Kuala Lumpur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought to enhance India’s connect with its diaspora in Malaysia praising lavishly, its accomplishments and making a slew of announcements, including naming a cultural centre here after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
He also announced one million US dollars as additional fund to the corpus of the India-Students Trust Fund.
In his address to the diaspora on the second day of his visit to Malaysia, Modi said his government was prepared to work with the Malaysian government to build a memorial to Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in Malaysia during World War II.
Modi said India and Malaysia should recognise each other’s degrees, on which he would talk with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.
Modi said his government has merged the Overseas Citizen of India and Persons of Indian-Origin cards and made visas life-long.
“Besides, Indian-origin up to 4th generation is enough to register for OCI now. This is especially helpful for people like Malay Indians, whose ancestors came here generations ago. Minor children, who are foreign nationals, and foreign spouses can also get OCI status now. We have introduced e-visas that has made travel simpler,” he said.
He said the Indian government has opened nine visa collection centres in Malaysia. “There is an eMigrate portal to make it easier and safer for workers to go to certain countries.”
Modi said there were times when workers from India get into difficulties here and their welfare and security were at the top of government’s concerns. “Last year, we assisted more than 8,000 Indian workers to return home safely.”
Referring to India-students Trust Fund set up in Malaysia in 1954 to give financial assistance to Malaysian-Indian children who lacked the means for education, Modi said the fund was still needed by a section of the Indian community.
“We are happy to announce a grant of about $1 million in additional funds to the corpus of the Trust Fund,” he said.
Modi also announced that his government would install a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the Gandhi memorial hall in Malaysia.
He talked of India and Malaysia drawing strength from their respective diversities.
“Today, India is not just united, but draws strength from its diversity. It is a nation where every citizen belongs; where everyone has equal rights that the constitution guarantees, the court protects and government defends,” Modi said.
Describing terrorism as the “greatest threat to the world today”, Modi said there was a need to delink religion from terror.
Besides, Modi said independent India owed a debt of gratitude to Malay-Indians.
“Your forefathers in thousands came forward to join Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. We will name our cultural centre here after Bose.”
“India is not confined to its territory. India exists in every Indian in every part of the world,” he added.
As over 15,000 people of Indian-origin chanted “Modi, Modi” at the Malaysian International Exhibition and Convention Centre here, the prime minister acknowledged the large proportion of people of Tamil descent among the Indian diaspora in this southeast Asian nation by beginning with a greeting of “Vanakkam”.
“Love and friendship of Malay Indians has always had a special place in my heart,” he said.
The event was organised by Welcome Partners, comprising Indian expatriates and around 90 cultural and community organisations from across the country.
Of the nearly 30 million population of Malaysia, around two million people are of Indian-origin.
The prime minister said Malaysia’s achievements were enormous and noted it has nearly eliminated poverty, placed basic needs within the reach of its entire population, achieved 100 percent literacy and is providing jobs to everyone who wants it or needs it.
“Its infrastructure is world class. It ranks very high on the ‘ease of doing business’. And, for five decades, it has averaged a growth rate of over six percent per year. And this is a truly extraordinary achievement for any country.”
Referring to his government’s work, Modi said: “Wheels of change have begun to move and they are gathering pace now and it is showing in numbers. India is today the fastest growing major economy in the world. I know you feel proud about it.”
Modi said lifestyle in one part of the world affects climate and agriculture in another part of the world. “We need each other’s markets and resources. So, our national progress will depend on the strength and success of our international partnerships.”