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India, its diaspora should strengthen economic ties: Vayalar Ravi

Durban, Oct 4, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has called upon the Indian diaspora in Africa to strengthen economic ties with the land of their origin.

‘For Africans of Indian origin, the bonds tying them to the land of their origin have hitherto been social and cultural. In the changing economic paradigm, you must increasingly look at India as a land of economic opportunity,’ Ravi said at the inaugural ceremony of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-Africa (PBD-Africa) in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province Friday.

Ravi, together with KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, inaugurated the PBD-Africa event in the South African city Durban to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The current year also marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured sugarcane labourers from India whose descendants have today risen to become flourishing entrepreneurs.

The Oct 1-2 PBD-Africa is being held here by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs in partnership with the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), focusing on the Indian diaspora in Africa.

‘India and its diaspora needs to connect through various means like business, education, social and cultural relations… We share a great leader Mahatma Gandhi and that makes it more relevant to be here on this occasion,’ Ravi told IANS.

It was in South Africa that Gandhi’s transformation from Mohandas to Mahatma took place, he said.

History has it that in 1893 when Gandhi landed in Durban, he learnt of the oppressive atmosphere of racial discrimination against Indians settled in South Africa. His struggle began with the Satyagraha movement there.

Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa saw success in 1914, before he returned to India, in an agreement between him and the South African government in which the main Indian demands against racial and class discriminations were conceded.

The PBD-Africa was attended by nearly 500 guests, including delegates from across Africa.

The inaugural ceremony was followed by a cultural programme put together by artistes from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

Also commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the ICCR troupe performed an extract from his short story ‘Khudito Pashan’ (Hungry Stones).

The African continent is home to three million people of Indian origin, of which 1.5 million live in South Africa alone.

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