EXTEMPORE SPEECH DELIVERED BY
SHRI J.C. SHARMA, ADDITIONAL SECRETARY (NRI & PV)
MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
AT GOPIO CONVENTION ON
SATURDAY JULY 22, 2000
Honorable Governor Jacob, the President and Office Bearers of GOPIO and distinguished Members of the Audience,
It is indeed my privilege to represent my country, the mother country of all of us at this Convention in the beautiful city of Zurich. I bring to you greetings not only from the Government of India but also one billion people of India. Governor Jacob expressed most eloquently the achievements of India since her Independence. He covered almost every aspect of our development based on his rich experience in public life. My able, senior colleague, Ambassador K.P. Balakrishnan also explained in some detail many glorious achievements of our motherland. They also referred to the achievements of NRIs and PIOs in various parts of the world. I can safely say that more than 75% text of the prepared speech that I have with me has been fully covered. It would be most uncivil of me to bore you with my prepared presentation. I am, therefore, choosing the best alternative available to me i.e. speak from my heart.
It is indeed a privilege for anyone to get an opportunity to represent India. I consider it an even greater honor when I get the opportunity to speak on behalf of my country to so many distinguished representatives of mother India settled in different parts of the world. I am particularly happy to get this opportunity so soon after assuming the charge of my new office as head of the NRI-PIO Cell in the Ministry of External Affairs. This clearly demonstrates the importance the Government of India attaches to the NRIs and PIOs.
The overseas Indian community has played a very significant role in the political and economic development of India. Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation returned from South Africa to shape the destiny of the nation. History has many prominent personalities from among overseas Indians who have made a laudable contribution to the motherland.
People of Indian origin are in almost every part of the world. They have established a name for themselves through hard work, skills and talents. They are in the forefront of the global technology revolution today. They occupy important positions in service and consultancy and are among the world’s leading businessmen in many countries. They have played prominent and distinguished political roles of Prime Ministers and Parliamentarians. They have contributed to the prosperity and life of the adopted countries with loyalty and distinction. They have contributed generously to the motherland in times of crisis be it for the Kargil war and the welfare of the families of the martyrs or the Orissa cyclone. They have mobilised local political support on important national issues. We are proud of your achievements and successes. .
I have had the privilege of being posted to many countries and watch the Indian Diaspora from close quarters. What is the secret of success of our Diaspora? What special attributes NRIs and persons of Indian origin have? What unique contribution they can make to the countries of their adoption? It is the legacy of a unique civilization. They represent the world’s oldest traditions which emphasizes the middle path.
In my postings in Canada & US on many occasions I had stated that the Indian community brings with them an experience most relevant to the young and emerging multi-cultural society like US, Canada and Australia. India has the oldest tradition of receiving immigrants. In many respects young States like US, Canada, etc. are going through the phenomenon today which India has witnessed for thousands of years. The Scithians, the Parthians, the Huns, the Arabs, the Turks, the Mongols came to India in search of better climates, greener pastures, economic prosperity and safe haven from political and religious persecution. In nutshell migrants sought India for every reason which they seek new countries like US, Canada and Australia. What makes it interesting is that during this period the Indians were also traveling to many parts of the world particularly South East Asia and Central Asia. These interactions contributed a great deal to India’s prosperity. The cross fertilization enriched India as well as the places where Indians settled, no doubt in small numbers. To the best of my knowledge no other civilization has inherited such a long and glorious traditions of cross fertilization of ideas, of customs, beliefs and cultures. Harmonising different strands of thought became strongest element of Indian civilization. Vedic saying "Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti" – The Truth is One, wise men see it in many ways. It is this philosophy which made it possible for every thought, every belief to flourish in India. The tradition continues and the Indians truly understand both unity-in-diversity and diversity in unity.
It is because of this tradition that India could adopt a Constitution, which not only serves as the bed-rock of democracy and Fundamental Rights and also instrument of change. Under the visionary leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar the framers of Indian Constitution gave us a document which enabled us to bring about a change in the last 52 years which is unprecedented in Indian history. No other civilization has been able to empower so many disadvantaged sections of the society in such a short period without bloodshed. For changes of this nature Europe witnessed the French Revolution, the Russians the Bolshevik Revolution and the Americans had to go through the Civil War. It is not my case that we have been a perfect society. No, many ills remain. The under-privileged very rightly feel that pace of change ought to be faster. There have been also a few violent incidents. But the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people abhor such incidents, condemn such incidents and would like to see that they do not occur.
The process for this change was set in motion by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, by the manner in which he waged the struggle for India’s Independence. No one in the history of humanity had ever mobilized such a large number of people in an entirely peaceful manner against the armed adversary. The tradition continues in the conduct of Indian polls which are the largest logistical exercise of its kind in the world.
The Indians have done remarkably well wherever they have settled because of inheritance of its great traditions. They are able to adapt to their new environment. They are able to adjust to their compatriots in the lands of their settlement. The Indians also bring with them a rich tradition of pursuit of knowledge. Friends, it is hardly surprising that Indians have carved a niche for themselves even in the most competitive and scientifically advanced countries of the world.
We are sensitive to the problems and needs of the overseas community and will carefully and sympathetically consider every legitimate demand of the community.
The people of Indian origin can individually and collectively contribute to the development of India and enrich their own potential by pooling their resources. The technological revolution offers immense scope for the PIO community to get acquainted with each other and with India. It also enables us to know of your potential and capabilities to meet our needs. The community should take up the challenge in facing economic tasks ahead in unity, dedication and strength. We would welcome and look forward to a regular dialogue with the overseas community to keep each other abreast of all the developments and interact ways and means of solving our problems and building our future.
It will be our endeavour to assist the overseas community to maintain and deepen the strong emotional, cultural bonds. We view the overseas community as more than just investors. They are important links with the world community. The Government expects them to play a role of unofficial ambassadors acquainting with the host countries with life and culture of the motherland, its potential, problems and needs.
Wherever the Indian communities have gone they have spread the message of peace and non-violence, central to our civilization and ethos. They have preserved the essential family and social values in their own communities and spread them in their adopted countries. They have presented the wisdom of our civilization and rich heritage of our art and culture in many countries.
We will help you maintain your Indian cultural identity and will address educational needs in every possible way. We would also like you to be well equipped to educate people in the country of your residence about India, both modern and ancient, our strengths, accomplishments, problems and needs.
We plan to secure the establishment of educational institutions specifically designed to meet your needs, to enable you maintain cultural and emotional roots.
We are encouraging Indian Universities to design special programmes to orient overseas Indians in political, socio-economic and cultural aspects of India. We are also encouraging studies of the Indian diaspora in universities/institutions in India to acquire a better understanding of your life and history.
I am happy to announce that it has been recently decided to reserve 15% of seats in educational institutions in India for foreigners. Priority will be given to persons of Indian origin. This is in addition to the existing 5% quota for NRIs in major Indian educational institutions.
India’s economy is poised for a great thrust forward. Major economic reforms launched since 1991 have produced favourable results and enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum. Economic transformation has proceeded apace despite political changes and recent elections. Today, our industrial policy is far more simple, liberal and transparent, and seeks to actively promote private and foreign investment. External trade has been released from the shackles of various controls; tariffs reduced and exchange controls progressively relaxed. Both personal and corporate tax rates have been reduced significantly. The capital market has witnessed fundamental changes, and financial sector reforms have strengthened the banking system.
The reform process is irreversible and has been gaining momentum especially after October 1999. The Government is strongly committed to quick implementation of reforms, encouraging investment and technology flows, and actively promoting and facilitating private sector participation in all sectors of the economy, especially infrastructure. We are engaged in a close dialogue with business and industry over economic reform issues. This process of liberalization and integration with the global economy is designed to match India’s own needs for economic and social development.
In key and leading areas of knowledge based technologies such as IT and biotechnology, the expertise of the PIOs would be very valuable in obtaining the goal announced by the Honourable Prime Minister of making India knowledge super power by 2010. (PIOs can make use of revolution in communications - the internet and satellite TV - to keep them well informed and fully up-to-date with events and changes in India.) This, in turn, offers a key to resolving the socio-economic problem of poverty and development.
Science & Technology is a productive area where scientific talent and technological skills of overseas Indians could join up in collaborative research ventures in India, lending momentum in this vital area.
Before I conclude I know that you all expect me to say something about the developments in Fiji. The Government and the people of India strongly support restoration of democracy and the constitutional power in Fiji. We will not accept any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. The Government has already taken steps to sensitize international opinion. We will extend every possible support to restore normalcy and rule of law.
Allow me to take this opportunity to also place on record my appreciation of the tremendous effort put in by GOPIO in organizing this Convention and special thanks are due to the local organizing Committee for their warm hospitality. I look forward to a regular interaction with all the distinguished friends gathered here this morning. Thank you.