PIO Parliamentarian Conference : Building Bridges With Diaspora
Organiser   13-Apr-2018
Over 120 PIO Parliamentarians and Mayors from 23 countries came together to discuss how cultural, economic and business links between India and their adopted countries can be reshaped in the changing global scenario

It needs no elaboration that about 31 million strong Indian Diaspora spread around in 102 countries have demonstrated strong retention of their Indian identity and have shown great emotional and cultural attachment with India. With India’s growth story and emergence of huge economic opportunities they are well poised to play an important role in facilitating trade and investment linkages between their adopted countries and India. The Diaspora serves as a catalyst between India and their host countries increasing their cultural, economic and strategic ties, but the shaping of policies to enable the Diaspora as a catalyst is done by the Parliamentarians.
In order to make the PIO Parliamentarians a partner in the endeavours to spread India’s soft presence across the globe, the Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad (ARSP) in association with the People of Indian Origin Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PIOCCI) organised a two-day conference in New Delhi from January 9 to 10. About 120 Parliamentarians and Mayors of Indian origin from 23 countries attended the conference and deliberated how the cultural, economic and business linkages could be reshaped.
“We will now be able to use this significant global network of PIO Parliamentarians to help secure the economic interests and development of India. Many of us represent modern establishments and economies including entities like the IMF, World Bank, UN P5 Security Council, etc. As a part of our expertise, we also need to leverage our Diaspora network”— Ms Priti Patel, till recently a Minister in the UK Cabinet”
Formed in 1978, the ARSP is a leading organisation that connects people of Indian origin with India. It organises regular events to discuss issues relating to the people of Indian origin. The PIOCCI has presence in more than 40 countries and works closely with the business communities in the countries where Indians are in significant numbers.
Addressing the Conference, titled as ‘Role of PIO Parliamentarians in Building Bridges of Friendship and Understanding between India and their Adopted Countries’, President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind called upon the PIO Parliamentarians to help in building economic, people-to-people and strategic connections that benefit their host countries and India. He also asked them to link the priorities of their host countries with India’s development and see how these can intersect with India’s growth. “For the Government of India, engagement with PIO Parliamentarians – or indeed with the wider Indian Diaspora community – is not a transactional relationship or a zero-sum game. Rather, we look upon the community and look upon you – the PIO Parliamentarians and elected and public representatives – as a living bridge. You have a role in enhancing understanding between your countries and the country of your parents and ancestors,” the President added.


A Roadmap to Expand Cooperation
Bharrat Jagadeo, Former President of Guyana
In the last session of this conference we discussed how the PIO Parliamentarians can expand friendship and cooperation with India. Mainly four ideas have emerged out of the discussion—economic relations, political relations particularly dealing at the international level, cultural relations, and fourth is working with India in global settings to enhance and defend some universal values that we share.
In the economic sphere we believe that there is an international economic structure that affects the way we trade and our economic well being. Take, for example the WTO. India has major issues with the WTO. We the Caribbean countries too have many issues with international trading. If we share our ideas more, we can strengthen our voice globally. As India is a global power it can help the smaller countries to negotiate a better framework in which they have to trade. Similarly, India can get their support in its advocacy for many issues. We can also strengthen trade links with the people of Indian origin. The PIO Parliamentarians can also help in rectifying the trade treaties and making the trade easier.


On the political sphere, India has been advocating for reforms in the Security Council. We all PIO Parliamentarians can advocate it. In the cultural areas, we all need to move with the traditional approach. We also need to think how education export can strengthen our relations. In Guyana we have some universities of Western countries offering online programmes. No Indian university offers such online course there. But Indian universities can also promote education in Guyana. There could be an agreement under which the students joining that courses should stay in India in last three months of their course. It will connect them to India. So, we need to think on such lines also. Many people in the world suffer due to lack of democracy in the world. But this is the universal value that we all share. India can easily advocate for these values without being accused of interfering in the domestic affairs of any country.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi while inaugurating the conference at Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra on January 9 described the Indian Diaspora across the world as “true and permanent ambassadors of Bharat”. He said the guiding principle of the present government is ‘reform to transform’. “We are increasingly focusing on the world, our perception of the world is changing, its main reason is that India is transforming itself, it is being transformed. Reforms to transform is our guiding principle,” he said. He further said whenever he visits a foreign country, he makes it sure that he meets the people of Indian-origin. “I believe that if there is any ‘permanent ambassador’ then it is the PIOs in different parts of the world. We have been able to activate a 24x7 process to register and solve the PIO issues,” he said. He pointed out that in the last 2-3 years, 19 billion dollars of FDI investment has been made in India.
Union Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla said the overseas Indians are all pioneers in their respective fields and have made exceptional contributions in their chosen professions. He emphasised on the importance of such conventions and said, “These conventions provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and the people of the land of their ancestors for their mutually beneficial activities. These conferences are also useful in networking among the overseas Indian communities.”
ARSP president Shri Virendra Gupta, who is India’s former Ambassador to South Africa, said the ARSP has been actively engaged in providing an interface for the Diaspora during the last five decades. ARSP Secretary General and PIOCCI patron Shri Shyam Parande said the Indian Diaspora is very vibrant and the emergence of a global body of Parliamentarians of Indian origin would make this world a better place to live in. Minister for Industrial Development in Uttar Pradesh Government Shri Satish Mahana said under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and UP CM Shri Yogi Adityanath, they are in a position to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship in Uttar Pradesh.
The Conference provided a high level platform to the participants for effectively articulating their views and opinions on the identified themes and to offer a practical roadmap to the policymakers and the delivery level experts. The topics prominently discussed included Role of the PIO Parliamentarians in building bridges of friendship and understanding, social cultural connect for people to people relations, trade and economic relations in the context of India’s economic rise and engaging the Diaspora youth-the way forward. The Conference has given a new dimension to the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas celebrated every year.