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Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the ICCR Foundation Day Celebrations in Berne, April 9, 2019

Posted on: April 09, 2019 | Back | Print

Hon’ble Member of Swiss Parliament Nik Gugger, Distinguished Guests, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Congratulations on the occasion of ICCR Foundation Day. I am happy to see so many people joining us today here to celebrate this important day.

I thank Hon’ble Nik Gugger for joining us today. As President of India – Swiss Friendship Group in Swiss Parliament he is contributing immensely building a bridge between India and Switzerland. 

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations was founded in 1950 by MaulanaAbulKalam Azad, India’s first Education Minister. Today when we celebrate its foundation day, it is also an occasion to remember its founder. MaulanaAbulKalam Azad was one of the foremost leaders of the Indian freedom struggle. He was also a great scholar and poet. Under his tenure as Minister, a number of measures were undertaken to promote primary and secondary education, scientific education, establishment of universities and promotion of avenues of research and higher studies. He established many institutions such as the SahityaAkademi, the SangeetNatakAkademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and also provided a major stimulus for the setting up of higher institutions of Education including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology. For his invaluable contribution to the nation, MaulanaAbulKalam Azad was awarded India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna in 1992.

Over the years ICCR has become the most prominent arm of India’s cultural engagement with the world and also its most important instrument for soft power diplomacy. Today it promotes and showcases India’s cultural diversity all across the world.  It act as a bridge between Indian culture and the world.

Today you visit any part of the world, you see an India connection. I attribute it to two main reasons; one the strength of our diverse culture. We are one of the oldest, largest and perhaps among the very few continuous major civilizations in the world. Our spirituality is attracting the entire world today. Yoga and Ayurveda have become the symbols of India abroad. We are a nation of unity in diversity. The diversity is our strength. Every diverse culture in India flourishes, every religion and region in India flourishes. With this Indian culture abroad also flourishes.Second, the vibrant Indian Diaspora abroad is contributing immensely in promoting Indian culture. We come from different parts of our motherland, North, South, East and West. We speak several hundred languages, we worship different Gods, we eat different foods, we wear different clothes, but there is a feeling of oneness and common consciousness that keeps us together, make us proud of our nation India. This diverse diaspora is promoting the rich and diverse Indian culture abroad.
Today we have over 30 million Indian diaspora abroad. 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. The diaspora wherever they are, have produced successful entrepreneurs, beloved educationists, astronauts, stars in every profession and good civic minded citizens. This diaspora is now nurturing a second and third generation including in Switzerland that will surely outshine its parents, at the same time cherishing the fine traditions and culture of India.

The Indian diaspora in Switzerland is contributing towards strengthening the connection between Himalayas and Alps. In fact, the connection between Himalayas and Alps are stronger than we think. It is not limited to Bollywood and Mountains and Snow. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I see an India connect in every corner of Switzerland. Many heroes of India has contributed to this connection including Swami Vivekananda who visited Switzerland in 1896 and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who lived here for thirty years and Mahatma Gandhi who visited this land in 1931. The connection between India and Switzerland is much deeper than lakes and much higher than mountains. It is one involving universities, business establishments, laboratories, factories, technology cooperation, research, music and dance, you name it. There is the important connection of Yoga and Ayurveda everywhere. There is the attraction of Indian spirituality.

ICCR is contributing immensely in strengthening the connection between Himalayas and Alps. In fact, in Switzerland, ICCR is actively present. ICCR had supported us in organizing the International Day of Yoga in several cities of Switzerland and also in organizing ChambaRumal unique embroidery exhibition in Switzerland. ICCR runs a major India Chair at the University of Laussane. Recently, ICCR organized the visit of representatives from all across the world to the KumbhMela, the largest gathering of pilgrims anywhere in the world. This year, KumbhMelasaw a record turnout of around 150 million people in January - February, making it the biggest ever human congregation on earth.

In coming months we have planned a series of cultural activities in Switzerland and Lichtenstein.  We are getting ready for the International Day of Yoga celebrations in Switzerland and Lichtenstein. We are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I invite all friends of India in Switzerland to join us in celebrating India.

I once again convey my greetings on ICCR Foundation Day.

Thank you.