Port Louis: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday recalled the historical linkages between India and Mauritius as she hailed the democratic values shared by the two countries saying that India will always be a "steadfast friend and partner" of the Indian Ocean nation.
"It is a great honour and privilege for me to be present at the Apravasi Ghat on this august occasion, as we pay homage to those who commenced their journey here 180 years ago," Swaraj, here on a three-day visit, said in a speech on the occasion of 'Apravasi Divas' to mark 180 years since the first Indian indentured labourers arrived in Mauritius.
Swaraj started her address with a couple of sentences in Bhojpuri, alluding to the Indian labourers who arrived here from Bihar in 1834, a gesture that received much applause from the audience.
Mauritian President Rajkeswur Purryag, Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam and Swaraj's counterpart Arvin Boolell were also part of the audience.
"The commemoration of the day of arrival of the indentured labourers from India is an occasion for grateful remembrance as well as introspection.
"By remembering the historic date of November 2, 1834, we pay tribute to all those resilient ancestors who landed on the shores of this rainbow island from India and other parts of the world. Through their toil and tears, sweat and sacrifice, they enabled later generations to live in comfort and security," Swaraj said.
She said, the success of Mauritius embodies the triumph of the principles that are so precious to India: democracy, rule of law, tolerance, social harmony and human enterprise. India, she said, has always been, and will always be, a steadfast friend and partner of Mauritius.
Noting that the two nations enjoy a unique and exceptional bond of friendship, anchored in a shared historical and cultural heritage, Swaraj said that the Mauritian and Indian struggles for independence fed inspiration and energy into each other, while recalling Mahatma Gandhi's efforts for the welfare of the Indian-origin indentured labourers.
She said the sacrifices of the Indian labourers did not go in vain. Emerging from the grim colonial experience of slavery and exploitation of indentured labour, Mauritius today can boast of impressive accomplishments that India and all of humanity is proud of, she said.
"You have consistently ranked very high in various indices of human development, be it governance, standard of living or economic competitiveness. The Mauritian society is a model of peaceful, democratic, vibrant and pluralistic mosaic of ethnicities, religions, and languages, which others around the world can follow to their advantage," Swaraj said.