Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

NRI Minister Inaugurates GOPIO Conference

Indo Link - 17 October 2004

Brussels, Belgium; October 7, 2004 - Jagdish Tytler, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs of the Government of India attributed the success of the Indian Diaspora to their traditional ethos, cultural values and their capacity to harmonize and adopt. Mr. Tytler was addressing the GOPIO Conference "NRI/PIO Business Networking for Trade and Investment and Contribution of Indian Diaspora in Europe" on 4th. October 2004 in Brussels as Chief Guest.

The Conference was organized in association with the Indian Embassy and in collaboration with the GOPIO International. "Let us work together to involve you in India's growth," said the minister and assured the Indian Diaspora of all help and facilities by his newly-created ministry.

Minister Tytler invited the overseas Indian to contribute ideas in making Indian education, infrastructure, healthcare, financial services, tourism and other service sectors world class. He also invited the Indian Diaspora to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held in Mumbai, from 7-9 January 2005.

The Conference was attended by more than 200 PIO/NRI business leaders from 24 countries. This was the largest gathering of the NRIs/PIOs from different nations in recent times and offered an opportunity to the Indian Diaspora to promote trade and investment and reach out to the Indian Diaspora in Europe.

Earlier welcoming the participants, the Chair of the Conference and the President of the GOPIO Belgium, Sunil Prasad said that the Indian Diaspora is an asset for creating a global network and economic bridges that can provide a useful help for both India and the country of Indian origin. He also said that the Conference was aimed to exhibit the great diversity not only in terms of geography and communities, but also in socio-economic status, educational achievements, political participation and power and strengthening of the EU-India relations in order to help trade networks and effectively and strategically link the Diaspora globally.

Ambassador of India to the EU and Belgium, R.M. Abhyankar, noted that it was the first such gathering of the India Diaspora in Europe. "The Indian Diaspora in Europe can play a major role in developing Europe-India ties," he said. Abhyankar hoped that conference would come out with ideas on how to further boost Europe-India economic cooperation.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, GOPIO International, USA, referring to GOPIO's history said it was formed 15 years ago in New York. He called upon the nations of European Union to adopt an open door immigration policy so as to make it easier for the migration of qualified technologists and scientists from India. "The European Union will not be able to compete well globally in the cutting edge technologies, if the countries still keep closed door immigration policy," said Dr. Abraham.

President of GOPIO International Inder Singh spoke about the sacrifices of the Indian Diaspora in the economic and social integrity of Europe and services rendered by Indian troops in the first and second world wars. Singh further said that GOPIO chapters have been started in several cities of Europe and urged the participants to help in networking with the Diaspora in Europe by opening chapters in all cities of Europe.

Neena Gill, the only Indian-born Member of the European Parliament (MEP), in her speech complimented the 22 million Indians live outside India for their contributions. Gill, a British MEP who hails from the Punjab, advised the Indian community living abroad that "you need to be active participants in the country you live in, and not just active in your business and professional life."

Dr. Charles Tannock, MEP and Chairman, Friends of India Group in the European Parliament, described India as an "awakening giant" which offers enormous opportunities to the EU. "Given its shrinking population, Europe will need to outsource" he said noting that the UK National Health Service, which has a large backlog of lab samples to analyze, is considering flying them out to India for analysis, and getting the results back by email.

In a special presentation MEP Nirj Deva said that the recent successful elections in Indonesia showed to the world that the largest Muslim populated country in the world could successfully adopt a democratic path and hoped that all Muslim nations follow the suite.

Special sessions devoted to business meetings and networking activities gave rare opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and other key decision makers to form partnerships to benefit from the vast economic opportunities arising from the opening of the Indian economy and also the economy of the countries having the presence of the Indian Diaspora and use GOPIO Belgium for linkages in Europe. Others who addressed the Conference were Dr. Mohan Kaul, Bharat Shah, Malcolm Subhan and Prof. Sid Gautam.

The occasion was marked by the launching of the Europe-India Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Ajit Shetty, Chairman of the Board of Janssen Pharmaceutica in his launching address said that with the strategic partnership being developed between EU and India, the need for such an umbrella organization is the need of the hour. He also stressed that the chamber should aim to provide technical and logistic help to the business groups to promote trade and investment. Mr. Sanjay Dalmia, Chairman of the Dalmia Group of Industries said that the Chamber should look into facilitating better trade relations and help in understanding the various changes in the trade rules. Dr. Karan Billimoria, Chef Executive of the Cobra Beers, UK said that although the EU is India’s largest trading partner and biggest foreign investor, yet India represents a miniscule proportion of its global trade and investment in the EU. In order to institutionalize a proper mechanism to promote trade and commerce, a Europe-India Chamber of Commerce should liaise with different chambers of commerce in the EU and other such business bodies.

The GOPIO in association with the EU-India Media Hub had organized a Media Conclave on October 3rd, which was also addressed by Minister Tytler and was attended by many Brussels based journalists. GOPIO presented several resolutions urging European Union to ease on the migration of qualified people from India, issuing Schengan visa for longer duration as well as as eliminating visas for permanent residents of USA, Canada, Australia and European countries who are not members of European Union. The resolutions were presented to Members of European Parliament present at the conference.

Minister Tytler had some one to one exchanges with GOPIO Executive Council, which brought the issue of Govt. of India's policy of taxing Not- Ordinary Residents (NOR) after two years of stay in India. GOPIO urged the minister to restore it to government’s original policy of taxing the global income after nine years. Minister promised that he would take this up with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister before the next budget.