India Celebrates Pravasis, Modi Praises Them As “Brand Ambassadors”

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India’s Prime Minister Narendar Modi, gestures as he speaks to his Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh. Also seen in photo, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, extreme left, RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat, 2nd from right, and Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, extreme right, at the formal inauguration Jan. 22, of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi. (Courtesy: pbdindia.gov.in)

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the more than 4,000 delegates attending the Jan. 22, at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, saluted them for their achievements in countries around the world, and labeled them “brand ambassador” of India because of their stellar performance as leaders and doers.

“I consider NRIs to be India’s brand ambassadors. They are the symbols of our capacities and capabilities,” Modi declared in his speech at Varanasi, where the PBD was held Jan. 21-23.

The theme of the convention was “Role of Indian Diaspora In Building New India,” and it was held in Bada Lalpur in Varanasi. with India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and former Chief of Army Staff V.K. Singh officiated. The chief guest during Modi’s inaugural event was Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

Modi said his government has assisted some 200,000 pravasis over 2018,  with any problems they faced in the countries where they were living; is working to simplify passport, visa, Overseas Citizenship of India, Person of Indian Origin, and other procedures, including connecting the various Indian consulates and embassies around the world to the Passport Seva online mechanism, plus simplifying visa processing with E-visa.

“The world today listens to our words and recommendations with seriousness and understanding,” Modi said giving his speech in Hindi. “India’s contributions to global development are being recognized. … ‘One World, One Sun, One Green’ is the direction we want to take the world,” the Prime Minister said. Before going to the PBD, Modi tweeted about PBD, saying “This is an excellent forum to engage with the Indian diaspora, which is distinguishing itself all over the world.” In his speech, he noted how countries like Mauritius, Portugal and Ireland were being led by leaders of Indian origin.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, the Founder and Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, Swati Singh, the Minister for NRIs, Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Sampat Shivangi, and India’s External Affairs Minister, Gen. V K Singh, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2019, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, on January 22, 2019.

Land of Billion Opportunities

A series of plenary sessions were held during the last day: Indian Community Organizations Working for Indian Nationals in Distressed Situation; Role of Indian Diaspora in Capacity Building for Affordable Waste Management; Indian Diaspora’s Role in Capacity Building of Artificial Intelligence in India: and Developing Cyber Capacity of India.

The President of India Ram Nath Kovind, addressed the concluding gathering Jan. 23, stressing the important role Indians abroad played for India as one of the largest diasporas in the world.

“India today is a land of a billion ideas. India today is a land of a billion opportunities,” Kovind said.

President Kovind noted the immense cultural wealth of the people who left the country. “In the past, our ancestors travelled to Southeast Asia as merchants and as monks. Much later, many lived and prospered as traders and entrepreneurs along the Silk Route. And more than a century ago, under the indenture system, we witnessed millions of our people crossing the seven seas,” Kovind is reported to have said, according to a press release from his office. “The world has moved a long way since for our diaspora. They are commanding global heights today, while embracing their cultural ethos and diversity. And while they do so, they must also preserve and strengthen their unity as a community.”

The President said the Indian diaspora’s success and hard work have set an example. They are the face of India and its identity abroad. We are proud of them and their achievements. But what really makes their contributions stand out are the values that they espouse and live for. These are values that intrinsically remain Indian.

Numerous awards were given out during the three-day convention, capped on the last day by the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award. Four Indian Americans were among the 28 people who received these from President Kovind : Gita Gopinath, Chandra Shekhar Mishra, Gitesh Jayantilal Desai and Dr. Kiran Chhottubhai Patel.

During the three days, politicians, philanthropists, and leaders in several fields of endeavor,  from around the world rubbed shoulders and networked, but also enjoyed numerous cultural events and performances.

The Youth PBD along with the Uttar Pradesh State PBD was held Jan. 21, jointly inaugurated by India’s Minsiter for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, and Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports. At this event, India’s former Consul General in New York Dnyaneshwar Mulay, now secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs for Overseas Indian Affairs, gave the welcome remarks. A plenary session facilitated interaction with members of the diaspora. The gathering was also addressed by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, who hosted a dinner the same night. Youth delegates at the convention visited Banaras Hindu University on the campus.

On the formal inauguration day, others who addressed the gathering apart from Modi, included Swaraj, Adityanath, Jugnauth, and Singh. A “Bharat Ko Janiya Quiz” Award ceremony was also held. The plenary sessions included, “Role of India Diaspora in Capacity Building for Affordable Solar Power,” and another on “Giving Back to India: Opportunities and Challenges.” Dinner was hosted by Minister Swaraj.

Many of the delegates went on to enjoy the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (Allahabad), Jan. 24, and were expected to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations Jan. 26.

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