Hailing the time-tested civilizational ties between India and South East Asia, the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said the year 2018 was the Year of Milestones for India and ASEAN marching on the path of growth and partnership.
"We are here to reaffirm our commitment, redouble our efforts to shape the course of our journey ahead into the future of India, ASEAN. This is a time of milestones... now we will count the milestones, which are those milestones that are going to be achieved this year. This year is The Year of Milestones," Swaraj said in her opening address at ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore today.
"I visited this region many times. Each time I visited, I am struck by the depth of interconnected histories and even more by our interlinked future. In more than 2000 years India and South East Asia have engaged and enriched each other in every walk of life," she said.
"On January 26, India will have the honour to host the leaders of 10 ASEAN nations as the guests of honour on our Republic Day. This is not [just] the symbol of value we attach to our partnership with ASEAN, this is also an affirmation of common destiny of two billion people of India and South East Asia," the minister said.
The Indian foreign minister noted that as a chair of ASEAN, Singapore has been at the crossroads of this region's history which is now "the springboard of South East Asia's march to the future."
"In this great nation, the currents of commerce and culture have conversed and dreams have become realities," she said.
"Singapore has also been a political, economic and intellectual bridge between India and ASEAN. It is now one of the major strategic partners in the gateway to the East. Not just Singapore, but the whole ASEAN in is on the rise, in partnership with each other and rest of the world," she added.
Turning attention to the diaspora in the audience, Swaraj said, "I have interacted with so many of you in social media. It is a pleasure to be with you in person."
"We take delight in your accomplishments... we are proud of your commitment and contribution to the progress of your countries. We deeply value your role in nurturing the ties between India and South East Asia. All these trends come together in this ASEAN-India Pravasi Bhartiya Divas today. This is an event that certainly keeps our diaspora at the centre [while] our objectives are broader," she said.
Switching to Hindi amid loud cheers and applause, Sushma said,"Main aaye hue diaspora ka puneh hridye se swagat karti hoon(I welcome the attending diaspora once again from the bottom of my heart)."
Pointing out that many among the audience knew only English, Swaraj promised to speak only in Hindi on meeting with diaspora later in the day,"Kewal Hindi, only Hindi, I will speak only in Hindi when I meet you all at the Gala Dinner later today," she said.