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External Affairs Minister’s Remarks at the Interaction with the Indian Community in Muscat (February 17, 2015)

February 17, 2015

Ambassador Shri J S Mukul;
Distinguished members of the Indian Community
Ladies and Gentlemen;

I am extremely happy to visit Oman and be with you all. This is my first visit to Oman after taking charge as the External Affairs Minister.

The Indian diaspora has made us proud – both by their contributions to the country of residence as also to their mother land – India. Our trade links with the Arab world has seen Indian traders reaching the shores of Muscat, Dubai, Manama and Sharjah several centuries ago. From there, it has been a long journey for our community. Many of the early settlers in Oman have integrated well in society here. Today, over 700,000 strong Indian community form the largest expatriate group in Oman. You all are the vital organic links between India and Oman.

Friends;

Let me congratulate each one of you for your contributions. You have earned a reputation for being disciplined, hard-working and law-abiding. You are a microcosm of India, reflective of its vibrant diversity and its talents. We are proud of your achievements.

Over the time, the profile of our community in the Gulf has undergone transformation. Though Indian workers were employed in Oman in the 1990s as a result of the construction activities, gradually more and more professionals in the fields of finance, banking, insurance and IT have gained employment in Oman. This transition is commensurate with Oman’s economy gaining momentum in the knowledge-based service sector. By providing highly skilled service at a competitive cost, our community’s role has become indispensible for the Omani economy.

Your sustained remittances over the years have contributed to our foreign exchange reserves and are a valuable livelihood source for millions of dependents in India. May I add that India is a recipient of the largest global remittances sent by the expatriate populations anywhere in the world and the Gulf region is the largest source of these remittances for us.

Friends;

Our general elections last year were a landmark in the march of our democracy. After three decades, the people gave an absolute majority to a single party. The new Government is committed to development with transparency and good governance. We are striving to revive growth. The impact is already evident in the green shoots of recovery and a positive, even upbeat, business sentiment in the country.

Numerous initiatives have been announced starting with our Hon. Prime Minister's 'Make in India' campaign to make India an investment and manufacturing destination. Similarly, the last Budget in 2014 had set up an NRI Fund to clean and develop river Ganga. We have embarked on the Digital India programme.

The Government has invited both foreigners and NRI entrepreneurs to come and join in these efforts. In this context, I would like to congratulate the Indian community in Oman for their strong presence at the recent Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

A number of reforms have been implemented. More are on the anvil, including in the forthcoming budget later this month. The Government's 100 Smart Cities project is open for participation. Foreign investment caps have been eased in construction, railways and defence sectors. Ambitious projects like the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and other industrial corridors provide ample opportunities in the infrastructure sector. India firmly believes that overseas Indian must be a part of the India growth story.

Friends;

The welfare of our nationals outside India, particularly in the Gulf region, is one of the top most priorities of our government. Our Government, in collaboration with the State governments, has been proactively devising ways and means to address the concerns of our nationals living abroad.

We are in continuous dialogue with the Omani Government on various matters concerning our community. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has undertaken a number of measures to ensure the welfare of our community in Oman, through the institution of Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), online information system regarding transportation of mortal remains etc.

In Oman, over 7,500 Indians have availed of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) assistance totaling over Rs. 6.6 crores to-date. I hope that you are satisfied with the Embassy’s monthly 'Open House', which I am told, the Ambassador and senior officers have never missed in the last three years. The Embassy has also introduced a system of daily open house for two hours when you can meet concerned officers without appointment. The Embassy has a panel of lawyers, including a lady advocate, to provide free legal counselling as well as initial legal assistance to workers.

A few months ago, we introduced online information system regarding transportation of mortal remains. The Embassy also has a 24x7 helpline including a toll-free service for Indians in distress. An initiative of the Embassy is that no Indian visiting the Embassy should go hungry. Accordingly, the Embassy provides tea/coffee and food to any Indian claiming to be hungry even before addressing their specific problem.

I am very happy that the Ministry is implementing the web-based service for Indians called MEA in Aid of Diaspora in Distress or 'MADAD' starting with select Missions including our Embassy in Muscat.

Ladies & Gentlemen;

To conclude, I must also place on record my deep appreciation for the Omani leadership, especially His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for hosting our citizens. Oman is in the forefront of GCC countries in terms of offering expatriates not just a good quality of life but also with regard to freedom to practice one's faith and fulfillment of other cultural rights.

I would like to emphasize that each one of you as members of the vibrant Indian community has done proud to your motherland. Our Government realizes your potential to contribute not only to India’s economy but also to the international profile of India. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to each one of you for your contribution to strengthen our relations with Oman. I wish you all successful and a prosperous future.

Thank you.

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