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January 9, 2004

PM's inaugural speech at 2nd Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference

I am delighted to be with all of you once again at this inaugural function of the 2nd Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. I still carry the memory and melody of that occasion, exactly a year ago, when we were left enchanted by the jugalbandi of Ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai and Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar. What they together created was both soul-stirring music and a pointed metaphor and we felt the same way today as we heard another enchanted Jugalbandi by L. Subramaniam and Sultan Khan. It reminded us that Pravasi Bharatiya Divas itself is a celebration of the jugalbandi between the 22-million strong Indian Diaspora and your motherland, between the Bharatvasis and the Bharatvanshis.

Together we constitute the Global Indian Family. Together, we are announcing the arrival on the world stage of a Shining India, an India that has resolved to regain her past glory and indeed surpass it, an India that will both be an economic powerhouse and a major contributor to humanity’s all-sided evolution to a higher level. I extend a warm welcome to President Bharat Jagdeo of Guyana. He is an outstanding example of the new generation of Bharatvanshis. I thank him for having so readily agreed to be the Chief Guest at this Second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

I heartily congratulate all those who have been honoured with this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. This year we have conferred the Award, posthumously, on Kalpana Chawla. She epitomized the values that are so laudable in overseas Indians. A daughter of India, she became an exemplary citizen of the US and went on to become a Citizen of the Universe. Her journey from Karnal to the Cosmos will continue to inspire young Indians – indeed, young people all over the world. I am especially happy that her husband is amongst us to receive the Award.

In honouring the 12 individuals with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Samman, we do honour the entire Indian Diaspora. Your varied successes and accomplishments fill every Indian with joy and pride.

For example, who would have thought that the average income of an Indian American would be 50 per cent higher than the national average in USA, especially since most of the Indian immigrants who went there in the ‘60s and the ‘70s had less than 10 dollars in their pocket? Also, who would have thought that nearly half of the Rs. 55,000 crore remittances from NRIs so far would come from our nearly 25 lakh emigrant brothers and sisters from one single Indian State, Kerala? Today almost the entire services sector in the Gulf, which is one of the world’s richest regions, is handled by Indian technicians, nurses, teachers and scores of other professionals.

India’s achievements in information technology have attracted the attention of the entire world. And these include the achievements of both Indians in India and Indians overseas. Not a week passes without some news item or some comment in western countries about India having emerged as the preferred place for IT-enabled services. Sometimes this is also projected as a loss of jobs to India. However, these fears are misplaced. In today’s highly competitive global markets, it is natural for companies and organizations to use technology and internationally available human resources in ways that enhance their efficiency. What India’s trained manpower is offering through IT-enabled services is a win-win situation for both India and the sourcing countries.

All these achievements have been possible because of the hard work, competence, integrity, and unwavering loyalty to your host country that are the common attributes of the Indian Diaspora in all parts of the world. These attributes, and the successes that they have bred, have no doubt raised the stature of the Indian community in your respective countries. But, collectively, they have also brightened India’s image in the world.

Friends, as we take delight in the growing successes of the Indian Diaspora, it is instructive not to forget the pain and sufferings that early Pravasi Bharatiyas had to go through. In many countries, such as Mauritius, South Africa, Caribbean Islands and Fiji, our forefathers were taken as indentured labourers. The injustice meted out to them remains a dark chapter in India’s history. At the same time, their determined struggle against adversity is a source of inspiration for all of us.

Full text of PM's speech