Speech by Ambassador/PR on the occasion of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Geneva [9 January 2016, PMI, Geneva]




Speech by Ambassador/PR on the occasion of
Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Geneva
[9 January 2016, PMI, Geneva]


Distinguished Members of the Indian Community,


Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassador Venkatesh Verma, Ambassador of India to Conference on Disarmament; Shri Sudhakar Dalela, CDA of India to WTO, and Friends,


At the outset, I extend a very warm welcome to all of you. I also take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year. I also thank you for joining us despite today being a holiday.


I should clarify at this stage that this meeting today is also in the form of a briefing on the new format of holding PBDs that the Government of India would be following from this year onwards.


Dear Friends,


As you are aware, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has been celebrated every year in India since its inception in 2003 with participation of dynamic Indian Diaspora from across the world. There has been a felt need to make the interactions during the PBDs more effective and also more beneficial to India and the Diaspora. With an objective to developing a new paradigm for engagement with the Diaspora over the next decade, this year's Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has been planned differently. The PBD Conference 2016 that began yesterday in New Delhi consisting over 14 Working Groups, attended by experts from overseas as well as from within India, are deliberating objectively on various issues concerning the Indian diaspora, to come up with concrete recommendations. The traditional PBD Convention will now onwards be held every alternative year, with the partner State Government. The next PBD Convention would, therefore, be held in 2017.


Dear Friends,


The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is a historic occasion. It was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the 'Sarva Shreshtha Pravasi Bharatiya', returned to India from South Africa, led India's freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever. The PBD have been an extremely useful platform for the people and the Government of India to renew and strengthen the bonds with the Indian diaspora.


The Indian Diaspora today constitutes an important, and in some respects unique, force in world culture. In the past couple of decades, it has grown into an energetic and confident community of over 25 million that has given India a presence in many parts of the world. I am fortunate to have witnessed this profound transformation during my previous assignments across three Continents, particularly, as Consul-General of India in Durban, Harare, Frankfurt and Atlanta.


I wish to emphasize, however, that it is not a one-way interaction that benefits only one side. It pleases all Indians when the Overseas Indian community is respected for its work culture, discipline, successful integration with the local community and for its outstanding contributions in their countries of residence. A successful, prosperous and politically influential Indian diaspora is an asset to India, much as a strong and self-reliant India would be a source of strength and inspiration for the diaspora. This synergy acts as a vibrant bridge between us and sustains our relationship.


Dear Friends.


The Government of India is determined to work closely with the Indian diaspora to leverage each other's strengths to mutual benefit. Some of the themes currently discussed at the ongoing PBD Conference include the Flagship Programmes of the Government, The India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians, Transferring knowledge and encouraging innovation, Making India the preferred destination for Holistic Health Care, Accelerating Tourism in India, Managing Emigration to countries for which Emigration Check is Required and the Role of the India Centre for Migration, Delivering Consular Services, Engaging Diaspora in 'Girmitiya' (or the Pacific Islands) Countries, Connecting with Diaspora through Social Media and the Role of the Diaspora in Community organizations are the themes that are being considered this year.


Let me touch on the key flagship projects recently launched by the Government, which are designed to fill critical gaps in the economy, act as vehicles for investment and set the foundation for a new wave of growth. There is a positive and upbeat business sentiment in our country following the launch of numerous initiatives by Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.


  • The 'Make in India' campaign - emphasizing on 25 manufacturing sectors, aims to make India an investment and manufacturing destination.
  • The 'Smart Cities' campaign aims at modernisation of 100 cities, while the Green Energy Mission targets creation of 175 Giga Watts of renewable energy capacity by 2022.
  • For creation of soft infrastructure, the 'Digital India' programme seeks to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy while 'Skill India' targets to provide skill training to 400 million people by 2022.
  • This year, the Government is launching the "Start-up India" initiative, aimed at celebrating the entrepreneurship spirit of the country's youth.
  • The Jan Dhan Yojana has helped achieve in a short span of 180 days - world's largest financial inclusion by opening more than 140 million bank accounts.
  • Swachh Bharat and the 'Namami Gange' programmes are already making a dent into improving cleanliness and protecting environment.
  • It is an apt time for the Indian diaspora to come forward and join hands with the Government as partners in India's growth story.


Globally, India's stature and sphere of influence has grown. The Declaration of 21 June as the International Yoga Day by the United Nations General Assembly is a matter of great honour to India. We celebrated International Yoga Day at UN in Geneva with over 600 participants. I look forward to larger participation this year also during the Observance of the International Yoga Day. India is emerging as an active player and game changer in International Organizations including in the United Nations. The launch of the International Solar Alliance by the Hon'ble Prime Minister during the COP 21 in Paris is the most recent example of our leadership.


Dear Friends,


A number of initiatives have been undertaken for the benefit of the members of the Indian diaspora. The OCI and PIO Card Schemes have been merged and the visas for the cardholders have been made life-long. The e-Tourist Visa facility has simplified travel from a large number of countries to India for short stays. Ministry of External Affairs has launched an on line Consular Grievances Monitoring System Portal named "MADAD". (MEA in Aid of Diaspora in Distress). With MADAD, any Indian citizen living in the jurisdictional area of the Consulate General of India can log in to register his/her Consular grievance for its redressal.


Through your hard work and dedication, many of you have achieved excellence in your professions and prosperity in your businesses. Many of you may have desire to contribute to India's development at this critical juncture. The India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI) is a not for profit Trust established by the Ministry of External Affairs which enables Overseas Indians to contribute to social and developmental projects in India. The Trust is chaired by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Hon'ble Minister for External Affairs. Information regarding the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians, ie., IDF-OI is available and will be distributed to you soon.


Dear Friends,


Switzerland is a country, highly competitive in research and innovation and well known for its technological advancements. The birthplace of the World Wide Web, the CERN, is situated nearby. This is also a country that has successfully developed, promoted and effectively managed tourism to realize its full potential.


I am sure that the Indian diaspora here has proven strengths in higher education, information technology, banking, and research and development. You are the real Ambassadors of India. Some of you would also have experience working in International Organizations including the United Nations bodies based in Geneva, and in the renowned Swiss Universities such the EPFL and the University of Geneva.


Each of you should consider participating more in India's development process through knowledge transfer, innovation and adaptation of solutions to fit them to the Indian context. In this process, I welcome you all to stay connected with the Mission and provide your valuable thoughts and ideas.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest pravasi, had utilized the experiences and skills acquired during his stay abroad to lead Indians to freedom. It will certainly be a fitting tribute to the Mahatma for the Indian diaspora to be part of India's development.


I, once again, thank you for joining the observance of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Geneva.


Jai Hind!




Speech by Ambassador/PR on the occasion of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Geneva [9 January 2016, PMI, Geneva]
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