The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Singapore, a conclave of the Indian diaspora in the Asia-Pacific region, will be strictly restricted to business, according to Singapore’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Balaji Sadasivan.
“We felt that Singapore was not in a position to discuss the social and other issues faced by Indians abroad, so we are strictly limiting the meeting to business alone,” Sadasivan said at a function in Dubai late on Sunday, where he invited members of the Indian community in Dubai and the Gulf to participate in the Singapore event.
PBD Singapore, to be held Oct 9-11, is being organised by India’s ministry of overseas Indian affairs, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI).
This is the second in a series of smaller scale PBDs being organised by the Indian government outside of India. Last year, the first such mini PBD was held in New York.
The main PBD is an annual event in India that has been held for seven years now and PBD 2009 is scheduled to be held in Chennai in January next year.
Sadasivan said that PBD Singapore is specifically targeted at Indians living in the Asia-Pacific region.
“By Asia-Pacific we mean the area spanning from Mauritius to Fiji and this includes the Gulf,” he said.
There are over 4.8 million expatriate Indians in the Gulf.
“We are expecting 500 delegates at the Singapore meeting - half from India and half from the rest of the Asia-Pacific region,” the minister said.
As for Singapore’s selection as the venue for this year’s venue for the mini PBD, he said: “Earlier this year, the Indian government asked us whether we could hold this event. We discussed this in Singapore...Since Singapore’s forte is business, we decided to keep the PBD a purely business meeting.”
According to Sadasivan, there were two reasons why Singapore was an apt venue for the PBD.
“One is the growing trade relations between Singapore and India. Ever since we signed the FTA (Free Trade Agreement), bilateral trade has grown by over 30 percent year on year and has reached $20 billion now. Besides this, there are over 3,000 Indian companies registered in Singapore,” he said.
The other reason, he said, was the success of the Indian community in that Southeast Asian metropolis.
“The Indian community, which comprises around eight percent of Singapore’s total population, has been doing well in various fields. As of now, Singapore’s president, a deputy prime minister, two ministers and three senior ministers are Indians,” Sadasivan, a person of Indian origin (PIO), said.
He said that over 40 eminent speakers have confirmed their participation in the Singapore meet.
“This includes three Indian ministers - (Minister for Commerce) Kamal Nath, (Minister for Science and Technology) Kapil Sibal and (Minister for Communications and Technology) A Raja.”
Among others who will also be speaking at PBD Singapore are chairman of India’s National Knowledge Commission Sam Pitroda, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra Pachauri, managing director general of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Rajat M Nag, Malaysia’s Minister for Human Resources Datuk Subramaniam Sathasivam and Gardiner professor of oceanic history and affairs at Harvard University Sugata Bose.
The event will start off with a gala dinner and cultural evening to be hosted by Singapore President SR Nathan.
The inaugural session will be attended by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong while former Singapore prime minister and senior minister in the current cabinet Goh Chok Tung will grace a luncheon dialogue as distinguished guest.
There will be 12 sessions, which will discuss topical issues covering the business community’s contemporary interests.
Earlier, welcoming Sadasivan at the India Club premises in Dubai on Tuesday, India’s Consul General in Dubai Venu Rajamony said that Singapore was a very special country for India.
“Few countries have done as much as Singapore in pushing India on the path of economic growth with the message ‘you can do more’,” he said.
Stating that the mini PBD will be a special event, he urged members of the Indian community in the Gulf not to miss the opportunity to visit Singapore and interact with overseas Indians during the event.
Dubai is the latest in a series of places the Singapore minister is visiting to invite expatriate Indians to the mini PBD.
He has also visited Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in this connection.