Patil meets members of Indian community in Mauritius

"Nearly 200 years ago, your ancestors braved the ocean to arrive at a land unknown to all of them, a land which was inhospitable and ruled by foreign colonial forces. They moved ahead with determination, with an indomitable spirit which could not be crushed, and were able to surmount every obstacle to create what Mauritius is today," the President told the gathering at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture here.

She cited a couplet written by renowned poet from Mauritius, Vishwamitra Ganga Aashutosh: "No gold did they find, Underneath any stone they touched and turned, Yet, every stone they touched, into solid gold they turned."

Patil cited the couplet to drive home the point to the audience that that the Indian Government recognises "the remarkable contribution that the people who trace their origin to India have made in their countries of adoption."

"I pay homage to each and every one of them, whose work guided Mauritius onward with the purpose and objective of providing for its children and grand children," Patil, who is on a five-day State Visit to Mauritius, said.

"An old African proverb says a friend is someone you share the path with. This sentiment appropriates our centuries-old traditional and time-tested relations. Ours is not only a bond of friendship it is also a relationship of kinship," she said.

Patil said during her meetings with leaders and dignitaries in the island country over the last two days, the two countries have once again determined to move towards strengthening cooperation in new areas of this "dynamic and multifaceted partnership."

"I am confident that my visit will provide additional impetus and momentum, towards expanding the scope of our dynamic and ever expanding bilateral co-operation.

"I am certain that my compatriots in Mauritius will be true Ambassadors of India, and pursue excellence in whatever field they choose to, and be a source of pride for India and benefit to Mauritius," Patil said.

The President said it was a privilege for her to confer the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award on Mauritius Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam in January 2008. President of Mauritius, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, has also been recipient of the honour in the recent past.

Patil said various initiatives have been undertaken by the Indian government for the benefit of its diaspora, the most significant being the right to vote.

"We have provided for Non-Resident Indians to vote, and in the recent elections to five states in India, they voted when present in their electoral constituency," she said.

Plans are afoot to work out a mechanism to have a single card merging the PIO Card and the OCI Card in an Overseas Citizen of India Card, the President added. President Patil also congratulated the Indian community on India's win in the Cricket World Cup.

Earlier, President Patil unveiled the bust of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the Centre. Mauritius Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam was present at the occasion.

"Ms Gandhi always had special and warm feelings towards Mauritius and its people. Her every visit to Mauritius was not only productive, but full of memories of the beauty of the country, and the warmth accorded to her by the people of Mauritius," she said in her address.

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