ALTHOUGH BRITAIN IS HOME TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FROM INDIAN DIASPORA, THE RECENT REGIONAL PBD WAS FIRST OF ITS KIND IN LONDON. THE EVENT WAS ATTENDED BY THE NEW EXTERNAL AFFAIR MINISTER OF INDIA SUSHMA SWARAJ WHO ADDRESSED THE VARIOUS ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES THE NEW GOVERNMENT PROVIDES.
It has been a matter of great pleasure for me to come to London and inaugurate the Eighth Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in the warm presence of members of the Indian Diaspora and the distinguished Foreign Secretary of the British Government and officials from the British and Indian side. I attach great importance to this event as this is the first large-scale engagement of the new Government in India with the highly successful and vibrant Indian origin community of the United Kingdom and other European countries”, said Indian external affair minister, Sushma Swaraj, in her inaugural speech at Regional Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas at Westminster in London. With 1.4 million strong and among the most-visible ethnic minority communities in the UK, London hosted the regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas for the first time from October 16 to 18 this year.
The event featured discussions on different aspects of India’s relationship with Britain and other countries of Europe, including resources, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, skills and education, languages, women in business and culture. The convention not only saw participation from the Indian community, but also from people interested in plugging into India’s growing relationship with Britain and Europe. Over 800 delegates were present at the convention. The professed objective of the Regional PBD is to reach out to those members of the community who are unable to participate in the annual PBD in India and to provide a platform for the Indian community in Britain and Europe to contribute to the relationship between countries of the region and India.
“We deeply value the role and contribution of the Indian communities abroad – in building bridges of friendship and goodwill between India and their adopted countries. The Indian Diaspora truly represents the unity of India with all its diversity, and promotes understanding of Indian values and culture. We are proud of the great accomplishments of the Indian community in the UK and other European countries in all areas of human endeavour and the great reputation they have earned as industrious, law abiding and peace loving citizens, while retaining their Indian roots”, addressed Sushma Swaraj to the people of Indian Diaspora.
She invited the diaspora to actively participate in India’s growth story saying that the current government is fully committed to good governance, clear policies, efficiency, accountability, speedy decision making, transparency and favourable business environment. “There are tremendous opportunities today for you to join us, especially in the fields of manufacturing, infrastructure development, education, health, skills development, science and technology, research and innovation, knowledge economy and youth development as part of our effort to realise India’s full potential”, she said and further elaborated, “Several exciting projects such as the Clean Ganga Project, Metro Rail Project, Smart Cities Project etc. are on the anvil, where you can contribute meaningfully.”
Government’s steps on consular and visa issues affecting overseas Indians as announced by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on his recent visit to United States was also addressed. “All PIO cards are now valid for the lifetime of the cardholder, instead of 15 years. PIO cardholders would also now not be required to report to a police station even if their visit to India exceeds 180 days. The Government is working on a new scheme that will merge the PIO and OCI schemes. The doors of my Ministry are open to you. We would welcome your new ideas and suggestions on how we can work closely together.”
The topics for the panel discussions included role and contribution of the Indian diaspora to the British/European societies and economies; how the Diaspora and the Indian government can leverage each other’s strengths to mutual benefit in the framework of India- Britain strategic partnership; opportunities and challenges in India-Britain collaboration in trade and investments, including in third countries; NRI/PIO businesses in European countries; and scope and potential of the diaspora’s engagement in education, research and innovation in India. Speakers comprised of dignitaries from Britain and India, prominent members of the Indian community, British and Indian business representatives, academics and mediapersons.
The event was more local than regional as primarily the agendas and issues of UK were dealt. “The speakers too were restricted from Britain making it focused on the Britain-India associations than Europe and India”, said Raja Munuswamy, Secretary-General, GOPIO. He, however, said that it was a good initiative and it received a good response.
The external affair minister also invited the gathering to the main PBD to be held in India. “I would also like to take this opportunity to personally invite you to the main Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) Convention to be held in India from the 7th to 9th January 2015 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat. This PBD is a very special one as it is being held on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa. It will be an important occasion for overseas Indians to interact among themselves and with different agencies of Government of India and with the various State Governments of India that are present here”, invited Sushma Swaraj.