Johannesburg: India is no longer ‘lumbering around at a relatively slow pace’, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said and urged the diaspora to be part of the country’s growth story.
Speaking at a reception hosted by the Indian diaspora and expatriate community in Cape Town in his honour Saturday evening, he also spoke about the special relationship between India and South Africa, which would celebrate 30 years of new diplomatic ties.
The minister was in the city with his counterparts from Brazil, Russia and China for the BRICS bloc’s meeting hosted by South Africa.
“This is no longer the India that was lumbering around at a relatively slow pace. When it comes to digital, I can assert with a great deal of confidence, that I see practices (and) efficiencies in India which I don’t see even if I go to Europe and North America,” Jaishankar said.
“This scale of change which is taking place in India, when we speak about the pace of transformation of these nine years, is really something that I think the Indian community abroad, the non-residents abroad and I would say even the friends and well-wishers of India abroad need to understand is something very powerful and very big that is going on,” he said.
The minister said it is important that the diaspora and the people of Indian origin who live abroad also participate and have that sense of involvement in the change in India.
Highlighting the achievements of the Modi government in its nine years in office through policy reforms and actions in various areas to raise the self-reliance of the Indian people, Jaishankar said this was not a protectionist effort.
“A self-reliant India is not a protectionist India that is closing itself to the world. It is an India that is actually making more in India but making more for the world and making more with the world.
“We are today actively trying to forge partnerships. One of the indices of success has been the growing amount of foreign direct investments we have attracted,” the minister said.
He said India’s FDI of $86 billion last year was the largest in the world.
“The overall picture is one of great confidence at home – one of very significant achievements; but also, one where there is a great deal of ambition,” he said.
Commenting on India’s vision for the next 25 years, Jaishankar said it was important to show the generation of today that they have the capability of doing much bigger things on a much grander scale.
“It is also the rise of a civilisation state which will make its impact and which will also inspire others in different parts of the world to do something similar,” he said.
Speaking about the ties between India and South Africa, he said: “As we became independent and continued to support South Africa in its struggle against apartheid, the symbolism of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi took very deep root.
“There was a particular association that we had with Nelson Mandela as an inspirational figure and also as the leader of a people who were struggling to control their own future and to establish their own identity,” he said, adding the relations in these three decades “have flowered in every conceivable sense”.
He said the two countries today have a trade of about $18 billion.
The cooperation between the two countries in myriad fields such as international issues at various forums, cricket, cheetah reintroduction in India, and Covid vaccines was also highlighted in the minister’s address.
“When I look around the world at close to about 200 countries and say who are our closest friends, I think this country very naturally comes to mind and that is something that is reflected in a lot of what we see.”
Commenting on the vision for the India-S Africa relationship beyond the 30 years that it will celebrate in November, Jaishankar said India looked to a world of greater mobility and greater knowledge exchange.
Reacting to a comment about the difficulty of securing visas for visits to South Africa, Jaishankar said India has an e-visa system for South African applicants that worked well and swiftly.
“(But) we have not seen the counterpart arrangement (by South Africa). I understand for example that there are challenges with intra-company transferees or family members journeying. I am very cognizant of it. I have mentioned it to my colleague and I hope that in the coming months, the Joint Committee that undertakes government-to-government interaction would be looking into it,” the minister said.