Kovind in Australia: Addresses Indian community in Sydney; visits Anzac War Memorial

NetIndian News Network

Sydney, November 21, 2018

President Ram Nath Kovind arrived here on Wednesday on the final leg of his two-nation state visit to Vietnam and Australia. 
This is the first state visit to Australia by an Indian President. Later in the day, Mr Kovind attended an Indian community reception hosted by Indian High Commissioner Ajay M Gondane. 
Addressing the gathering, the President said it was a matter of pride that the Indian community is held in high regard and contributes to society and the economy in Australia. Today, Indian professionals are much sought after, whether in Australia or elsewhere in the world. As entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, bankers and technology specialists, members of the Indian community are adding value to the country they live in.
Australia was also home to a large number of Indian students. They were excelling on campuses in academics and research, in fostering innovation and even on the sports field. Their hard work and talent was a symbol of the Australia-India Knowledge Partnership, he said.
Earlier, President Kovind formally began his visit by paying his respects at the Anzac War Memorial. The memorial was originally built as a tribute to Australian soldiers who did service in World War I. 
In his subsequent engagement with the Indian community, he made a special mention of the Indian soldiers who had fought alongside their Australian comrades in World War I, including on the beaches of Gallipoli. The centenary of the conclusion of World War I was commemorated earlier this month.
The President opened his address by referring to a Bharatnatyam performance by the Nartana Dance School he witnessed and said, for a moment, it made him feel as if he was in some corner of India and not in a faraway continent.  
“In my visits abroad, I always, and as a matter of priority, meet with our community. In fact, my interaction with the Indian diaspora is invariably the first element in my programme. And I must say, it is indeed a special and warm feeling to meet our people, our friends abroad, and to share with them thoughts and greetings from families back home,” he said. 
“I began my programme today with a visit to Anzac war memorial. It is a monument dedicated to those who gave their lives to protect the freedom of others. It also celebrates the bravery and courage of Indian soldiers who fought in World Wars alongside their Australian brothers in Gallipoli and other theatres of war. 
“Tomorrow, I will have yet another occasion to celebrate the sacrifice and freedom for humanity. Along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, I will jointly unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parramatta. This year we have launched our worldwide celebrations of his 150th birth anniversary and the statue will be a perfect tribute to his life and legacy. 
“I will also hold official talks with the Governor General and Prime Minister and discuss how to enhance bilateral ties, which already have moved to a new strategic high, much beyond our mutual passion for cricket and our shared Commonwealth connect,” he added.     
The Indian community in Australia has a long history. The first batch of Indians came here over a hundred years ago.  In the early 20th century, Indians arrived in Australia to work in banana plantations and in gold mining.  “A number of them were our Sikh brothers, who first settled in Woolgoolga and then moved elsewhere. They worked hard and withstood the rigours of time.  Even in their daily struggle, they did their best to preserve their cultural moorings and way of life," he said.
He said India was the fastest growing major economy in the world, with a growth of 8.2% last quarter.  “Our path-breaking introduction of the Goods and Services Tax has made India into One Nation, One Tax, One Market for the first time in its history. This and other seminal reforms have helped us jump 65 places in the last four years on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index. 
“Global Investor confidence in the country is at a new high. We have received over US$ 200 billion as Foreign Direct Investment in the last four years. Our work on building next-generation infrastructure including 100 Smart cities, 7 high-speed train corridors, 10 greenfield airports, countrywide digital connectivity and thousands of kilometres of expressways continues apace. And we are working overtime not just for growth, but also to empower women, the differently-abled and those at the bottom of the pyramid,” he added.
“Riding on high growth and transformative socio-economic changes, the youth in the country are brimming with ideas and energy. Their enterprise and innovation have made India into the third largest Start-up ecosystem in the world. 
“India today is full of opportunities for business, for social enterprises and for cultural connections. I invite each one of you to join us in our transformational journey. You can contribute with your ideas, your business models and your investment profiles,” the President said. 
“We count Australia as a key partner in our national flagship programmes - Make In India, Skill India, Clean India and Digital India. We are keen to leverage Australian technology, know-how and investment for growth and development in India. You can play an important part in pushing this engagement,” he added.  
“In the last few years, you would have seen a sea-change in the way our Government is engaging and reaching out to our diaspora. There is today a stronger connect between India and the Indian community abroad. We have started schemes such as the Know India Programme to better connect with our people abroad.  
“Our OCI scheme has been made flexible so that more and more people can benefit from it. We have mandated our Embassies to be available round the clock to our people in need. And we are extending humanitarian assistance as and where required. In the last four years, we have rescued over 90,000 Indians including people from 50 other countries caught in natural disasters or strife,” Mr Kovind said.
“We count our diaspora as an important partner in strengthening our international outreach. You have a role to play in spreading the message of India.  Yes, we do have our High Commissioner here, but we see each one of you as our cultural ambassador. We count on you to enhance our relations with Australia, as you have remarkably done all these years.  Next year, we would be celebrating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas from 21st to 23rd January in Varanasi. I invite you to join us in this festivity,” he added. 

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