Making Time: India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj meets Indian-Americans in New York

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India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, left, met representatives from the Global Organization for People of Indian Origin in New York City Sept. 23, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings. (Photo: Indian Consulate Twitter)

Amidst a busy schedule in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made time for the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin Sept. 23, to listen to concerns of Indians living around the world and discuss ideas for greater cooperation.

Minister Swaraj “interacts with Community Leaders & members of GOPIO, discussed initiatives for enhancing role of Diaspora in development of #New India,” said a tweet from the Indian Consulate of New York.

“It was a very good meeting and part of our continuing dialogue with India during the UN meetings,” Thomas Abraham, chairman of GOPIO, told Desi Talk. “We bring up issues affecting the Indian community worldwide and we did that this time as well,” he added.

It was a 40-minute meeting according to Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, GOPIO life member and chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold.

That was a significant portion of time allocated to Indian-Americans despite Swaraj’s packed UN meetings, including the fallout from New Delhi canceling a meeting between Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart.

According to an Indo Asian News Service report, Swaraj has a “grueling” schedule and her roster includes meetings with top UN and World Health Organization officials, President Donald Trump’s meeting on the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Progblem, as well as bilateral meetings, and meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Commonwealth, the G77 group of developing countries, and the Heart of Asia meeting of countries of Central and South Asia.

At the GOPIO community meeting others present apart from Abraham and Parikh, were GOPIO Vice President Ram Gadhavi, and Secretary General Dr. Rajeev Mehta, GOPIO Intl. Coordinators-at-Large Lal Motwani and Dr. Asha Samant, GOPIO Chapter Validation Committee Chair Dinesh Mittal, GOPIO-CT President Anita Bhat, and TV Asia news anchor Rohit Vyas.

GOPIO delegation meeting with India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj Sept. 23, in New York. From left,GOPIO Intl. Coordinator-at-Large Dr. Asha Samant, India’s Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, GOPIO Gold Life Member and Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, GOPIO Vice President Ram Gadhavi, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, GOPIO Chapter Validation Committee Chair Dinesh Mittal, GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO Secretary Dr. Rajeev Mehta, GOPIO Intl Coordinator-at-Large Lal Motwani, GOPIO-CT President Anita Bhat and TV Asia News Anchor Rohit Vyas. (Photo Indian Consulate in New York-Twitter)

India’s Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty also joined the meeting which took place in the penthouse suite of the Intercontinental Hotel in New York City.

“It was a productive meeting. We covered at least 11 agenda items and a few other issues,” said Dr. Mehta, adding that Minister Swaraj “was very receptive.”

Dr. Parikh asked Swaraj about ways in which the international community of Indians could help further the goals of massive government programs like Ayushman Bharat, the largest healthcare program in the world announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sept. 23, and Swachch Bharat. “The Minister said she would put me in touch with relevant officials in charge of these programs, for promoting the ‘New India’,” Parikh told Desi Talk, adding, “We want to do this is a more structured and methodical way.”

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which takes place in Varanasi Jan. 21-23, and the GOPIO Convention which will take place on the sidelines was discussed. Swaraj is the chief guest at the valedictory session of the GOPIO Convention.

Dr. Parikh said that GOPIO chapters, Indian community groups as well as Indian community media will promote New India in all countries outside India.

Abraham emphasized the need for the Indian mission to work closely with the GOPIO chapters and other Indian community groups whenever issues come up affecting Indian’s image in various countries.

Legal problems of Non-resident Indians (NRIs) other people of Indian origin were also address, particularly the abandonment of wives and husbands and how New Delhi and the communities abroad could be pro-active. “It was agreed that the word ‘spouses’ would replace gender-based terminology on the issue of abandonment; and legal issues like postponement of court hearings in India for those who went from abroad, was discussed,” said Mehta, adding that Swaraj recognized the issue of case backlogs and lack of adequate number of judges.

Gadhavi brought up the issue of making voting for NRIs easier in India and Swaraj pointed to proxy voting for those living abroad.  Gadhavi also brought up the issue of making visa forms easier and in major Indian languages.

“Minister Swaraj told that one can apply for Passport in other languages and (there were) no plans for Visa forms in other languages,” Abraham said. However, the subject of making forms easier could be discussed with the secretary in charge of passports and visas at MEA.

Prior to the PBD, an academic conference has been organized by GOPIO jointly with Gujarat University entitled, “A Recent Perspective on India-Diaspora Bond” on January 15 and 16. Swaraj suggested reaching out to the Indian Ministry of Human Resources for assistance on that front.

How to further improve the outreach of the popular Know India Program (KIP) was discussed and the various will announce it several months before the commencement of the program so as to get enough candidates to sign up.

Mittal and Abraham also brought up the issue of leapfrogging nextgen technologies by using the skills of Indians abroad.

Swaraj noted that the Indian government has been bringing experts on various technologies to the panel discussions on new technologies. “She further suggested that GOPIO’s Science and Technology wing could provide recommendations on new technologies to be considered and experts in the field,” Abraham said.

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