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Speech by M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs at the inauguration of the GOPIO Global Convention 2017 in Bengaluru (January 5, 2016)

January 05, 2017

Friends,
Welcome to Bangalore, the city of ideas, the city where tomorrow is being born today. The future is shaped in many ways, but its seeds are sown and cultivated in the mind before the harvest is visible in daily life. The leadership of any era belongs to those who turn ideas into inventions.

India, my friends, is in the vanguard of the 21st century and Bangalore is among the cities on the intellectual and entrepreneurial frontlines of our national horizon. You, our "Global Indians”, must share the exhilarating experience of being in the forefront of change.

You may live abroad, but you have been visiting your motherland frequently. You have witnessed therefore how much India has changed. But I can assure you this much: the change that you have seen is nothing compared to the transformation India will undergo under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Where did we begin this national journey? At least some of you are old enough to have heard "Mera Joota hai Japani”, not in the comfort of your drawing rooms, but in a capacious cinema, where both the hall and the screen were black and white. You recall the lines: Japani joota, Englistani patloon. Today, English malls are full of trousers and shirts from India. What we are negotiating with Japan now is not the import of shoes, but the construction of a high-speed railway from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, that will cut the travel time to about three hours. We have also just signed a agreement with Japan for civil nuclear co-operation.

Our relationship with a valued and trusted friend like Russia is not about hats but about a partnership in areas such as defence, energy, information technology, trade, investment etc. The first-ever project in the defence sector under PM’s flagship "Make in India” program is with Russia. Units I & II of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) have been already dedicated to the nation and work on Units III & IV began in October 2016. Our continuous engagement with Russia in strategic sectors – defence, space and atomic energy - is a testament to our time-tested friendship.

Our burgeoning friendship with America, based on shared values and popular impetus, has acquired unprecedented momentum. India has become a Major Defence Partner of America. FDI investments from the US have risen from less than a billion dollars in 2014 to USD 4.5 billion this year. A contract is being negotiated with Westinghouse for a 6600 MW nuclear plant. This is hardly a complete list: we are collaborating with the US across a wide range – from counter-terrorism to building smart cities to clean energy technologies. I am sure you can recall the extraordinary reception and applause our PM Narendra Modi received when he addressed the US Congress in June. The key lies in the bipartisan support for India. I must also stress that our non-resident Indians in America have contributed significantly towards this relationship.

But few things illustrate the success of our engagement with the world more than the dramatic escalation in ties with UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, forged under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. Sceptics were startled when the King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Custodian of the Two Holy mosques, presented the "Sash of King Abdulaziz”, Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honour, to our PM. Through exchange of visits at the highest level, we have forged an irreversible partnership with Saudi Arabia, the benefits of which are evident and will grow in the coming years. We have signed a framework agreement with Saudi Arabia for an investment of $1 trillion in infrastructure development over the next five years. There is also growing security co-operation between the two countries to counter the menace of terrorism.

Our friendship with the Gulf has been put on a remarkable positive track: the traditional buyer-seller relationship in oil between India and the GCC countries is changing. Today, Gulf countries are investing in our strategic petroleum reserves. There is excellent cooperation when we seek to resolve the many issues faced by our nearly 8 million brothers and sisters living and working in these countries.

On the 20th of this month, we will have the 1st Strategic Dialogue with UAE in Delhi. And on Republic Day, we shall be proud hosts when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan takes his place with PM Narendra Modi as our honoured guest at the parade. We have also set-up the UAE-India Infrastructure fund for rapid expansion of the next generation infrastructure. Defence and security are major areas of future partnerships between our countries.

There is one thing, however, that has not changed: wherever we might live, our "Dil Hai Hindustani”. That was true at the time of Raj Kapoor; it is equally true in the age of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.

Under the dynamic leadership of EAM Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Ministry has made that heart into the symbol and centre of attention. Her use of Twitter to assist and resolve problems faced by Indians abroad is innovative and hugely successful. Operations to bring our distressed citizens in war zones have been praised by even the super powers of the world. Institutional mechanisms like the MADAD portal have been created to redress the grievances of our citizens, wherever they are, on a real-time basis. We would also be launching the e-Migrate portal to streamline the emigration of Indians seeking employment abroad. Such initiatives have been undertaken because our Ministry puts the welfare of Indians abroad as a top priority.

Friends,

You represent the creativity of India at every level: in brain power, in management craft, and in the huge skill sets with which our workers are building cities and creating zones of comfort with their ability and hard work. The Indian, I truly believe, is the greatest natural resource of India. Our working class is the strongest resource. We must salute them.

As Indians, we believe that the world is a family: and across this globe Indians constitute the proudest and best-knit of all families. There are challenges, from our foes, those who sponsor terrorism, and the vulture bands of terrorists who seek to destroy the peace we need for prosperity. Our security relationship with friends in the Gulf forms a critical part of our commitment to peace and elimination of terrorism. A security relationship of such dimensions can only happen when there is enormous trust and unflinching resolve. Sometimes you see the beneficial consequences in the newspapers and very often you don’t, because it is not made public.

India, my friends, will be among the nations that shape the 21st century – and I do not exaggerate. That is the promise, resolve and transformational commitment of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. We all must work together with unprecedented commitment to make this happen. That is our duty to future generations.

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