be invited to visit India each year for two weeks. They would participate in the Pravasi  Bharatiya Divas celebrations and also visit few other States in India for an orientation programme.

 

The Government has also decided to set up a Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi to deal with the multifarious needs of the Indian Diaspora. For this a suitable plot of land has been identified in Chanakyapuri area. The Prime Minister has announced a seed grant of Rs.25 crores for the Kendra.

 

You can rest assured that my Ministry will take up with greater vigour issues which have been of concern and importance, issues which need focused attention and issues which are close to your hearts. Let us work together to find ways and means to increase opportunities for you in India, to involve you in India’s growth and to invite your investments in the economic and social sectors. It is the spirit of enterprise and adventure that I want to inject back to India.

I wish the Indian community full success in its endeavours and once again urge all of you to participate in the third Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Mumbai and give us a chance to share your expectations and experiences so that our engagement can be further enriched and deepened.

 

Thank you,

 

******