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The Rediff Special/Mahendra Choudhry
'We need India and India needs us'
January 08, 2003
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas would be an exercise in futility if we are unable to build bonds of solidarity between India and the Diaspora.
The whole event should have a specific focus and direction. If you look at the programme, too many things have been packed into two-and-a-half days. It would seem many matters may be discussed, but nothing shows the recommendations or decisions that will be put to the Government of India and to representatives of the Diaspora will lead to any concrete action.
While I applaud the idea, there is a real danger of this event being just a great gala event without producing tangible benefit to the Diaspora.
An event like this should bond the Indian Diaspora together. There should be solidarity. We come from diverse backgrounds though we have a common heritage. We come from different countries, our needs and expectations may not be the same. It differs in different countries according to the situation. A mechanism should be worked out for consultations between the Diaspora and the Government of India on issues of concern. This will help so that specific measures can be taken to address those issues of concern.
Politically, we would have liked the Government of India to take a more proactive stance in helping in our struggle in Fiji. India has great political clout and leverage in the United Nations, Commonwealth. It can exert its influence in assisting to find a resolution to the problem in Fiji. India should take an initiative to do. So far, such an initiative is lacking.
The big agenda in this conference is trade between India and countries being represented by Persons of Indian Origin/Non Resident Indians, but in Fiji, trade is of least concern in the present situation. Fighting for our rights is our first priority.
Our struggle and our issues have been raised in different forums. I have raised this point consistently and will continue to do so.
We need India and India needs us. If India can't help us when we are down and out, then when will it help us? All talk about the Diaspora becomes useless when it cannot help us. We are seeing a violation of human rights in Fiji. We in Fiji are victims of racism. Human rights have no national borders, so [if India takes a firm stance] it will not be regarded as interference by India.
Mahendra Choudhry, former prime minister of Fiji, spoke to Archana Masih