The first ever PIO-Parliamentarian Conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India on January 9th, 2018. In his inaugural address, the Indian leader reached out to lawmakers of Indian origin spread across the world seeking support for its emerging status as a global power. The debut event of the lawmakers of Indian origin was attended by 134 leaders representing almost all the continents around the world.
He mentioned the presence of former Guyanese President Bharat Jagdeo, and noted that from Mauritius to Guyana, there were several Indian-origin individuals who had become leaders of their countries. “We have a mini-world Parliament in front of us today,” Modi said.
“For enhancing our pride and dignity, you all deserve our appreciation,” he said noting that India was experiencing aspirational and societal changes. He noted that there was an “irreversible change” sweeping India, and urged the leaders to come forward to join hands.
Welcoming the delegates from around the world to the Conference, the Prime Minister said that while many people may have left India over the course of hundreds of years, India continues to have a place in their minds and hearts. The Prime Minister said that PIOs (Persons of India Origin) are like permanent ambassadors of India and partners for India’s development, who have an important position in the Action Agenda till 2020, drafted by the NITI Aayog.
Speaking at the “First PIO Parliamentarian Conference”, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urged the legislators and political figures to consider what kind of contribution they could make for India’s global ambition. “This conference will be a mix of two dimensions on your present situation and past struggle, and what you can do to promote the emerging India in the global scene,” she said.
“141 lawmakers confirmed their attendance and 134 leaders have made to this event today despite massive weather disturbance [in the West],” Swaraj said. The PIO Parliamentarian forum was planned last year during a conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to connect the lawmakers of Indian origin with their ancestral land, the Minister said.
“Your ancestors had to leave India under various circumstances and that is why when you return to an Indian airport, you are reminded of your ties with this country. You have a desire to return to India and I understand your feelings very well. On the one hand, you have preserved Indian culture. On the other hand, your people have excelled in sports, arts, cinema in the global platforms and have contributed to your adopted country’s welfare,” Modi said in Hindi.
Swaraj made special mention of the Indian community in Mauritius which had emerged as the leading player in the island nation. “Gandhiji inspired people in Mauritius to get education and increase political awareness and that is why after a few generations, they have achieved political leadership,” she said congratulating the “girmitiyas” living abroad for their success.
“No matter where they are, I believe your ancestors will be very happy to see you all here. Everyone Indians go, they integrate into the diaspora. They take up the culture, sports and the other everyday things of their surrounding environment,” said Modi.
Talking about the pride India feels, he said, “Your achievements are a point of pride for us. Even when you are nominated for political office anywhere, we are very happy. You affect geo-politics and the world and frame laws. Indians watching these developments are very happy to hear about your achievements.”
Turning to India, Modi said the country had developed rapidly in the last few years. “India is changing. We are ranked high on the World Competitiveness Index, Logistics Performance Index and other such indices. Organisation like World Bank, IMF, Moodys all look at India positively. Sectors like air transport, mining, computers, electrical equipment have all seen enormous investment in the last three years. Our motto is ‘Reform to Transform’. “We want transparency and freedom from corruption. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has eliminated multiple taxes across the country. There is no sector where we have not brought reforms. India is a young State, and the government is working for its youngsters. Multiple schemes are in place for them,” said Modi.
Over 140 Indian origin MPs and mayors from 23 countries converged in New Delhi as part of the conference. 124 MPs from the UK, Canada, Fiji, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and other countries, besides, 17 mayors, including from the US, Malaysia, Switzerland, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago had participated in the day-long event. The conference sought to boost ties with these countries by leveraging the diaspora links, secretary (consular, passport, visa and overseas Indian affairs) in the MEA, Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, had said earlier.
“We believe in ‘Vaasudev Kutumbakam’. Our relationship with a country is not based on give and take, it is based on humanity. We don’t have an interest in exploiting anyone’s resources or taking away anyone’s territory,” said Modi.
Modi then turned to the relationship between Indian and the attendees. “Whenever I travel, I like to meet people of Indian origin. I have met many of you like this. The reason is that you are permanent ambassadors of the country. Overseas residents can help us in many ways. You send remittances and we are thankful for that. You can also invest in India. We know your experience is important for the betterment of India. You can take India to the world. We want to be with you when you succeed.”