- I am happy to visit Azerbaijan. I am delighted by the beauty of the city of Baku and the view of the serene coast of Caspian sea. I am also pleased to see you all. I thank all of you for welcoming me and my delegation with such warmth and affection.
- I am extremely happy to see a vibrant Indian community, which contributes positively to the social and economic progress of this beautiful country. It is a matter of pride that you have excelled in your respective professions and became assets for this country.
- Even though there are only about 1300 Indians in this country, your collective efforts in promoting our culture and heritage is well noticed and deeply appreciated by the local community.
- I wish to congratulate each one of you and encourage you all to continue the good work.
Sisters and brothers
- I am particularly happy that I am here on this historic visit to Azerbaijan because this is a country with which India shares civilizational linkages as well as shared values of respect cultural diversities. The ‘ Ateshgah’ fire temple is a fine example of the age-old historical relations and cultural exchanges between our two countries. I am told that this 18th century monument, with a much older history, has wall inscriptions in Devanagiri and Gurmukhi, and is a surviving proof of the trade links and hospitality that Indian merchants on the Silk Route to Europe enjoyed in Azerbaijani cities such as Baku and Ganja.
- In recent times, our engagement with Azerbaijan has deepened and diversified. The volume of our trade has multiplied manifold and Indian companies like ONGC Videsh have carved a niche for themselves in the oil and gas sector of the economy.
- However, the present level of the economic engagement between the two countries is much below the potential. As Azerbaijan’s economy diversifies into non-oil sector, I can see many opportunities for Indian companies to engage with their counterparts in field such as Information and Communications Technology, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, agriculture and food processing to name a few.
- Under our Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, we share our experiences and knowledge with our Azerbaijani friends. Our experts in the field of women empowerment and rural development are also collaborating to forge new partnerships.
- Our two countries have always been strong collaborators in the field of culture. I am very pleased to learn that the vision and the values of Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated across the globe this year, have found a distinct resonance here. I take this opportunity to thank all stakeholders in Azerbaijan and all of you for your active participation and contribution in celebrating the legacy of the Father of our Nation. In particular, I wish to express my appreciation to the Government of Azerbaijan for releasing a postal stamp to mark this historic occasion.
- As the two countries intensify people to people contacts and deepen cultural collaborations, we look forward to your continued participation in this process.
- I understand that the gift of ancient Indian tradition, yoga is taking deeper roots in this country.
- Our music and dances are genuinely appreciated by the wider population here, so are Indian films. The Government of India is keen that we strengthen these bonds of cultural affinity and increase India’s cultural footprints to promote intercultural understanding and world peace.
Sisters and Brothers
- I am happy to share with you the transformative changes both economic and social, that are taking place in India as a result of concerted efforts by the government inspired by Prime Minister Modiji’s advice of “Reform, Perform and Transform”.
- Sustained reforms have ensured that India continues on its rapid path of progress. We have repealed archaic laws to improve ease of doing business. We have replaced “red tape” with “red carpet” in the way we approach potential business partners. With the implementation of GST, the concept of “One Country – One Tax – One Market” has become a reality. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is among the biggest and most impactful economic reforms undertaken recently in the country. The results are there to be seen.
- Doing business in India is not only lucrative to investors but is also becoming simpler. While India was ranked 142 in 2014, the recent World Bank Ease of doing Business rankings show that India has jumped 73 places and is now ranked 63rd in the world.
- We also aspire to become one of the strongest economies in the world with a GDP of US $ 5 trillion by 2024-25. All this will be possible if we continue to work hard with resolve and be driven by commitment and creativity.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
- What I have mentioned will be achieved if we sustain and accelerate what we have done in the last five years. Through the Jan Dhan Yojana, over 380 million bank accounts have been opened. This has ensured financial inclusion and enabled benefits to be transferred directly. The introduction of the Goods and Service Tax has integrated India as a single unified market paving a way for seamless transaction of goods and services across the length and breadth of the country.
- India is also better connected today. With an average of 27 kms of national highways and 134 kms of roads being built every day, our villages are better connected and this will improve their overall economic activities. Air connectivity has also witnessed significant increase with an addition of 40 airports, India has emerged as the third largest aviation market.
- We have embarked on many other ambitious projects which include building 100 smart cities, 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, 10 green field airports, 5 major ports and connecting our villages with broadband internet. All villages in India have been electrified.
- The government’s flagship programmes, including Make In India for manufacturing, Skill India for skilling young India, MUDRA for microfinance, Digital India for greater digital connectivity, Ayushman Bharat for affordable health insurance, Swachh Bharat for clean India have produced outstanding results and have contributed significantly towards our goal of achieving sustainable and inclusive development for all sections of our society.
- Another step taken towards building an Inclusive India is abrogation of Article 370. It is a step to extend to the people of the Jammu and Kashmir region all the benefits being enjoyed by the other Indian citizens. It is a step that was supported by an overwhelming majority in the Parliament. It is a step towards development. I urge the diaspora to understand the issue in correct perspective as distorted versions are being spread by certain sections of the media.
- India always believes in its age old philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or that the whole world is one family and endeavours to maintain cordial relations with all countries, including all its immediate neighbours. However, any attempt to disrupt peace and interference with our country’s internal matters will not be tolerated. “Peace is a pre-requisite for progress and we cannot allow anyone to derail the journey towards peace and prosperity”.
- You must have heard of the 3 D’s which stand for Democracy, Demand and Demographic Dividend. The Indian Diaspora is the fourth D and I wish to reiterate here that you are a very important component of India’s march to an inclusive, equitable and prosperous nation.
Dear Sisters and Brothers
- In conclusion, I wish to say that wherever I go, I have always emphasized on the important role, which you as members of our vibrant diaspora have in the evolution, growth and future of our nation. I am sure your would maintain the linkage with your motherland, your native place, your mother tongue and at the same time connect the land you are living in now with India.
- On the part of the government, we have also made it our priority to better connect and reach out to our overseas community. We have taken many steps to provide better services to our diaspora, including providing 24 hour access to those who need assistance. Our Embassies have been directed to reach out to our diaspora pro-actively and render all possible assistance on a 24/7 basis, whenever required to any Indian citizen abroad or Person of Indian Origin. There is a conscious effort to engage actively with our community around the world through digital platforms and social media, and these initiatives have borne positive fruits.
- Let me end by wishing every one of you success and happiness in your personal life, families and at your work place. Let me also encourage you to continue to be a living bridge between India and Azerbaijan and continue to do your motherland proud with your hard work and achievements.
- I take this opportunity to thank the Ambassador and his team for organizing this interaction and giving me an opportunity to spend some time with you.
- Thank you all for making India’s name shine bright in this country. In a couple of days we shall be celebrating Diwali – the festival of lights. Let me wish you and your families a very happy Diwali and hope that you will keep spreading good cheer wherever you go and live and contribute to a happy world.