New Delhi: India shares a symbiotic relationship with its 25 million diaspora spread across the world and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has welcomed entrepreneurs, investors and professionals from the diaspora to take part in the India growth story, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here on Wednesday.
Speaking at the inauguration of the International Conference on "Indian Diaspora and Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future" organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the minister said the Indian diaspora "has emerged as an important and unique force, making a positive difference in all fields of human endeavour, from economics to politics".
"We hold our heads high when members of the diaspora are appreciated, honoured, respected and recognised for their outstanding contribution in their respective countries of residence. The success and prosperity of the diaspora is our asset, as much as a strong and a self-reliant India is to the diaspora. We are determined to work closely with the diaspora for mutual benefit," she said.
"We share a symbiotic relationship. To put it simply, in India's march forward to its rightful place in the comity of nations, our fates are bound together."
Sushma Swaraj said that India is today "witnessing an unprecedented resurgence of interest from around the world. The intense exchange of high-level visits and the qualitative change in the nature of our interaction with the world since our government has taken over is proof, if proof is required, of the growing esteem with which the world sees us".
This, she said, "needs to be buttressed and reinforced by presenting a more sophisticated and evolved understanding of India".
She mentioned the recent adoption of the International Day of Yoga by the UN, with a record 177 countries co-sponsoring it, as an example of the global appeal of India's soft power.
"This soft power is anchored in our philosophical traditions, our consistent message of peace, harmony and co-existence, the attractiveness of our customs and traditions, textiles and dresses, dance and music, and, of course of our cuisine. The Indian diaspora has not just preserved these but has also played an important role in promoting and propagating these valuable symbols of who we are."
She said the conference over the next three days would deliberate on the various aspects of India's culture and heritage and she would be keen to receive their feedback and suggestions, especially on preserving and further popularising the intangible aspects of culture.
"If intangible cultural heritage is not nurtured, it risks becoming lost forever, or frozen as a practice belonging to the past. Preserving this heritage, revitalizing it, and passing it on to future generations is therefore a moral imperative," she said.
Earlier in the speech, Sushma Swaraj spoke of the journey of the thousands of Indian indentured labour in the 19th century to Africa, Mauritius, and the Caribbean, Suriname and Fiji.
She termed their journey as a "saga of supreme courage, unbending will, unwavering belief in their faith, culture and traditions and triumph against all odds".
She said the Indian diaspora has retained its language, dress, ceremonies and traditions.
"It celebrated the same festivals that it did in India, sang the same songs, played the same music - in short, it retained its essential Indianness even as it adapted to the local milieu."
"Just as the diaspora has maintained its links with India, India truly values its linkages with its diaspora," she said, and added that "to pay tribute to the journey of India's indentured labourers, to honour their pioneering spirit, resilience, endurance, and preservation of sense of origin, traditions and culture, the government of India installed a memorial in Kolkata in January 2011. Recently, we have commissioned to build a monument dedicated to the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in Guyana."