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Ambassador Mr. Ronen Sen's speech at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, New York 2007

New York
September 23, 2007

Hon’ble Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Shri Vayalar Ravi, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim, Shri Pawan Chamling, CII President, Shri Sunil Mittal, Secretary MOIA, Shri Nirmal Singh,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would, at the outset, like to express my sincere appreciation and gratification about the timely initiative taken by Hon’ble Minister Vayalar Ravi in organizing this first ever Pravasi Bharatiya Conference in North America, in collaboration with the CII, on the special occasion of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary year of India’s Independence.

India has changed dramatically in the last six decades. We have defied all predictions by demonstrating the resilience of our democratic institutions in the face of every conceivable challenge. We have not only remained the world’s largest democracy, but emerged as the world’s fastest growing democracy. In the process of modernization and technological progress, we have not lost our moorings in our civilizational heritage. The abiding relevance of our ideals and values is being manifested by the United Nations observing Gandhi Jayanti from this year henceforth as the International Day of Non-Violence.

India is changing with each passing year, and so are perceptions of India. And the most remarkable change in our country is reflected not just in our rapid economic growth and technological advances, but, above all, in the new sense of confidence, of self-esteem and self-assurance which is palpable, particularly in our youth, of our ability to overcome all challenges, and hold our own against any competition.

It is this new sense of confidence, and political vision and resolve in both India and the United States, that has led to the rapid transformation of India-US relations into an ever strengthening partnership – in the political, security, economic, commercial, scientific and technological, educational, cultural and other fields of mutually beneficial cooperation. India-US relations have never been as good before as they are today, and I am confident that this relationship is firmly set on an upward trajectory.

Both in shaping perceptions about India, and in promoting new initiatives for India-US cooperation, I would like to acknowledge and salute the invaluable role played by the Indian-American community. No other issue has ever enthused and united the vibrant India-American community as the proposed agreement on civil nuclear cooperation. The voice of this community has been heard with respect, and for good reasons.

The 2.3 million strong Indian-American community has earned this respect through their commitment to values, their work ethic, their excellence in different fields, their innovation and entrepreneurship. This community, with a median household income of $68,771 per annum, is the most prosperous ethnic group in the United States. With 67.9% having graduation and higher degrees, Indian-Americans are also the most highly educated ethnic group. The US healthcare system relies heavily on over 42,000 Indian-American doctors and about 15,000 medical residents and students. Indian-Americans dominate the hospitality industry, owning over a third of hotel properties in this country. The community is a major brain bank in the United States, contributing to the intellectual capital of this country with over 6000 faculty members, including Presidents, Provosts and Deans in prestigious US Universities. But, in one respect the Indian-American community ranks the lowest, and scrapes the very bottom of rankings; and that is in the incidence of crime.

Closer India-US relations and the growing trust and confidence in the relationship is opening up new avenues to enable the Indian-American community to contribute to closer collaboration for the benefit of their mother country, without detracting in any way from the interests of their country of adoption. The Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, new collaborations in the health sector, India joining 15 other countries in mutual recognition of engineering degrees by signing the Washington Accord two months ago, are only some recent manifestations of the widening horizons of India-US research collaborations. The networking of alumni of IITs, IIMs and other Indian universities in this country is another welcome trend in promoting closer ties between the two countries, whose most valuable resource is their human resource, and whose inherent strengths are innovation and entrepreneurship.

The mutually beneficial nature of this ever-strengthening relationship between the two countries is also being manifested in the rapid growth in two-way trade and investments. In the first seven months of this year, the fastest growing destination of US exports was India. Last year, Indian investments in the US were twice that of US investments in India. This is a healthy trend and will continue. 

The Indian-American community has played a vitally important role in promoting better understanding and friendship between the two countries. I am confident that this dynamic community will play an increasing role in promoting technological collaborations and profitable investments in both countries. We hope to benefit from the experience and expertise of this community, whose achievements have made us proud. I would be grateful for their continued advice on how the Embassy and Consulates General of India could better serve the interests that we share and achieve the goals that we aspire to.

Thank you for your attention,

Jai Hind!