INDIA ENGAGES ITS DIASPORA
For the 8th consecutive year, the Overseas Indians met at the PBD 2010 in Delhi. A summary
On January 9, 2006, giving his speech at the valedictory session of the 4th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Hyderabad, the then Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam made an observation that was quite telling. Delving into history, he recalled how on that very day Mahatma Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa in 1915, after having traveled from one colony to another of an empire on whose territory the sun would never set at the time. But his following remarks captured the essence of how the Indian diaspora is now seen world over. “It would not be an exaggeration if I say that, today, the sun truly cannot set on the empire of the Indian Mind,” the former President had said amid rapturous applause.
Kalam was likely drawing upon Winston Churchill’s lines. The former British Prime Minister, and overseer of the British empire had said during a speech delivered at the Harvard University in 1943 that “the empires of the future are in the empires of the mind.”
The empire of the future is growing. So is Indian diaspora’s interest in India. This year at the PBD there was a small, yet significant rise in the number of Overseas Indians in attendance. The sessions were tailored in a way that the diaspora could make a more meaningful contribution in terms of its knowledge and experience. In the past the sessions were more one-sided, with little scope for interactions. Some of the ministerial speeches, though, continued to be too long, and exasperating, especially considering that prominent members of the diaspora were allowed to speak for only a few minutes. If the idea is to hear what the diaspora has to offer, then this trend must be reversed.
One day before the PBD, on January 7, the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians had a chance to meet. This is a global think thank that has been formed in order to chart out a future for India’s engagements with the diaspora. Some of the best and the brightest names in the Indian diaspora are members of the council. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself made a reference to the council during his inaugural address at the PBD on January 8 saying that these minds needed to think what ought to be India’s role in Government, in business, in education and arts 20 years from now.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said that there was a need to redefine the role, relations and partnerships of NRIs with the country. “There is a need for giving deep thought to the role of the youth, scientists, technologists and academics of Indian origin, especially since India will soon join the rank of developed nations,” he said.
On the evening of January 9, President Pratibha Patil honoured 14 eminent overseas Indians with the prestigious Pravasi Samman Award. The awardees this year were Mohinder Singh Bhullar from Brunei, Yanktesh Permal Reddy from Fiji, Ryuko Hira from Japan, Ruby Umesh Pawankar from Japan, Suresh Kumar Virmani from Oman, Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan from South Africa, Tholisiah Perumal Naidoo from South Africa, Rajni Kanabar from Tanzania, Deepak Mittal from Thailand, Lenny Krishendath Saith from Trinidad and Tobago, Azad Moopen from U.A.E, Mani Lal Bhaumik from U.S.A., Ashok Kumar Mago from U.S.A, Upendra J. Chivukula from USA.