Indian origin Prez of Guyana, Surinam to be guests at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Updated on Jan 05, 2023 08:50 PM IST

Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Surinam President Chandrikapersad Santokhi will be the chief guest and special guest of honour respectively at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 202

Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Surinam President Chandrikapersad Santokhi. (File Photos)
Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Surinam President Chandrikapersad Santokhi. (File Photos)

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention will focus on Latin America as part of the government’s efforts to rope in the diaspora for the country’s development, with two Indian-origin leaders from the region participating in the event as special guests.

Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Surinam President Chandrikapersad Santokhi will be the chief guest and special guest of honour respectively at India’s flagship diaspora conclave, which will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 9.

The PBD convention is being organised in-person after a gap of four years as the previous edition was held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s edition, to be held in Indore during January 8-10, will also be attended by ministers from Mauritius, Malaysia and Panama, and large delegations from Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

PM Modi will formally inaugurate the convention on January 9, Ausaf Sayeed, secretary (overseas Indian affairs) in the external affairs ministry, told a media briefing on Thursday. “We have received an enthusiastic response from the diaspora, with more than 3,500 registrations from nearly 70 countries,” he said.

Sayeed said the diaspora is expected to play a “very important role in the development trajectory of India”, and the theme of the PBD convention is “Diaspora: Reliable partners for India’s progress in Amrit Kaal”.

The Prime Minister will also hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Guyana and Surinam, and Sayeed said the focus is expected to be on energy, agriculture, ICT, migration and mobility, infrastructure and food processing.

“India’s demand for energy is expected to go up from 4.8 million barrels a day in 2021 to 11.1 million barrels a day in coming years. Indian companies are already importing crude worth $1.5 million from Guyana,” he said.

GV Srinivas, additional secretary (Latin America and Caribbean) in the external affairs ministry, said the reasons behind the invitations to the two presidents are “pretty obvious” – almost 40% of Guyana’s population is of Indian-origin while Surinam’s population includes an Indian-origin majority of 27%. “This underlines the connect with Latin America, with the diaspora being the main conduit of our relations in this part of world,” he said.

The formal opening of the convention will be preceded by the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 8 that will feature youth affairs and sports minister Anurag Thakur. Zaneta Mascarenhas, an Australian member of Parliament (MP) of Indian-origin, will be the guest of honour at this session, which will include a plenary on the role of diaspora youth in innovations and new technologies.

There will also be plenary sessions on the role of the diaspora in promoting the Indian healthcare eco-system, leveraging India’s soft power, the diaspora’s role in enabling the mobility of Indian workforce, and harnessing the potential of women diaspora entrepreneurs. There will also be a townhall on India’s G20 presidency with presentations by G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant and chief coordinator Harsh Shringla.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar, health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Panama foreign minister Janaina Tewaney, arts and culture minister Avinash Teeluck and social integration minister Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, both of Mauritius, will participate in various sessions.

President Droupadi Murmu will present the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman awards to 27 recipients chosen for their contributions in fields such as education, science and business and services to the community in their country. Asked about the selection of US-based billionaire Darshan Singh Dhaliwal as one of the recipients since he was not allowed into India in 2021 for supporting the farmers’ protest, Sayeed said existing procedures were followed for the award.

“The awards are given on particular criteria and the same was adopted while selecting Dhaliwal for his own contributions. Nothing more should be attributed to this,” he said.

Dhaliwal was asked to return after he landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in October 2021.

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