India to woo diaspora in Asean at conference in Singapore over the weekend

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (above) will be among the top government leaders scheduled to be present at the Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (above) will be among the top government leaders scheduled to be present at the Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - India will mark the contribution of the Indian diaspora in South-east East Asia with a two-day conference in Singapore, starting Saturday (Jan 6).

Called the Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the meeting will be attended by top Singapore and Indian leaders as well as dozens of leading Indian businessmen and about 2,500 participants from across the world.

The government leaders scheduled to be present include Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Bealakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran as well as India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the confederation of Indian industry, is among the top names in business that is coming for the conference, which is held annually since 2010.

India has one of the world's largest diaspora with more than 25 million people living in such far-flung nations as the United States and Canada, as well as nearby countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

This year's edition is called Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas as it coincides with the 25th anniversary of their dialogue partnership, which will be marked by a commemorative summit on Jan 25.

Among the host of activities is the inaugural InSpreneur (India-Singapore/Asean Entrepreneurship Bridge), which will focus on start-ups, cyber security and disruptive technologies in manufacturing.

"We expect Indian start-ups to tap into Singapore's investor community, develop links with the start-ups in Singapore and also expand into the Asean market,'' said India's high commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf.

"Equally, the other objective is to support our efforts to promote India as a global destination for start-ups and fintech companies, and attract Singapore's excellent start-up community to India,'' he added.

The theme of the conference, to be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, is "Ancient Route, New Journey: Diaspora in the Dynamic Asean-India Partnership''.

The aim is to highlight "the ancient human, maritime, cultural, commercial and religious links between India and Southeast Asia'', said Mr Ashraf.

It is also "to promote greater economic, cultural and diplomatic cooperation between India and Southeast Asia", he added.

Ties between Asean and India have been growing and Singapore, the current chair of the regional grouping, has been an early champion of deepening ties with India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of his Act East foreign policy, has invited Asean leaders as chief guests at India's annual Republic Day parade on Jan 26, which will showcase its military prowess and cultural diversity.

Said the director of global think tank Carnegie India, Mr C. Raja Mohan, a speaker at this weekend's event: "Inviting the Asean leaders demonstrates his commitment to deepen ties with the regional grouping.''

Another speaker in the line-up is associate editor Ravi Velloor of The Straits Times.

Other activities at the event include a writer's festival featuring Singaporean writers like Ms Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, and a cinema festival, an art exhibition, a photo exhibition on two millennia of India-South-east Asia links as well as ayurveda and yoga workshops.