Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Indian Community Reception
(6 January 2018)
My brothers and sisters of Indian community
Friends of India,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Afternoon. Let me begin by conveying my best wishes to you for a very Happy New Year. May God bless you all and grant you success, in all your endeavours.
I am pleased to be amongst you once again. I recall my earlier visit to Jakarta in April 2015, when I met many of you. I am very happy that the Indian community in Indonesia remains vibrant and continues to contribute significantly to the growing bilateral relations between our two countries.
Our government attaches a great deal of importance to the well-being and prosperity of the Indian diaspora. Regular interactions with the diaspora is therefore an important aspect of my Ministry’s work.
From here I would be travelling to Singapore for the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. This time the region is ASEAN. Next week we are organizing a major event in New Delhi for PIO parliamentarians and mayors.
All these events underscore the importance that we attach to our diaspora. These events provide us forums to discuss engagement of Indian Diaspora with Bharat leveraging their role as an important bridge between their country of nationality or residence and Bharat.
Today there is not a patch of foreign land which is not inhabited by Indians and glows with traces and influence of our multi-layered culture. Cutting across continents and countries from America to Africa and from Australia to Argentina, persons of Indian origin and NRIs are making their presence felt in countless ways, big and small.
Mahatma Gandhi, our most important Pravasi, ensured that sun sets on the British Empire and it did, but the sun never sets and will never set on the extended community of overseas Indians, who are shining and thriving in every part of the world.
It is not that it has been smooth sailing for them all the way; they have their share of difficulties and hardships, but they have persisted, overcome, and made a well-earned place for themselves in their adopted foreign lands. And, in this process they have brought glory and honour to India.
The Indian Diaspora in Indonesia is a special one-formed over centuries-through cultural, religious, commercial and human links by our sea-faring forefathers. Theirs was a long journey, much before others reached the shores of South East Asian nations from other parts of Asia and Europe, they reached here. Many of these early arrivals from India are well integrated in society here and continue to be a vital organic link between India and Indonesia.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of the Indian community in Surabaya, who went beyond the call of duty and helped out fellow Indians who were stranded in Bali recently because of the eruption of Mount Agung. The setting up of help desks and provision of food and volunteers by them to the transiting Indians in Surabaya is deeply appreciated and very well received. And it is this spirit of an Indian helping out his fellow Indian in distress that we must all preserve and cherish, especially on foreign soil.
You are proud and accomplished citizens of Indonesia but your heart also beats for India. There is a stake and deep kinship in the unfolding India story. The rise in India, let me stress, is not just about India; the destinies of India and of the larger world are interlinked. For when 1.2 billion people of India attain their full potential, it is not just India that will be energized and enriched, the whole world will be enriched and find itself redeemed.
Your hard work, your contribution to the local economy and culture and your humanitarian work has enabled you to be held in high esteem in this country. In India, we take pride when foreign leaders praise the Indian community for its achievements and contributions to their adopted countries. Each one of you, in that sense, becomes a representative of the best, that India has to offer to the world.
India and Indonesia are close neighbours. We have deep civilizational links. We share common values-pluralism, democracy and rule of law.
Indonesia must be genuinely proud of preserving its culture and tradition over hundreds of years. Religious beliefs and cultural traditions merge in Indonesia seamlessly. Both co-exists and complement each other. The great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata hold a huge significance here, as they do in India.
Respect for diversity is integral to the idea of Bharat. India is proud not only for being the birth place of maximum number of religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism – but also that the two other mainstream religions – Christianity and Islam – are older in India, than in many other countries of the region. Our two countries by demonstrating to the world that diversity is enriching, that diversity is law of nature, have set an example for the whole world to follow.
Apart from cultural and civilizational commonalities, our two countries are young and aspirational. We both seek rapid economic growth. There are many complementarities between us.
You, my brothers and sisters, can play a very important role by linking economic opportunities in Indonesia with entrepreneurial spirit, skills and capital from India and vice versa. You can play a role in creating better and affordable health care systems. You can help develop linkages between institutes of education and learning to harness the potential of our youth.
Our Embassy has created a new website. It will help in bringing our two peoples closer. For the first time, the website is also available in Bahasa Indonesia. The website has several new features, one of which is to connect with you. I hope that you will use this feature to share your name and provide useful suggestions to bring our two countries closer together.
Before I conclude, let me say that the year 2018 is very important for us. I have begun this year from the first full fledged bilateral visit to Indonesia. Next week we shall have an important visit of the Coordinating Minister General Wiranto. In three weeks time, we will have the honour to welcome President Joko Widodo in New Delhi, as a Guest of Honour for our Republic Day along with other ASEAN leaders. A day earlier on 25 January, we would also have the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit. With all these exchanges at the government level, time has come for the diaspora to infuse youthful energy, enthusiasm and purpose in our bilateral engagements and partnership and take them to a new height in the twenty first century.
I wish you all the best in your individual and collective pursuits.