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Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Reception on Jan 9, 2019

Posted on: January 09, 2019 | Back | Print

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George 
at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Reception on Jan 9, 2019

Good Evening Everybody;
Hon’ble Member of Swiss Parliament Mr. Nik Gugger;
President of Swiss- India Chamber of Commerce Mr. Phil Reich, Distinguished guests;
Members of the Indian Diaspora in Switzerland;
Friends of India;
Ladies & Gentlemen,

Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy New Year 2019.

I welcome all ofyou all to India House today. I am happy that despite it being a working day in Switzerland, and despite the heavy snow today you have taken time to come over to this event.

I welcome you also on behalf of my wife, who is recovering from a small accident in New Delhi. I hope she would be able to recover fully and run around to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year on July 14.

This is a get-together of Indians, Indian Diaspora and Friends of India in Switzerland. I acknowledge the presence of our Swiss friends, Member of Swiss Parliament and President of India Parliamentary Friendship Group in Swiss Parliament Mr. Gugger, President of Swiss India Chamber of Commerce Mr. Phil Reich, who has come with his family today and Mr. Bruno Stephan and his team who recorded the beautiful Indian Bhajan Vaishnav Jane To in the serene beauty of Alps, connecting Himalayas with Alps.

Every year we celebrate the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in India and abroad on Jan 9, commemorating the day Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa to Mumbai in 1915.  PBD is a dedicated to recall and recognize contributions of the Indian diaspora in building bridges between their new homeland and their original motherland. Most of the diaspora has always tried to maintain their links with India and even tried to bring up their children in Indian culture and values at the same time adapting to new cultures abroad.

For them, it has not been an easy journey, but mostly it has been a very successful journey. India today is proud of its over 30 million diaspora. This diaspora has branched out all over the world today. Well assimilated, it is studded with Nobel Laureates, Booker Prize winners, Emmy Awardees, distinguished physicians, engineers, businessmen, IT experts and Artists and spiritual leaders. In Switzerland it include members of Parliament, Mayors of various cities, CEOs and senior executives of several companies, senior Government officials, professors, doctors, engineers and students. This diaspora in Switzerland is now nurturing a second and third generation that will surely outshine its parents, at the same time cherishing the fine traditions of India. Some are contributing in a big way in building bridges between India and Switzerland at various levels. I would like to mention a few names, Mr. Nik Gugger in Swiss Parliament, Mr. Phil Reich through the Swiss India Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Rajendra Joshi who has set up a Skill Development University in Rajasthan.

For us in Switzerland, 2018 has been a very eventful one. We started the year with the visit of Prime Minister to Davos for the World Economic Forum Annual meeting in January 2018. Prime Minister of India delivered the key note opening address at the WEF on January 23, 2018. In his speech he highlighted the economic transformation that India witnessed in the last few years. He also highlighted ‘Vasudaiva Kudumbakam’ – ‘world is one family’ philosophy of India. This year we are preparing for another WEF meeting in Davos. Reports indicate that there is heavy snow in Davos. We will have a few interesting lounges that is being set up now. I urge you to visit Davos and join in our celebrations in Connecting Himalayas with Alps, Connecting India with Switzerland and beyond.

In addition to the visit of Prime Minister to Davos, we had a series of highlevel visits. Swiss Foreign Minister Dr. Ignazio Cassis visited India in August 2018, when he held wide ranging talks with External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj and also visited Varanasi. This year is important for Varanasi, we are organizing the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 22-23. I am happy that some of you would be attending the event in Varanasi and also the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj. Other visits to Switzerland include that of Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. V K Singh, Minister of Health and Family Welfare Shri J. P. Nadda, Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Shri Dharmedra Pradhan, Minister of Railways Shri Piyush Goyal. It has been a very productive year for our bilateral relations.

2018 has been very important year in India – Swiss relations. It marked the 70th anniversary of signing of the Friendship Treaty we signed in 1948. I am happy that we have organized a successful Festival of India in Switzerland covering several cities from Geneva to Lugano to St Gallen to Baden and Basel and of course Berne and Zurich. It was a successful endeavor to connect Himalayas with Alps. We have also successfully organized a week long Namaste Switzerland in December last year. We will be honoring the participants today.

We have also launched the celebrations to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We have regular online quiz on Mahatma Gandhi which has generated huge interest. Similarly, we are tweeting 150 messages of Mahatma Gandhi in German, French and Italian languages. Our celebrations to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi will continue till 2020. We are also celebrating Indian Ayurveda and Yoga in Switzerland. The two platforms that we set up, Indian Professionals Network (IPN) and Indian Cultural Network (ICN) are coming up with regular events every month. I am happy to mention that no day in Switzerland goes without celebrating India in some part of the country.

Equally important is our business engagement with Switzerland which is growing rapidly. Our bilateral trade today is nearly USD 20 billion. The engagement between Indian and Swiss companies are deepening. We organized a series of events in various cities of Switzerland with the support of our partners including Swiss India Chamber of Commerce and Swissmem. I recall the successful Digital India Summit that we organized in August last year with the participation of over 80 companies and several MISSP events that we organized in various cities. It is no small achievement for us that thirty companies have onboarded our MISSP program last year and started engagement with Indian companies.

One of the first proposals that I received last year from our Indian community in Zurich was to start consular service. I am happy to note as part of the initiative of ‘Indian Embassy Home Away’ we were able to open this service in Zurich. The response has been amazing. We started it as a fortnightly service, but we will be happy to increase the frequency if required. I look forward to more proposals and suggestions from all of you.

I once again welcome you to this evening.

Thank you.