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Speech by Ambassador R Masakui on the first Indian Diaspora Convention in Zimbabwe on 31 March 2019

Welcome Remark by Amb. R.Masakui(Diaspora Convention, 31st March, 2019)

Guest of Honour, Cde.Patrick Chinamasa, Representing H.E. E.D. Mnangagwa, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe,

Foreign Secretary Ambassador Manzou,
Heads of Diplomatic Missions,
Senior officials from the Govt. of Zimbabwe,
Elders of the community,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all to the 1stIndian Diaspora Conventionin Zimbabwe. This event is organized bythe Embassy of India and Indian community in Zimbabwe. The convening of the diaspora convention this year cannot be better timed as India celebrates the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation.

Allow me to take this singular opportunity to welcome the guest of Honourof this occasion Hon’blePatrick Chinamasarepresenting H.E E.D Mnagagwa, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. India and Zimbabwe are connected by a shared history, culture, language and people-to-people ties. Hon’bleGuest of Honour is kindly aware that while Zimbabwe hosts thousands of Indians who have come to this beautiful country spread over several centuries, India has the privilege of hosting a son of Monomotapa kingdom, a priest, a scholar and a Prince Miguel who settled down in the province of Goa in India in 18th Century. There cannot be more appropriate occasion than this Convention to recall this connection between the two countries. Besides, before the colonial rulers came to our respective countries, we were engaging in prosperous trade. Prof George Kahari, linguist in UZ could not be here today because of his health. You will find it in testing to know that in his Dictionary he says that the word, ‘Shona’ has perhaps come from the Indian word ‘Sona’ meaning ‘gold’.The Embassy of India and the Indian community in Zimbabwe heartily welcome you sir.  

I would also like to warmly welcome Excellencies, Ambassadors of India’s friendly countries where there are sizable number of Indian diaspora. As your respective countriesalso host huge Indian population, I feel it appropriate to invite you to this special occasion as you will appreciate better the role played bythe Indian diaspora as a bridge between India and Zimbabwe. We are deeply honoured by your presence. I warmly welcome you.

It is also my pleasure to welcome friends of India invited to this convention. The intangible links that you have with India, through perhaps, many generationsremoved before now will bring to you memories of how you are a part of the humanitarian interaction and brush of history that your forefathers had with Indian diaspora many decades ago. I welcome you my friends.

Last but not the least, elders of the community and community members. You are the very reason why we are here today. This is the time to tell your stories, the time to listen to your stories- of hardships, struggles and overcoming all those. I have had the opportunity to reach out to few elders of the community- calling on them individually. The sparkles in their eyes as they narrated their own stories are one of the most rewarding momentsin my personal experience. To the younger generation, this is a rare opportunity for you to know who you are and where you come from as you listen to the invaluable stories of the elders. I welcome you all.

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Engagement with the diaspora is one of the corner-stones of India’s foreign policy.In fact, so much importance was accorded to this aspect of India’s foreign policy that a full fledgedMinistry called Ministry ofOverseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) was created in 2004 to connect the matrices of Diaspora story.However, it was merged again with Ministry of External Affairs in 2016 as most of the work lies with Embassies and to give effect to more governance and less government under the present government. We have now a full department under the Ministry to look after Indian overseas affairs. 

In line with this objective, this Convention is aimed to create awareness among Indian Diaspora and expatriate community in general and the youth in particular, the indelible historical links between India and Zimbabwe,the story of early Indian settlers in Zimbabwe, the invaluable role played by the Diaspora in bridging the relations between India and Zimbabwe. The Convention is also aimed at creating awarenessand appreciation among the Indian community, particularly, the younger generation of the space (political, economic, social and cultural) afforded to the community by the government and the people of Zimbabwe. I have been told by the elders of the community that there has not been a single instance of any form of attrition against the Indian community in Zimbabwe over the last so many decades. Allow me to reiterate our gratitude to the Government and the people of Zimbabwe for allowing Indian brothers and sisters to make Zimbabwe their home.

The Indian Diaspora symbolizes a journey, a journey in search of knowledge, adventure, well-being and of better opportunities. It is more importantly a journey within- a journey to find oneself. The sages and monks, the seafarers and explorers, the traders, the Girmitiyas of yesteryears; and the students, the skilled and semi-skilled professionals on the move in modern times, all represent the Indian Diaspora which migrated globally through centuries.

There was a time when opportunities in India did not exist to earn good incomes and therefore people went abroad seeking greener pastures. There was in great numbers brain drain. People started medicine or engineering and then went abroad. And then of course as the IT age came, the brain drain only increased.

But today India has changed and there are newer opportunities, all kinds of opportunities to earn and make a very good living. When the first generation of Indians went abroad, they thought that during their youth they would in fact have their professional lives there and after retirement they would return to India. Today the time has come for those dreams to be fulfilled. Maybe come back with both your legs here, or maybe you could have one leg here and one leg in the country of your adoption and facilitate more economic interactions between the two countries. The possibilities are endless.

Government of India has been proactively engaging with her Diaspora over the last several years to facilitate such opportunities. GOI has opened up several schemes and programmers. One of this is life time Oversea Citizen of Indian (OCI) card. The card holder has all rights as any other Indian citizen except for voting and possession of farm land. If you have not applied for it, kindly do so. Further, any distressed Indian in any part of the world is only a tweet away now. GOI has also carried out several rescue operations in conflict areas in many parts of the world. The lastwasone in Yemen where several thousand including other nationalities were evacuated by us. Of course this situation will not arise in this country. The simple point I want to make is, the ‘the govt and the people of India care for you’.

You have proved your worth in the country of your adoption and your achievements have been tremendous. Today you own your own business; you occupy responsible position in big companies. You are counted among the best professionals (doctors, the best engineers, layers, judges). You have been an integral part of the society of this beautiful country. Your achievements have been remarkable.

Hon’bleExternal Affairs Minister of India, Madam SushmaSwaraj, after meeting Indian Diaspora in several countries in the last five years has remarked, “It is a matter of great pride, when I see that normal people of Indian origin in fact are known for three qualities. One is that they are very good neighbours. Whether in good times or bad, Indians always come forward to help. They are very hard working. And thirdly they are very law abiding. And you cannot imagine how these three qualities have given such a boost to the image of India. Perhaps sitting outside India you may not be aware of this. But this is something that has come before me over and over again. And for this, brothers and sisters, I would like to salute you”.

She has not visited Zimbabwe yet. But this holds true of Indian community in Zimbabwe too. In the most recent devastation caused by Idaicyclone, the community has come forward spontaneously and contributed hundreds of tons of relief material. And you have done it quietly. Except for very few, most of these helping hands have gone unnoticed by both electronic and print media. But I know what you feel. This country of your adoption has mothered you, she has nurtured you, she has fed you. And you are giving back now. Doing good, helping others, giving, sharing in times like this-how much is enough?and how much is too much?

Few days ago, I dropped in awhatsapp message to few people to check if we should do a second round of donation. The response is astounding. We have collected about 80 tons of relief items which include mostly food items, and blankets, clothes and medicines. It will be handed to Civil Protection (Ministry of local Govt)tomorrow at 11 am at Makombe building. I appeal you to join in though it is a short notice. However, you do not have to necessarilyjoin tomorrow. You cancontinue the good work quietly wherever and whenever you can.

India sendsme as her Ambassador to Zimbabwe.  However, ido not have all the opportunities to mingle with the common man. But all of you are unofficial ambassadors of India. It is through you that people of Zimbabwe know what India is. Continuing to be good and helpful neighbor, hard working and peace loving/law abiding citizens of this beautiful country will not only earn you goodwill of the people of Zimbabwe but raise the stature of India immensely. Your positive contributionsin all spheres of life of this country can directly contribute to enhancing relations between the two countries.

With these words, I once again welcome you all to this wonderful celebration of history, ties, bonds and ideas and I hope the sessions prepared for you will be beneficial.

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