GOPIO Convention 2000

Zurich, Switzerland, July 21-23, 2000

Inaugural Address by

Honorable K.P. Balakrishnan,

Ambassador of India to Switzerland

It gives me great pleasure to participate in the inauguration of the Convention 2000 of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin. May I join in the words of welcome and warm sentiments already conveyed by the representatives of the organizing committee, to the delegates who have come to Zurich from different parts of the world.

I would particularly like to welcome the Honourable Governor of Meghalaya, Shri M.M. Jacob, who will no doubt provide wise guidance to the deliberations of the convention. I would also like to welcome Secretary Shri J.C. Sharma from the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, who heads a new Department in the Ministry dealing exclusively with matters relating to Non-Resident Indians, and who is here as the official representative of the Government of India to the Convention. I am sure that his interaction with the delegates both at the Convention and later in the various follow-up activities will greatly help our common endeavor in the cause of India and the people of Indian origin.

May I congratulate the Organizing Committee in Switzerland, in particular Mr. Jagdish Makwana and Dr. Satish Gupta, who have taken the initiative to bring the Convention to Zurich, and, through their dynamism and hard work, made this event possible.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a globally represented conference of people of Indian origin is being convened in a Swiss venue. It is a historic moment, when the relatively small but highly talented and dynamic Indian community in Switzerland joins the mainstream of the world Indian community in deliberating on matters of mutual concern, and establishing linkages.

It is but natural that people of Indian origin in the different regions of the world have somewhat different concerns, interests and aspirations, vis-a-vis the country they live in, and in regard to their interaction with India itself. These divergences result from the historic aspects of migration of each group, as well as the economic and social milieu that the communities have been able to evolve for themselves, in the countries which they have made their new homes. Nevertheless, there are undoubted common characteristics which create a bond among Indians settled in different parts of the world, which is why a Convention, like what we are starting today, has great relevance.

Broadly speaking, people of Indian origin around the world have two different, but not mutually exclusive, concerns: firstly, how to meet their economic, social and political aspirations in the countries where they have found a home for themselves, and secondly, how to maintain and intensify their linkages with India, with which they have strong cultural, social and economic bonds. I am sure this Convention will spend time, discussing both these aspects which define, if I may say so, the condition of the persons of Indian origin in different parts of the world.

This Convention has wisely chosen as its central theme: "Global PIO collaboration in technology, trade and investment and the pooling of PIO resources." This is indeed timely, given the tremendous impact persons of Indian origin have been making, particularly on the high-technology sectors, of the economies of several industrialised countries. This is also a time when the entrepreneurial talents and professional skills of persons of Indian origin, are increasingly being noted around the world. It is important to deliberate in what manner these resources can be integrated, for the benefit of the Indian communities in different parts of the world, and for India itself.

India is going through a dynamic period liberalization and economic growth, creating an environment in which the resources, skills and talents of people of Indian origin can play a major role, to the benefit of their own communities and for the welfare of our country. In order to create a healthy atmosphere for such interaction, it is essential to get rid of out-dated stereotypes of developments in India, and focus on how fast the country is transforming and modernizing itself. I have no doubt that the delegates at the Convention would adopt such a positive and constructive approach.

I would like to wish you all a very successful Convention, with useful discussions and contacts, in this beautiful, financial capital of Switzerland.