Embassy of India
Ambassador Vikram Misri’s remarks at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas ceremony
(9 January 2019)
Namaskar, good evening and a very warm welcome to all of you for this celebration of the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. I and my colleagues in the Embassy are delighted to see you here. Let me also take this opportunity to wish all of you and your families a very happy new year.
For more than a decade now, the Government of India and its Missions abroad have been observing this day, which marks the return to India in 1915 of perhaps its most important pravasi – Mahatma Gandhi – who, after spending the early part of his activist life in South Africa and developing the tools of ‘satyagraha’ and ‘ahimsa’, launched himself into the Indian national movement. That movement, some thirty odd years later, was to culminate in one of the most wondrous events of the 20th century – the independence of India. This year’s celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is all the more special as we are also in the midst of the observance of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi. On that note, let me also once again recognize and welcome the presence among us this evening of Ms. Hou Wei, who rendered a most soulful version of Gandhiji’s favourite hymn, Vaishnav Jan To.
When one examines Gandhiji’s early life, it is remarkable to see how much he had already achieved beyond India’s shores before he arrived in India, including his legal education in England and his practical political and community mobilization education in South Africa. It is in order to recognize the achievements of and contributions made by people of Indian origin in similar circumstances – in a foreign land, often removed from the comfort of friends and family and sometimes in forbidding, even hostile, environments – that Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was conceived. And, as all of you are aware, the government attaches great importance to this event – it is attended by both the President and the Prime Minister, together with a number of other Ministers of the government and dignitaries from overseas.
This year’s event is being arranged as a very special celebration in the holy city of Varanasi from 21-23 January. Its theme is “The Role of Indian Diaspora in building New India” and this, as you know, is also one of the main priorities of the government, in which it is seeking the inputs of the NRI and PIO community. As in the past, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards will also be conferred on this occasion by the President to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves in a particular field of work in India or abroad.
The achievements of our pravasis do India proud. Not only have many NRIs and PIOs risen to the top in their chosen professional fields – there are too many to name – but it is the character and attitude of our pravasi communities that brings us the greatest credit. I have served in a number of countries across four continents and have never failed to be impressed with how our community carries and conducts itself in a foreign environment – whether it was in Tunisia, where there were only a few dozen PIOs, or in the USA, where there are now more than 3 million. Their essential family values, their work ethic, their law-abiding nature and their ability to become a part of the communities they are living amidst and then contribute to their well being and growth are what endears them to their neighbours.
Though I am new here, and this is indeed my first public function after arriving in Beijing just two days ago, I am sure that our pravasi communities in China, comprising professionals, businessmen and a large number of medical students, are no different. And I will say to you what I have said to such gatherings in many other countries – all of you, each one of you, in your own individual way, are Ambassadors and envoys of India. This is, of course, not just a title. It is a responsibility – the responsibility to do your best in representing India and her values to the best of your abilities in your chosen field of work. I urge each and every one of you to keep this at the back of your mind and do your best to bring credit to India.
I look forward to getting to know all of you better over the coming months and years. This Embassy aims to remain in close touch with you and with your specific community organizations, including those that might not be present here today, both in order to respond to your concerns and needs and to seek your assistance in fulfilling our common objective, which is to strengthen India-China relations.
And in that context, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you that we are today, at this very event, launching the Embassy of India’s official WeChat account. I hope that this social media tool will help us stay in touch – with Indian and Chinese citizens alike – and exchange thoughts and ideas on bringing our two countries and our two peoples closer together. The details of the account will be shared with you during this evening’s event.
With those words, I once again wish you a very happy Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. Please enjoy the rest of the evening.