Inaugural Address by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2023

Posted on: January 08, 2023 | Back | Print

Respected Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan Ji,

Hon’ble Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports of India, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur Ji,

Guest of Honour, Ms. Zaneta Mascarenhas, Member of Parliament, Australia,

My Ministerial colleagues in the Foreign Ministry, Shri Muraleedharan Ji, Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi Ji, Dr. Ranjan Ji,

Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Shri Nisith Pramanik Ji,

Ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government,

Secretary Ausaf Sayeed who deals with diaspora affairs,

Secretary Meeta Rajiv Lochan

Friends, My youthful delegates from India and abroad.

Let me first of all extend my warmest greetings to all of you. My welcome at the first event of the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention, which is the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. We all know why we are here. We are here because in the, I would say, memorable words of the Prime Minister at a legendary diaspora event, he said that "Hamara toh khoon ka rishta hai, passport ka nahi” and that one phrase, I think captures the entire complexity of a relationship that we have today with 34 million People of Indian origin and non-Resident Indians abroad and that is what brings us here every two years for this convention. So even as we meet here, there are many who are not here with us today but who are watching it, who will take heart from what we are doing, who will be enthused by the renewal of this relationship. And so that is a larger emotion which will definitely be in all our minds over the next three days. We have also gathered here as India marks 75 years of Independence and prepares for the next 25 years ahead. This is an era where we are increasingly confident about our prospects and when we seek to connect more closely with the international community. And that is why I am particularly glad to see that the Guest of Honour is from our Quad partner, our Indo-Pacific partner, Australia. Today’s session is devoted to assessing the progress in connecting with the diaspora and obviously with a special focus on the role and contribution of the youth.

2. Now before I come to the subject, I think I would be remiss if I did not thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister Shivraj Ji and the government of Madhya Pradesh, his whole team. Because people have spoken about Indore as the cleanest city. I think all of you already know, it is the city with a largest heart, the warmest feeling, the greatest hospitality. And I have not yet been to Sarafa Bazaar, but I went to Chappan dukan yesterday. And I think I met some of you out there yesterday night. So those of you who haven’t been there, I can vouch for it. So please make it a point, definitely, to go there.

3. You all know that India has the largest diaspora in the world and many would say, the most talented. But what is perhaps unique about us is the intensity of the bonding between the community abroad and the motherland. And that is a two-way street which is promoted particularly by activities like the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. This relationship was very much in evidence amidst the challenges of the Covid pandemic. On its part, the Government of India undertook the Vande Bharat Mission and the Vaccine Maitri initiative, which were focused significantly on our diaspora-centered partners. We recognize too the tremendous response that we got from the PIO-NRI community during the most difficult moments of our own Covid experience. So as we meet today, I can truly say that our bonds have become even stronger as a result of all the trials and tribulations that we went through during the Covid period.

4. Those of you who are coming to India after a gap would surely notice the many changes that have taken place, I would say in the last eight years but especially in the last three years. Notable among them is the extraordinary scale of digital delivery that has made possible access to social benefits and that too without leakage. Equally evident is the improved health infrastructure and indeed, the greater awareness and expectations on that score. You would also see also enormous infrastructure activity, in fact as you come in from the airport, you can see the construction which is going on, and these are propelled by the Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti initiative. But most of all, you would sense the optimism in our society and the highlighting of the role of the youth. Whether it is start-ups or sports, whether it is technology usage or tourism, the energies of young India are increasingly visible. This is what has led us to define the theme for this year’s Youth PBD.

5. The younger generations are also very much in the forefront of connecting India to the world. They do so not only through their activities at home but by studying, working and traveling abroad. Our endeavor is therefore to maximize support for them and to ensure that they realize the benefits and achievements that are due to them. We strive to create a better global workplace, a more secure traveling experience and a non-discriminatory treatment abroad. It could take the form of Migration and Mobility Partnerships as we have done recently with Germany, Denmark, Portugal, France and UK, just to give you some examples. Or a Working Holiday Programme as we have just signed with Austria or the more liberal working conditions that have been extended by the Australian government. Or for that matter, more predictable and liberal visa and work provisions in some other nations. It may be the services and support provided by the Indian Community Welfare Fund. Or even something as simple, but as important as the swift replacement of a lost passport. And the more efficient rendering of Consular services. The redressal of grievances in a transparent manner through online mechanisms like MADAD is by now well established. The biggest difference, however, is the higher standing of India and the stronger relationships that we have established with virtually every nation that hosts our community. This is reflected in your stature and standing in these societies.

6. The identity of a diaspora is very much derived from how closely it is connected to its roots. Here too, our efforts have been to encourage easier exposure to Indian culture and traditions abroad. Many of our Embassies, in fact I think most of them today now offer yoga, dance and music classes. We ask them also to support and facilitate community functions and collective activities. It is a matter of pride for us that centers of faith are growing abroad, and I think the one in Abu Dhabi has attracted particular attention. The centers of faith are growing abroad because they also serve to inculcate values, promote culture and nurture traditions. The youth living abroad today, therefore, has many more opportunities than before to stay connected. Having said that, we believe that this is never enough by itself. There is always room for improvement in schemes like the Know India Programme that we intend to expand, the Bharat Ko Janiye Quiz and the Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children. It is also our expectation that the New Education Policy will create more pathways for a deeper involvement of the diaspora and you will be hearing from my colleague Shri Dharmendra Pradhan Ji about this in the coming days.

7. Within the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged us all to focus on the Amrit Kaal – the period leading up to a century of independence. It is important that the Indian community abroad also does the same. They would be justified in asking themselves how can they make a difference to India’s future. In the past, the answers may have been more in the realm of resources and opportunities. Today, it is in the era of a knowledge economy, it is much more in the world of technology, of ideas and of innovation.

8. So my message to you today is that India is changing in front of our eyes. And at a pace and a manner that is unprecedented. We have a leadership that is providing both the vision and the guidance to emerge as a leading power in the days ahead. I am very confident that the Indian youth – at home and abroad, will take up the challenge and help to propel this country to greater heights.

Thank you and Jai Hind.

January 08, 2023