India's spirit is unity amidst immense diversity, says Swaraj

New Delhi, Feb 11 : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that India's spirit is unity amidst the immense diversity and traditions of non-violence and tolerance.

"What is this spirit of India? I believe it is our unity amidst the immense diversity of India, it is our traditions of non-violence and tolerance. It is the age old concepts of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is a family) and Sarva dharma sambhav (equal respect for all faiths)," said Swaraj.

"It is adherence to these ideas and ideals which has made India the oldest continuous civilization in the world, with a history going back five thousand years. Most of the old civilizations of the world are dead and gone, but India has continued to maintain, developed and enrich its cultural heritage," she added.

Swaraj said the spirit of India has travelled across the formidable mountains in the north and the deep seas enveloping the peninsula of east, south and west India, since times immemorial.

"The imprint of the long journeys of our ancestors, monks, teachers and sages, carrying with them our language, ethos, beliefs, values and culture can be seen even today on the Eurasian landmass stretching up to Japan. These journeys were arduous and strenuous but the imprint that was left behind has survived the vagaries of time, often as living traditions," said Swaraj.

"Languages and names with roots in Sanskrit, the world's largest temple complex in Angkor Vat, Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries spread across South-east Asia, the various Ramayana traditions in many countries are just some examples of how enduring has been our engagement and interface with this vast region," she added.

The External Affairs Minister pointed out that today there is hardly any country where the sons and daughters of India do not live and in which they have not made a name for themselves.

"This journey, which began with the indentured labour, is a saga of supreme courage, unbending will, unwavering belief in their faith, culture and traditions and triumph against all odds. It can be seen in the progress made by the Indians in South Africa who survived the horrors of apartheid to become the most prosperous community in the Rainbow Nation," she said.

Swaraj, who inaugurated the international conference on "Indian Diaspora and Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future" here, further said the Indian diaspora retained its language, its dress, its ceremonies and traditions.

"It celebrated the same festivals that it did in India, sang the same songs, played the same music - in short, it retained its essential Indianness even as it adapted to the local milieu. That is why the air in many countries is filled with the aromas of havans and echoes with the sweet and invigorating sound of hymns from the Vedas. Today the Bharatanatyam danced in Chennai can also be seen in Calgary. Bhojpuri songs from Siwan are sung with equal gusto in Suriname," said Swaraj.

"And Indian curry, of course, has spread to all corners of the world. Circumstances and destiny may have taken Indians out of India, but nothing could take India out of these Indians," she added.

Swaraj said India truly values its linkages with its diaspora just as the diaspora has maintained its links with India.

"To pay tribute to the journey of India's indentured labourers, to honour their pioneering spirit, resilience, endurance, and preservation of sense of origin, traditions and culture, the Government of India installed a memorial in Kolkata in January 2011. Recently, we have commissioned to build a monument dedicated to the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in Guyana," said Swaraj.

"Only last month we organised the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Gandhinagar, marking the 100th year of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa," she added.

The External Affairs Minister said the Indian diaspora, comprising over 25 million people, has emerged as an important and unique force, making a positive difference in all fields of human endeavour, from economics to politics.

"We hold our heads high when members of the diaspora are appreciated, honoured, respected and recognised for their outstanding contribution in their respective countries of residence. The success and prosperity of the diaspora is our asset, as much as a strong and a self-reliant India is to the diaspora," said Swaraj.

"We are determined to work closely with the diaspora for mutual benefit. The Prime Minister of India has welcomed entrepreneurs, investors and professionals from the diaspora to take part in the India growth story," she added. (ANI)