On 31 December 2015, a Bharateeya-origin cancer research expert Harpal Singh Kumar was conferred with a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his influential work on prevention and treatment of cancer. This is not an exception. Many held Pravasi Bharateeyas as the most connected Diaspora in the world. The success of Bharateeyas living abroad has not only raised the profile of Bharat globally, but has also enormously assisted host countries excel in areas such as politics, economics, science and technology. This Pravasi Bharateeya Divas, Organiser salutes to these exemplary Pravasi Bharateeyas by stressing their journey of global foot prints.
Over the years it has become increasingly evident that Bharateeyas have made a huge impact overseas. They have integrated and excelled greatly in vital fields such as medicine, engineering, technology and business, to name a few. Whichever country Bharateeyas have settled in, they have ensured that they do their utmost to be upstanding citizens and contribute greatly economically.
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The Bharateeya Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged the importance of the Bharateeya Diaspora and has made it a top priority to connect with them and create an inclusive dialogue. One only has to look at the warm welcome Prime Minister Modi has received from his trips to countries such as the UK, USA, UAE, France and Germany to gauge how close Bharateeyas abroad feel to their motherland, now more so than ever before.
In 2003, to commend the exemplary service undertaken by Bharateeyas’ abroad, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs introduced Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. The date 9th January was chosen to celebrate the event, as it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi returned back to Bharat from South Africa. The event includes special programmes over two days to recognise the contributions of overseas Bharateeyas and those that have made exceptional contributions are honoured with a Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. The event also serves as a forum to discuss issues concerning the Bharateeya Diaspora and is well supported by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry and Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region of Bharat. The last Pravasi Bharateeya Divas was held in Gujarat and in 2016 will be held in New Delhi.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs data states that the number of overseas Bharateeyas in January 2015 is 28,455,026 and their economic contribution not only to their countries of residence, but also to Bharat, is huge. It is estimated that in 2014, NRIs remitted $70.39 billion to Bharat, 4 per cent of Bharat’s GDP. Additionally, Bharateeyas are also running some of the world’s largest companies. Sundar Pichai is Google’s new CEO, Satya Nadella is the head of Microsoft, Indra Nooyi at Pepsi, Ajay Banga at Mastercard, Rajeev Suri at Nokia and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe. Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel-making company is 55 on Forbes list of Powerful People 2015. Bharateeyas control almost three-quarters of Antwerp's diamond industry. In the US, Gujaratis control one-third of all hotels and motels and own almost half (12,000) of America's independent pharmacies.
In addition to being leaders in industry and business, Bharateeyas abroad also feel passionately about their mother country and have helped greatly in the political arena. In the UK, Minister of State for Employment, the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP has ensured that those who seek to portray Bharat in a biased and incorrect light are held accountable for their actions. During the General Elections 2014 in Bharat, Priti Patel MP wrote a letter to the BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall, raising numerous concerns over the BBC’s poor and biased coverage of the election. Priti Patel MP was a key figure in Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK in addition to fully supporting the Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative.
In the USA, Tulsi Gabbard is the first and only Hindu to be ever elected to Congress. Similarly to the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, she is proud of her heritage and when she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2014, presented him with a ginger flower garland from Hawaii and gave him her own copy of the Bhagavad Gita (the same copy that she used to take the Oath of Office). Tulsi Gabbard has stated that issues such as the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and human rights abuses of Hindus and other religious minorities in Pakistan are of concern to her. In July 2015, Congresswoman Gabbard introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives to ask Bangladesh to protect human rights of vulnerable minorities, including Hindus.
In addition to these two great female politicians championing the cause for issues affecting Bharat, both the UK and the US is host to an active Bharateeya community who care passionately about their heritage and seek to preserve their religion and traditions.
There is no doubt that the majority of Bharateeyas abroad are proud of their Bharat background but also simultaneously ensure that they successfully integrate and fully adapt to their resident countries and assimilate to the culture there without forcing their beliefs and customs on others. In tandem with the ancient teachings of Bharat on compassion and acceptance of all ways of worship, Bharateeyas living abroad are a peaceful and tolerant community.
The success of Bharateeyas living abroad has not only raised the profile of Bharat globally, but has also enormously assisted host countries excel in areas such as politics, economics, science and technology. With CEOs of multinational companies being of Bharateeya origin and some of the world’s biggest industries being run by Bharateeyas, there is no doubt that the service and influence Bharateeyas abroad have in the world is phenomenal. This Pravasi Bharateeya Divas, Organiser salutes to these exemplary Pravasi Bharateeyas by stressing their journey of global foot prints.
Prerna Lau Sian (The writer is London based Barrister, broadcaster on Nusound Radio 92FM, committee member of the Hindu Lawyers Association and is working in Investment Banking.)