High Commissioner Nandini Singhla,
Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan,
Dear friends from various socio-cultural organizations,
Members of the business community,
Representatives of Indian Public Sector Units,
Fellow Indians, members of the Indian diaspora,
Namaste, Vannakkam, Vandanam, Bon Soir!
I have travelled to many countries in my long career as a diplomat and more recent incarnation as the External Affairs Minister, but I must tell you that visiting Mauritius is always different, it feels actually like a homecoming. Every time I am here in your beautiful country, I realise how closely we are bound. To be amongst people like you, who continue to cherish and celebrate their Indian roots and traditions so vibrantly, this is actually a feeling which is very difficult to put in words. Whether it is Maha Shivratri, or Kavadee Thaipoosam, or indeed Ganesh Chaturthi or Holi, you have kept your faith and your fervour alive. Similarly, I can taste the flavours of India every time I visit, be it gateau piment or the Dal-puri. And I hear it in the Hindi news on Mauritian radio and TV and indeed in the melody of the geet-gawai; and I see it in the colourful saris, the clothes, the dance, the music, some of which we had the pleasure of just witnessing.
2. Now all of this has been made possible because you have passionately preserved and promoted your mother tongue, your festivals, your tradition and your way of life. Mauritius is probably, as the High Commissioner noted, the only country in the world where you have a thousand socio-cultural Indian organizations, and many of you of course, represent it here today. You serve as a vital umbilical cord that nourishes and keeps alive our shared cultural and historical legacy and passes them on to succeeding generations. No wonder, as the President of Mauritius reminded me when I called on him, he said there was a reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi describes this as a "super special” relationship and you are the reason why.
3. On behalf of the people and the government of India, therefore, I would like to thank you, not just for keeping your ancestral memories alive in this beautiful country, but also making it a shining example of everything that India stands for – peace, pluralism, shared progress, and universal brotherhood. In other words, our belief in "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, that "the world is one family”. Now these values, these beliefs are more relevant today than ever before. India has been demonstrating that in action during these difficult times of Covid-19 by supplying vaccines to over 74 countries and by making a commitment to vaccinate all the UN Peacekeepers in the world. And this is done under our Vaccine Maitri initiative. As for Mauritius, which is one of our closest friends and partners, it is only natural that we would gift vaccines as soon as our own vaccination programme started at home. At the Mauritian government’s request, we also facilitated the arrival of 100,000 more vaccines. And I have assured the Prime Minister that India will continue to ensure that the requirements of Mauritius in the coming weeks are met. I want to give you a clear message, India has always stood by Mauritius through thick and thin; before, now and ever after.
4. Our ties of the heart are anchored in blood and kinship, religion and culture, language and tradition and they are indeed the foundations of our time-tested relationship. Today, we have built on this rich foundation and created the edifice of a more contemporary partnership. They are now reflected in our shared values as two nations - democracy, pluralism, individual liberties, peaceful coexistence and shared prosperity. But these shared values not only define who we are today, they also determine what kind of world we want to bequeath to our future generations. Mauritius and India want the same things – a peaceful and secure world that is based on the Rule of Law and respect for the sovereignty and integrity of countries; a democratic and equitable global order where all nations and people can prosper; and an environmentally sustainable planet that fosters all life. Mauritius and India are therefore united in the most profound way possible – as civilizational brothers and sisters with a shared past; as robust partners working for a better present; and as members playing for the same team to build a promising future.
5. Now this commitment is evident in our joint development partnership projects that dot the Mauritian landscape and honour several Indian leaders, be it the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, or the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre. The new Supreme Court building, the ENT Hospital, and the Metro Express now join the list of impactful projects supported by India. And we also see this in the social housing units built with Indian support as we do in the Electronic Tablets that are provided to Mauritian school children to bridge the digital divide. The fact that the World Hindi Secretariat aimed at promoting India’s official language Hindi worldwide, is located in Mauritius, testifies to our unmatched linkages. Even the Centre where we are right now, India’s biggest cultural centre, I believe anywhere in the world, with more than 2,600 Mauritian students learning different Indian arts and cultural traditions. That too is a statement of our relationship. The beautiful performances we saw today of course attest to these special bonds.
6. Just as we celebrate our shared past, I am happy to tell you that our collaborations in the present, and our partnership for the future, are also growing more substantive, with every passing day. Yesterday, we signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Cooperation Agreement, which is known as CECPA. The fact that this is the first trade agreement that India has signed with any African country, shows how special Mauritius is for us. We are excited about the tremendous opportunities CECPA opens up for boosting two-way trade in goods and services as well as investments, which is urgently needed in our post-Covid economies. Earlier today, as I was joined by commerce secretary and my other colleagues, I met the business leaders of Mauritius and discussed with them how CECPA could contribute to increasing economic activity in Mauritius and making it a "hub for Africa”.
7. Given our shared commitment to ensuring peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond, we also signed a 100 Million Dollar soft loan to enable Mauritius to procure an aircraft, a helicopter and other defence assets that will help to enhance maritime security. I am happy that India was able to respond swiftly to the unfortunate Wakashio salvage and oil spill containment operations by providing an Indian Air Force plane, specialized equipment and expert teams. India will always be a trusted and reliable "friend in need” and a friend I can assure you that Mauritius can always count on. We will, as always, support the enhancement of Mauritius’s own capacities in vital areas of maritime surveillance and security to address the challenges of an uncertain world. This unique trust with a half century record should inspire even greater confidence in future endeavours.
8. Looking ahead, we have ambitious plans and several new projects that will commence in a few months. This includes India’s first Solar Energy plant at Mauritius, a new Civil Service College, a Forensics Laboratory, a new Library and Archives, a Renal Transplant Unit in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, new Mediclinics and Area Health Centres and a project to replace water supply pipes. While these are physically visible projects that will materialize soon, our intangible but equally important cooperation in political, economic, cultural, people-to-people and global matters is also set to grow.
9. Five days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed experts from ten select countries in our neighbourhood, which included Mauritius, in a virtual Workshop on Covid-19 Management and suggested a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses as well as a regional Air Ambulance activity to enable quick travel during health emergencies. He also proposed creation of a regional platform for compiling and analyzing data about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines and creating a regional network for promoting technology-assisted epidemiology for preventing future pandemics. Prime Minister Modi also underscored that if the 21st Century is to be the Asian century; it cannot be without greater integration among countries of South Asia and the Indian Ocean. This opens up a world of opportunities on what India and Mauritius can do together in the coming years.
10. What touches me very deeply every time I visit Mauritius is the pride that the Indian diaspora and Mauritians like you take in India’s growth and rise. I had the honour today of inaugurating the new premises, the really impressive premises, of the High Commission of India in Mauritius and I was truly grateful that the Prime Minister graced the occasion. After several decades of working out of rented premises, India now has a modern, energy-efficient and environment-friendly new Chancery and Residential complex of its own. This is yet another small but significant expression of Prime Minister Modi’s Vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat – a Bharat that is self-reliant and at the same time, always ready to share its capabilities, its successes and its prosperity with the world. A Bharat that is not only the world’s biggest democracy but also the world’s third largest economy set to grow by 11.5% this year; a Bharat with a billion young people who are eager to soar to greater heights; and a Bharat that believes in Prime Minister Modi’s vision of SAGAR for the Indian Ocean Region - "Security and Growth for All in the Region”.
11. In this exciting journey of India’s rise, our Pravasi Bhartiyas play an important role. According to a latest report, more than 200 Indian-origin persons occupy top leadership positions in at least 15 countries of the world. Though I must say Mauritius sets an example. Your invaluable contribution to our nation-building; your role as a ‘living bridge’ between India and your countries of domicile and the laudable reputations you have earned by the dint of your hard work, competence and assimilation; have all helped fly the Indian flag higher in different parts of the world. I thank you today on behalf of all Indians, for your outstanding contribution to Mother India. I invite you and all the socio-cultural organisations and businesses present here, and those to whom you would communicate this message, to reach out to us with any ideas, proposals, suggestions, feedback that you may have, to help us advance further on this shared path.
12. Like India, Mauritius is a shining example of how a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious country can not only become a vibrant and successful democracy, but also have a thriving, high-performing economy. We in India, admire the leadership, the hard work, grit and determination of the Mauritian people in achieving the miracle of transforming a poor single crop country into a high income country in a span of just 52 years against all odds, whether it is lack of raw material, capital, know-how or access to markets. Today, Mauritius is categorized as the leading democracy in Africa with the highest Human Development Index; the most easy place to do business in the continent and the highest transparency according to Transparency International’s latest report. Mauritius has shown the world that with the right kind of human capital, anything is possible, and I think all of us in India salute you for that.
13. As many of you know, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a special association with Mauritius. He has been visiting Mauritius even before he entered active politics and is very fond of this country. He sends his warm wishes and greetings to all of you and to your families and I join him in wishing you all a very happy Mahashivaratri and a blessed 2021 that I hope will bring normalcy, good health, good cheer and as the High Commissioner said ‘No Masks’. As we say in India, "Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavantu”: "May all be prosperous and May you all be happy”