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'A brave attempt on the part of India'

January 09, 2003 17:19 IST

The three-day convention of more than 1,000 delegates from 52 countries began on Thursday, albeit about half-an-hour late.

Among them were more than 200 special guests and invitees, seated in the front. They represented the brightest and the most powerful Persons of Indian Origin across the globe. Present among them were Sam Pitroda from Chicago and Lord R K Bagri from London.

Also present were some of India's top bureaucrats such as Foreign Secretary Kanwar Sibal and Cabinet Secretary Kamal Pande.

Just before the function began, Sibal told, "How many countries in the world have footprints all over the world? This huge human resource can play an important role in India's development and put our stand across to the global community. For the first time in 55 years, India has put its act together and recognised the Indian Diaspora."

Lord Bagri, a prominent businessman in the United Kingdom, told, "This is indeed a brave attempt on the part of India. We can certainly initiate something concrete today."

Most delegates -- whether it was Nitin Doshi from Singapore or Pradeep Kumar Sircar from Yangon, Myanmar -- believed, "[The function] is something different."

And everyone present had a story to tell or message to deliver.


Like Pervinder Singh Chandhok from Iran who told "I am very inspired by this event and touched by Prime Minister [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee's speech. Every word of his touched my heart. Iran's President Khatmi is coming to India to attend the January 26 Republic Day parade and I want Indians to welcome him with open arms."


added, "The people of India should support Iran as much as possible because Iran could be our great ally in our fight against Pakistan. Already, Iran enjoys a $200 million credit line from India and our trade will touch $1 billion soon."

Lord Bagri said, "Most of the past attempts were individual attempt with a self-interest, but this is a neutral attempt and a real big show."


Nitin Doshi, a commodity merchant from Singapore, said, "Today's function was for our hearts. Tomorrow in the business debates, let us see what Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and [Deputy Prime Minister L K] Advani have to say. The declaration  of granting dual citizenship by the prime minister was welcomed by the audience. But it is just an emotional matter. It makes no difference in real life whether you have a PIO card or dual citizenship."

Despite a galaxy of eminent persons from foreign shores, the stars of the day were sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar and shenai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan, both of whom have been given India's highest award, the Bharat Ratna.

The duo performed for the first time every, playing Raag Bhairavi, which mesmerised the audience and had the latter rooting for more. "Ustad saab ne to aaj kamal kar di. (Ustad played amazingly well today)," Pandit Ravi Shankar told "I always admired him and it is just the coincidence that we never played together before."

Their concert went on for 10 minutes longer than the stipulated period, but few complained. "Dil chahta tha bajate rahen." (The heart desired to keep on playing)," Shankar said.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, who hosted the event, said, "This historic jugalbandi (dual concert) and heavenly music could have continued forever and no one would have minded it."


Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi