Prime Minister Narendra Modi described on Thursday the millions of people of Indian origin across the world as “capital” for the country and appealed to the diaspora to turn to their forefathers’ homeland where opportunities await them now.
“Welcoming you, I promise you that while our ancestors went (abroad) looking for opportunities, today opportunities await you here,” he said, inaugurating the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which marked the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa.
Modi drew on his popularity with overseas Indians, who greeted him with a rockstar welcome during his visits to the US and Australia last year, to encourage the world’s second largest diaspora to contribute in whatever way possible to the land of their ancestors.
“I have met more than 50 world leaders so far and almost all of them want to work with India,” said the PM, calling himself a Pravasi Gujarati.
“Everything is not measured in dollars or pounds. The relationship we have with Pravasis is beyond that. It’s a bond,” he said, asking the gathering to join his government’s flagship programme to clean the Ganga. “There is one more issue that I am sure you are concerned about and that is the rejuvenation of Ma Ganga.”
“We have merged the PIO and OCI (overseas citizens of India) schemes and eased visa rules. Now, a person of Indian origin (PIO) can get lifelong visa in the country,” Modi said, recalling a promise he made at Madison Square Garden in New York last September.
He praised the diaspora for keeping Indian values alive even on foreign shores. “When someone abroad finds out that an Indian will be his neighbour, he’s happy. He thinks children will inculcate family values.”
He said 173 countries, including more than 40 Islamic nations, have supported his proposal at the UN General Assembly to adopt June 21 as International Yoga Day, underscoring his point that the world is looking at India with high hopes.
Foreign and overseas Indian affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in her welcome address, called the diaspora a “great asset for the country” — a phrase Modi later reprised in his speech.
Guyanese president Donald Ramotar, the chief guest of the event, lauded India for “protecting the interests of developing countries”. He backed India’s push for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.