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Remarks by Ambassador at the Gala Evening organized by Bharatiya Association in Bern on Nov 3, 2019

Posted on: November 03, 2019 | Back | Print

Remarks by Ambassador at the Gala Evening organized by Bharatiya Association in Bern on Nov 3, 2019

President of Bharatiya Association Berne Shri Subash Sinha, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Evening; 

A happy Diwali to all.

Thank you for inviting me to join you this Deepawali celebrations today. 

As Ambassador of India to Switzerland, I bring to you greetings from Government of India and also from our 1.3 billion brothers and sisters of India. I know it is a lot of greetings, greetings from 1/6th of the total population of the world. I congratulate the office bearers of Bharatiya Associaiton for organising this event and also for its efforts in promoting Indian culture and traditions in Switzerland.

Let me start by sharing an experience that I had in Switzerland last month. I was addressing a diplomatic school in Geneva. Present were students from many countries, mostly European countries. As I was speaking on India’s Foreign Policy, I thought it is important to start with a basic question. A question about two pioneer diplomats in ancient India. I asked them whether they heard about the story in our epic ‘Ramayana’, where Lord Hanuman, as a messenger of Lord Rama travelled all the way to Lanka and try to avoid a war with King Ravan. I also asked them whether they heard about the story our epic ‘Mahabharata’ where Lord Krishna tried to avoid the war between Pandavas and Kaurvas. I asked them whether they heard about Arthasastra by Kautilya our Chanakya written several hundreds of years before Machiavelli wrote his world famous The Prince. I was surprised to know that most of the students had not heard about Ramayana or Mahabharata or Arthasastra. 

Of course, they had a lot of knowledge about India. They were all aware that we are the largest democracy in the world, 600 million people went to polling booths to elect a new government early this year. They were aware of India’s scientific achievements like our space Mission, but many still thought of India as a charity destination. 

Switzerland had always welcomed our ethos and traditions. This land of Alps welcomed our heroes like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Mahatma Gandhi. Last month I was at Winterthur addressing a gathering of over a thousand people from all walks of life in Switzerland. It was a function to welcome Mata Amritanandamayi, a spiritual leader from India, who was on a three day visit to Switzerland. I was amazed to see the welcome she received in Switzerland. So it was rather surprising for me to see that the new generation in Europe had not much knowledge about Mahabharata and Ramayana which are very much an essential part of India’s culture and ethos. No day in the life of any Indian goes without thinking about the story of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. This is true not only for those belong to the Hindu religion, but for all Indian, irrespective of religion or region. Our festivals like the festival of Deepawali, which represents the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil are celebrated all over the world. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think there is still missing gap. We need to do more. We need to project the transformation that India has witnessed in recent decades to our friends in Switzerland and beyond. Indeed, Associations like Bhartatiya Association of Bern is playing an important role in projecting and promoting India in Switzerland. We also need to invite more Swiss friends particularly the youth and children here to learn about our culture and our tradition, our festivals, our epics and our heroes. 

Dear Friends,

A striking feature of India’s foreign policy today is the special attention accorded by the Government of India and the State Governments to the Indian Diaspora abroad. Our diaspora is spread out over 200 countries and number over 30 million. During the last few decades this diaspora has become India’s bridges to the countries where they reside. They are also contributing immensely in India’s economic transformation. I recall the words of former Prime Minister Vajpayee who outlining his vision said, I quote: “We do not want only your investment, we also want your ideas. We do not want your riches, we want the richness of your experience. We can gain from the breadth of vision that your global exposure has given you’. 

In the last few years, this relationship has been taken forward, forging an amazing partnership with Indian Diaspora abroad. We have seen the level of enthusiasm and energy with which Indian diaspora all over the world received Prime Minister Modi during his visits abroad, including in Houston last month where Prime Minister Modi and US President jointly addressed a gathering of over 59 thousand Indians. I would like to quote Prime Minister Modi who said, “Everything is not measured in dollars or pounds. The relationship we have with Pravasis is beyond that. It's a bond”. Unquote. In all his meetings abroad, he has issued a call to Indians abroad to become stakeholders in India’s future. In many countries, expatriates provide powerful constituencies of support, capable of influencing their leaders to engage with India more closely and intensively. 

I am happy that the Indian diaspora in Switzerland is also contributing immensely in building relationship between India and Switzerland at all levels and in several fields. This diaspora has produced many successful entrepreneurs, scientists, beloved educationists, architects and engineers, medical professionals. In short, this small but vibrant diaspora are good civic minded citizens with stars in almost every profession. This diaspora is now nurturing a second and third generation far outshining their parents and grandparents, at the same time cherishing the fine traditions of India.

For us in Switzerland, last few years has been a very eventful one. As Ambassador to Switzerland, I was honoured to receive both the President of India and Prime Minister of India here. In 2018, Prime Minister Modi delivered the key note opening address at the WEF Davos. The fact that at a summit which was attended by over eighty Heads of State/Heads of Government and over 3000 CEOs and Business leaders, it was the Prime Minister of India who gave the opening key note address is reflective of India’s transformed global profile in 21st century. 

In September this year, I was honoured to welcome our President Shri Ram Nath Kovind, who visited Switzerland on a State Visit. He was received by all members of the Swiss Federal Council in Berne. He also travelled to other cities in Switzerland including Villeneuve near Montreux, where he unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This year again saw the visit of Swiss Vice President Madam Simonetta Sommaruga to India. In addition to these high-level of political engagements, there has been a series of official and business engagement happening between our two countries. For us in the Embassy, not a single day in Switzerland goes without facilitating some effort, some engagement or some initiative, both public and private, aimed at strengthening our multifaceted relationship. 

We, at the Embassy, work on two basic mottos ‘Connecting Himalayas with Alps’ and ‘Embassy of India – Home Away from Home’. The strong connection between Himalayas and Alps is getting stronger, every day.  Awareness on India is growing in Switzerland. People do not look at India any more just as a charity destination. Its economic transformation and scientific achievements like its space programme is getting more attention. A visit to India has always been in the wish list of most of our Swiss friends. I am happy that it is now moving from a wish list to an active ‘things to do this year list’ and the number of Swiss visiting India is on the rise.  

I would like to thank the Indian community in Switzerland for their active participation in the Festival of India that we organised last year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the India – Swiss Friendship Treaty and for the celebrations to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We are partners in promoting Yoga and Ayurveda in Switzerland. 

As I said earlier, we need to do more. World needs to know more about India, its epics, its values, its culture and also it economic transformation and scientific achievements. We need to encourage them to travel to India, to move the wish list into a to do this year list. I invite you all to join the Embassy in celebrating India in Switzerland. I also invite you to join us the celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji that we plan on November 30 in Bern.

I once again thank Bharatiya Association of Bern for inviting me.

Thank you.