More than 31 million Indian origin people have grown into an energetic and confident community

“A successful, prosperous and politically influential diaspora is an asset to India, much as a strong and self-reliant India would be a source of strength and inspiration for the diaspora. This synergy acts as a vibrant bridge between us and builds our relationship,” Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary CPV and OIA in the Ministry of External Affairs said while addressing a webinar organized by the Persons of Indian Origin Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PIOCCI) on May 27.

Highlighting the role of diaspora in the webinar on ‘Enhancing Economic Engagement with Diaspora in and post Covid-19 World,’ he said in the past couple of decades members of Indian origin has grown into an energetic and confident community of over 31 million that has given India a presence in many parts of the world.

“You are respected members of the country you live in and are also leaders of the Indian community. It gives us great pride when the Overseas Indian community is respected for its work culture, discipline, successful integration with the local community and for its outstanding contributions in their countries of residence,” Sanjay Bhattacharyya said.

Talking about the Covid-19 and its deadly impact on humanity, he said the coronavirus pandemic has brought shock and uncertainty to every level of interaction, whether it is individual, community, national or global; and to every segment of our economy and society.

“Its scale and impact make it perhaps the most tumultuous and significant event of this century. Very little may remain unaffected and we shall have to move towards a new normal. As human beings, we need to engage, communicate and share such that the change is manageable and conducive and in line with our aspirations,” the MEA Secretary said.

He said India took early action to fight the virus. “Travel restrictions were imposed in late January, airport screening started in early February, while nationwide lockdown was slapped in mid-March,” the MEA official said, adding that the high value attached to human life shaped India's approach towards Covid-19 pandemic.

“We ramped up our healthcare preparedness, testing over a lakh people daily, contact tracing and more targeted steps. The virus has certainly slowed down, the doubling rate has increased to 14 days at present, compared to 3 days initially and the recovery rate has increased significantly. The contagion continues to grow but its rampant spread has been checked and will be overcome in due course,” he said.

However, the pandemic brought an opportunity for India. He said India has acted as the "pharmacy of the world” and healthcare supplier to all parts of the globe. India has the ability to be a bridge between the developed and developing world and facilitating a two-way flow of information, products and expertise. There is growing interest in yoga and Ayurveda.

He also said that there is a significant market for food, agricultural products and food-processing industries. Indian automobiles, particularly low-cost automobiles, including 2 and 3-wheelers will have an augmented market in developing countries. Textiles, garments and consumer durable industries will have export opportunities as many markets look to diversify their sources of supply.

The MEA Secretary maintained that Indian e-commerce, IT and IT enabled service industries have demonstrated that they can work through a crisis of this magnitude. These are obviously the businesses of the future. Digital highways can be used to leverage our higher education capabilities through tele-education onto a much larger market.

He said a major economic opportunity for India will arise from the drive to diversify global supply chains. “The attractions of investing in India are obvious. It is a major opportunity and needs to be grasped,” he added, while maintaining that India will remain one of the fastest growing economies in post-Covid-19 scenario and economic growth will gain momentum in the medium to long-term.

With regard to India’s move on the diplomatic front to develop a united fight against the fatal disease, the MEA secretary said the country has been actively engaged through the new medium of virtual contacts on phone and video.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have had discussions with their counterparts in various countries not only to share experiences of coronavirus and ways to deal with it but also to develop a positive agenda for the post Covid-19 period,” he said, adding, “We have engaged to give new momentum to regional and plurilateral groupings such as SAARC, BRICS, G-20 as well as in UN agencies.”

He said bilaterally, the EAM has even held Joint Commission meetings and “we are preparing for a Summit meeting soon. These exchanges have also helped shape informed and coordinated responses to the coronavirus pandemic, such as evacuation of stranded nationals from each other’s territories; maintenance of critical supplies of life-saving medicines and food; extension and facilitation of visas for each other’s nationals; and sharing of best practices by partner countries”.

With regard to OCI card holders, he said the government has relaxed certain categories of OCIs from the suspension of visa facilities to India and thus stranded OCI card holders can return to India. “The guidelines were issued on 22 May. We have also extended the date for re-issuance of OCI card from June 30 to December 31,” he said.

PIOCCI Secretary General Abhay Aggarwal introduced participants from across the globe and the senior MEA officials who spoke during the webinar. He also gave an overview of the organisation’s activities. Vice President Munish Gupta moderated the interaction.

The webinar was joined by well-known Indian origin persons like Virendra Sharma from the United Kingdom, Mukteshwar Chuni, a former Mauritian diplomat, Kanwaljeet Singh Bakshi, a Member of Parliament from New Zealand, and others.

PIOCCI is a global business platform working closely with reputed entrepreneurs and the Indian Diaspora to promote investment and international trade opportunities.

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