LOS ANGELES, CA – The terrorist attacks in Paris on the ominous night of Nov 13, shocked the entire world with repercussions on the two-day 9th Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (RPBD) held here on the weekend of Nov 14 and 15 at the Westin Bonaventure . The much anticipated visit by India’s External Affairs Minister...
On this somber note, the victims of the attacks were remembered at the main event which took place on Nov 14 evening when the Consul General of India at San Francisco Venkatesan Ashok called the packed hall of around 1000 attendees to stand and observe a minute’s silence in their memory. In attendance were dignitaries from both India and the US including Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congresswoman Janice Hahn, Congressman Brad Sherman, Ambassador of India Arun Kumar Singh, and Secretary of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs(MOIA) Anil K. Agrawal. Starting off with the singing of the national anthems of the US and India, the dignitaries took part in the lamp lighting ceremony throwing open the event with the theme ‘Indian Diaspora: Defining a New Paradigm in India-US Relationship.”
In his address, Ambassador Arun Singh succinctly put forth the goal of RPBD as providing a platform for India and the Indian Diaspora to connect, celebrate and contribute. As India has been rising and growing stronger in many spheres, there is a great desire among the Indian Diaspora to connect with India and be a part of the growing opportunities there. So also there is a desire to celebrate the great changes taking place in India with a projected growth rate of 7.5 to 8 percent and rising Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and consumer confidence. Networking and engagement by the Diaspora has contributed to India’s growth. New opportunities for contribution are now open in the area of education, health care, energy among others.
An internship program for Diaspora youth to visit India and engage with Indian industry is in the offing, he declared as also regular Diaspora delegation visits to India.
Anil K Agrawal, reiterating the Ambassador’s thoughts said the Indian Diaspora is making a very important contribution to the Indo-US relationship. Lauding the contribution of Indian-Americans he said that members of the community came to this great country of opportunity to fulfill their dreams. They created many opportunities for themselves, achieved prosperity, excellence in academics and made significant contributions but somewhere deep in the heart of the Indian-Americans there is desire to make India a country of opportunities as well, he said, adding that the task of the MOIA was to provide Indian-Americans and the rest of the Diaspora with a platform to fulfill this desire.” From the US political bigwigs who addressed the gathering Congressman Brad Sherman a former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Terrorism, was most vocal in condemning the Paris terror attacks and likened them to the Mumbai terror attacks in Nov 2008.
To loud applause from the audience he made no bones in pinpointing the involvement of Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Taiba with the support of the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agencies in the Mumbai attack. He said, “Today we are all Parisians,” and urged the audience to take a moment to reflect on all the cities which have suffered from terrorist attacks.“ Paris is not an isolated instance. We have to stand up to terrorism and say enough is enough,” he emphasized.
Shifting gears, he spoke on the RPBD saying that Los Angeles was honored to be the second city in the US to hold this event, the other being New York. He highlighted the growing ties between India and the US in many areas including counter-terrorism, military and diplomatic. Speaking on behalf of all gathered he requested that an Indian Consulate be opened in Los Angeles.
Congresswoman Judy Chu opened by conveying Diwali greetings to all, going on to laud the Indian-American community on their achievements and contribution to the US. She also called for increasing representation of minorities at all levels of government going on to point out to a historic milestone where today there are 14 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of Congress. She also encouraged young Americans to get involved in government.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn, who was previously a Los Angeles City Councilwoman, said LA County was home to 500K Indian-Americans and the state of California to a million. She expressed admiration for the traditional values upheld by the community and the spirit of giving back adding that both the US and California are better off because of this.
California Treasurer John Chiang also made a brief appearance later in the evening and congratulated the Indian team on hosting the event. In his vote of thanks, CGI Venkatesan Ashok recognized the huge number of individuals, sponsors and Indian-American organizers who helped to made the event possible. Also present was Deputy CGI K J Srinivasan.
Kali P Chaudhuri, Chairman and Founder of the KPC Group of Companies, was presented with the NRI of the Year Award. After receiving the award, he made a plea that a consulate office be opened in Los Angeles.
‘India Rising in Silicon Valley’ a coffee table book produced as a joint effort of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) was released by Arun Singh and Anil K Agrawal.Venktesh Shukla, President TiE and Chandrajit Banerjee DG CII were also present. Proclamations were presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj by the county of Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti and received on their behalf by the Indian dignitaries.
The evening wrapped up with a cultural show highlighting the music and dance of India and a vegetarian dinner catered by BAPS Shayona. Emcee for the evening was Llona Maitra. The Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) of the Confederation of Indian Industry also organized an Indian Diaspora Business Meet on the sidelines of the RPBD.
Officials from Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand and Kerala participated in the business meet.