We have been diligently in engagement with the Overseas Indian Affairs cell (Erstwhile MOIA) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India, about creating an interface within the confines of our magazine that would connect this important Diaspora cell within the MEA and our esteemed readers. This has borne fruit, and here you have the outcome – in the form of a regular monthly column, where the Secretary (Overseas Indian Affairs) of the MEA, presently Dr. Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, will respond to key policy issues and share with our readers’ whats in store the coming months. With this first installment, this space will also gradually take on the hues of a Q&A, or a forum to raise issues that need attention by the Ministry. Here goes …
MINISTRY’S OUTCOME ANALYSIS OF BENGALURU PBD 2017
PBD 2017 saw an entirely new format getting introduced, to rekindle interest of Pravasis in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and make it an event that attempts to redefine the government’s relationship with the Diaspora. In this new format, session themes were thought out very carefully after a thorough homework that took up almost the entire 2016 year, wherein 10 brainstorming sessions were held under the chairmanship of the External Affairs Minister. These sessions touched upon all the major aspects of India’s relations with the Diaspora and vice-versa. Action Taken Reports (ATRs) on these sessions were presented by MEA officials and experts in the PBD. This was followed by unprecedented participation of audiences in 13 different sessions. The outcome is being compiled for Ministry’s assessment as well as determining further policy approaches.
THOUGHTS ON PARTICIPATION – ESPECIALLY DIASPORA FROM ACROSS THE WORLD
PBD 2017 has seen the largest participation ever, when compared to all earlier editions. We had a total of 7212 registrations representing 72 countries and almost all the regions of the world.
Over half the registrations came from six countries in West Asia and the Arabian Gulf. Apart from West Asia and GCC countries, quite a large participation came from the USA and Malaysia. Countries from Asia and Europe comprised over two-thirds of the entire registrations.
DOMESTIC PARTICIPATION – FROM VARIOUS STATES OF INDIA
We had made considerable efforts to reach out to the States / UTs at three levels. First, we invited all CMs to participate in the Chief Ministers’ Session. Second, we wrote to the States / UTs to make their presence felt at the Exhibition specially designed with specific themes for the PBD. Third, we requested the States/ UTs to encourage participation of their respective overseas Diaspora in the PBD. Response was quite impressive, particularly for participation in the Exhibition. Several Chief Ministers and officials participated in the PBD. Karnataka being the partner State had the highest numbers in registration. Besides Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu accounted for a significant number of registrations. Delhi too was represented through large numbers.
Several Cabinet Ministers from the Centre and States participated in the PBD 2017. From overseas, we had Dr. Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, Mr. Michael Ashwin Adhin, Vice-President of Suriname and Ministerial delegates from Malaysia and Mauritius. The highlight of course was also the presence of our own Hon’ble Prime Minister and Hon’ble President. Both the Rashtrapatiji and the Pradhan Mantriji, in their address touched upon several aspects of our connectivity as well as measures taken by India to strengthen partnerships with overseas Indians. Hon’ble Prime Minister made a number of announcements, including extension of date for conversion of PIO cards to OCI cards.
I would not call these shortcomings since we had made every effort to cover all the dimensions of our relationship with the Diaspora. However, an event of such magnitude could and should always be improved. We have assessed PBD 2017 and feel that we could improve future editions to make the PBD more content-rich and representative of this unique partnership. For example, we shall make more efforts to garner increased participation from Oceania, Africa and Eastern Europe. Similarly, we could also innovate for attracting participation of the North Eastern States so that the Diaspora from these regions also can join in good numbers.
ANY OTHER HIGHLIGHTS?
This PBD has made a mark and has paved the way for redefining and strengthening our connectivity and partnership with overseas Indians. The message of Hon’ble External Affairs Minister that India cares for the welfare and security of overseas Indians has reached every nook and corner of the globe. Overseas Indians felt a heightened sense of welcome in India. Above all, within India, there is a new awakening about the significance of our Diaspora to India’s future development. We need to work on our accomplishments and move forward with more specific action agenda.