Speech by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi To the Indian Community in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, 22 November 2015)
My dear friends, brothers and sisters
Ungalil palar tamilnattai sernthavargal.
Many of you are from Tamil Nadu..
Ungal anaivarukkum vanakkam. Vanakkam to all of you
Indiavin valarchiyil Tamilnattin pangu mukkiam.
Tamil Nadu's role in India's growth is important.
I am delighted to visit Malaysia. And, to be with you, here in this huge arena is a true pleasure.
For me, India is not confined to its territory. India also exists in every Indian in every part of the world. India is in you.
As I stand before you, I am reminded of the words of the great Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar:
“Friendship is not just a smile on the face. It is what is felt deep within a smiling heart.”
Mahatma Gandhi had once said that he wanted to learn Tamil to study Thiruvalluvar's Thirukurral in its original form, as there was no one who had given such treasures of wisdom as he had.
The saint’s words on friendship capture the feeling that I get each time I come to Malaysia.
It does not matter, whether I came here without office or I come now as a Prime Minister of India.
I have felt the same embrace of friendship and welcome. The love and friendship of the Malaya-Indians has always had a special place in my heart.
Generations ago, many of your ancestors came to an unknown land.
Many of you came here more recently in the mobility of our globalised world.
Whenever you came here, whatever be the circumstance in which you came, time or distance has not reduced your love for India.
I see this in the light and colour of the festivals. They are as bright as they have always been.
I see this in the pure strains of music, the grace of the dancer, the bells of devotion and the call to prayer.
And, Malaya-Indians are the largest contingent to the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in India.
And, Malay Indians make Vibrant Gujarat Summit more vibrant.
India and Malaysia were once under the same colonial power. We both became free within a decade of each other.
And, Independent India owes a debt of gratitude to Malaya-Indians. The glory of India's freedom struggle was written, in part, by the struggles and sacrifices of Malaya-Indians.
Thousands of your forefathers came forward to join Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. Women poured out in large numbers from the comfort of their homes to march shoulder to shoulder with Netaji Subhash Bose.
Today I pay special tribute to Puan Sri Capt. Janaky Athi Nahappan, who served as deputy to Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal. That was in the regiment named after yet another icon of India's war of Independence, Rani of Jhansi.
On behalf of every Indian, I also honour all the unnamed and unknown Malaya-Indians, who laid down their lives so that a free India could rise.
To their children and grand-children, I say a big thank you.
And, here in Kuala Lumpur, we will name our Indian Cultural Centre after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
70 years ago a tragic and deadly World War came to an end.
I also pay homage to the countless Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the battle fields of Malaysia. A majority of those who laid down their lives were Sikhs.
Their blood is permanently mixed with the soil of Malaysia. It was a war that mattered for both our countries. And, their blood in the Malaysian soil now forms a bond between our two countries that can never be erased.
And, the valour and duty they stood for is alive in the spirit of the Punjab Regiment, the Sikh Regiment, the Jat Regiment and the Dogra Regiment in India.
We are prepared to work with the Government of Malaysia to build a War Memorial to our fallen soldiers at the site of Battle of Kampar in Perak.
Brothers and sisters,
While Malaya-Indians were responding with courage and passion to the call of Netaji, they were also inspired by the life and mission of Mahatma Gandhi.
To the Indian community in Sungai Petani, I salute you for the Gandhi Memorial Hall that you built within a few years of his martyrdom.
You had not met him. Gandhiji did not manage to visit Malaysia. But, he touched your hearts.
And, as a community you came together to build that memorial on your own: To honour his memory: in respect for his principles; in a tribute to what he had done for Mother India and mankind.
There are few things that can be as moving as this: a homage in silence, expressed in action, and built into a living memorial.
And it is my proud privilege to announce that we will install a Bust of Gandhiji at the Gandhi Memorial Hall.
Your spirit of service remains strong. And, in 2001, when the earthquake hit my state of Gujarat, Malay Indians came together on their own to raise funds to help victims reclaim life.
From your moving contribution to the freedom struggle to the thriving richness of your culture, India lives in your heart.
You always have a special place in our thoughts.
My dear brothers and sisters,
The spirit of India speaks in your deeds.
You reflect India’s diversity of languages, religions and cultures. And, you stand together in a spirit of harmony. Not just with other Malay Indians, but also with all Malay people.
Your achievements have done us proud. You have toiled with your hands. With pride and dignity, you made your life here.
And, with every generation, you have achieved more success in politics, public life, government and professional services.
You prosper in trade and you make the plantation produce more.
You have contributed to build Malaysia into a vibrant modern nation and an economic power house.
And, you are helping relations between India and Malaysia become stronger and stronger.
I see this in the work of Dr. Subramaniam, Malaysia’s Cabinet Minister for Health. It is right that a Malay Indian holds this post, since Malay Indians love to become doctors!
And I am pleased that a distinguished Malay Indian, Datu Samy Vellu, is Malaysia’s special Envoy for Cooperation in Infrastructure between India and South Asia.
My dear brothers and sisters,
You are the living bonds of friendship between our two nations.
You reflect a link between India and Malaysia that is ancient as our lands.
From the coast of Coromandal and Kalinga, the ocean carried trade, commerce and culture to the Malaya Peninsula.
If there is trade, Gujarat cannot be far behind. So, Gujaratis also joined the trade.
In the ruins of the Bujang valley in the State of Kedah, we see the glory of the great Pallava and Chola dynasties in Tamil Nadu.
And the spice route that connected us brought the same flavours to our food.
Our ties are seen in the footprints of the monks, who spread the message of peace from the land of Buddha to the Southeast Asia.
This is the richness of our heritage. This is the ancient foundation of our modern links.
Today, I had the honour of visiting the Ramakrishna Mission and unveiling the statue of Swami Vivekananda.
This is not only a deeply spiritual moment for me personally. It also recalls the great journey he undertook more than a century ago, through this region to America.
There he drew upon India's ancient wisdom to make a passionate call for unity in the world. He spoke for Asian spirit that is needed today when we dream of an Asian century.
And at a time of great challenges in the world, this statue on the soil of Malaysia is a reminder to the world of the values we so deeply need to repair the fault-lines that are tearing our societies apart.
And, tomorrow Prime Minister Najib and I will jointly inaugurate the Torana Gate at Little India in Brickfields.
This is a gift from India and it looks like the gate at the famous Sanchi Stupa in India. That was built more than two thousand years ago. It is one of the most venerated Buddhist sites in the world.
So, any visitor coming to Little India will be reminded of the message of peace between people; harmony between man and nature; and the relationship between the people of our two great countries.
Above all, the statue and the gate will be a tribute to Malaysia's diversity and harmony.
My dear brothers and sisters,
Malaysia's achievements are enormous. Just six decades after Malaysia gained independence, this nation of 30 million people has much to be proud of.
It has nearly eliminated poverty. It has placed basic needs within the reach of its entire population. It has achieved nearly 100 percent literacy. And, it is providing jobs to everyone who needs it or wants it.
Its tourism sector is flourishing. And, it has preserved its beautiful gifts of Nature.
Its infrastructure is world class. It ranks very high on the "ease of doing business". And, for five decades, it has averaged a growth rate of over 6 per cent per year.
And this is a truly extraordinary achievement for any country.
One of the famous tourism slogans of Malaysia is – "Malaysia, Truly Asia".
Malaysia truly lives up to that image: living in harmony across diversity; blending tradition with modernity; innovation and hard work; and, pursuit of peace in the region.
India, the land of your heritage, has remarkable achievements since Independence.
This was a nation made weaker by colonialism; torn by Partition at its birth as Independent country.
It is a land of unparalleled diversity and vast social and political challenges.
There were questions whether the infant nation will even reach its teen years. There were somewho did not want it to.
Today, India is not just united, but draws strength from its diversity.
There are many countries, where the high hopes of democracy at birth have faded along the way.
India is a proud democratic nation, of 1.25 billion people, who have a chance to exercise their franchise.
It is a young country, with 800 million youth under the age of 35 years.
It is nation, where every citizen belongs; where everyone has equal rights that the constitution guarantees, the courts protect and the government defends.
We have many achievements to our credit. We are a leading producer of food grain, fruits, vegetables and milk.
Our scientists are harnessing the power of Space to improve the quality of life of our people.
We have mastered the boundless power of the atom for energy and medicine.
We are developing vaccines and drugs that puts healthcare within the reach of the poorest.
We produce the best information technology specialists in the world.
We produce doctors and engineers who serve the world.
And, we are making products that are finding their way into the global market.
Our external relations advances peace in the world.
The Indian Armed Forces contribute to region’s security and stability. They assist all in humanitarian disasters, without asking their nationality.
And, our forces participate in peacekeeping missions around the world.
We have generations of our leaders to thank for bringing us this far.
But, we know that we have a long way to go. The challenges we face and the goals we must pursue, are evident in villages and cities.
And, my government has come into office to change that:
We are eradicating poverty, by giving our people the fruits of modern economy, such as universal access to banks and insurance; not just tie them down in endless programmes.
Where in the world will 190 million bank accounts be opened in a few months?
We are empowering them with skills and education.
We are creating an environment in which enterprise flourishes and people have opportunities to raise their income levels.
We are creating infrastructure that gives people their basic needs of roof, water, sanitation, electricity, schools, and medical help within the reach and means.
We are facilitating business. And, we are creating a national digital infrastructure that allows ideas, information, communication, business and innovation to flow freely on the cyber space.
We are making our railways the engine of a new economic revolution in the country. And, we are turning our ports and airports into gateways to prosperity.
And, we have pledged to make our cities clean and healthy; restore our rivers; and transform our villages.
And, we will preserve the treasures of Nature for the tourists to enjoy and our future generations to see.
And, all this is not easy. After all, we are talking of 1.25 billion people, more than 500 major cities and six hundred thousand villages.
But, we have faith in the talent and enterprise of Indians. We have confidence in the strength of the joined hands of our people.
So, it is happening. The wheels of change have begun to move. And, they are gathering speed now.
And, it is showing in numbers.
India is today the fastest growing major economy in the world. I know you feel proud about it.
We are running at 7.5% per year, but will grow even faster in the coming years.
Every major global institution has placed its bets on India growing strongly. This is at a time when the rest of the world, including parts of this region, is experiencing a slowdown.
There is change in the cities. There is momentum in the villages. And, there is confidence in our citizens, especially our youth.
And, there is change in the way government is working.
We are making government transparent and accountable. We are eliminating corruption at all levels. We are making governance driven by policies and systems, not by discretion of individuals.
We are changing the way government and citizens interact with each other. And, Central and State Governments work with each other.
States compete with each other now. That is healthy.
My dear friends,
We live in an inter-dependent world. What happens in a far off country can affect the livelihood of workers in another place.
The decision that may be taken in a conference roomin the UN or WTO can affect the life of a farmer in a village in India.
The lifestyle in one part of the world affects climate and agriculture in another part of the world.
We need each other's markets and resources.
So, our national progress will depend on the strength and success of our international partnerships.
We don’t have to look far to find friends and partners.
Southeast Asia is our neighbour on land and sea. This is one of the most dynamic and peaceful regions of the world. This is a region of culture, talent, enterprise and hard work.
India has excellent relations with all Southeast Asian countries.
We have a strong partnership with ASEAN. I have just completed the India-ASEAN Summit.
This is the region, where our economic relations are growing rapidly. And, it attracts the maximum number of Indian tourists.
I am happy to say that Malaysia is one of our strongest partners and among our closest friends in the region.
Malaysian companies are excellent in infrastructure. Their largest presence outside Malaysia is in India.
Malaysian investors are present in the world’s second largest telecom market – that is India.
Indian company, IRCON, is helping improve the rail infrastructure in Malaysia.
There are over 150 Indian companies in Malaysia. There are over 50 Indian IT companies here.
Malaysia is one of our biggest trading partners in ASEAN, but we need to raise it further.
India is one of the biggest sources of tourists in Malaysia. And, 170 flights connect India and Malaysia every week.
One of our best partnerships in traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda and Unani, is with Malaysia.
We also work closely to keep our citizens safe.
We have strong defence relations. Indian Air Force helped train their partners in Malaysian Air Force for two years. We exercise together in air and on land and sea Jal thal aur nabh.
Our security agencies work together against terrorism. I want to thank Malaysian Government for our strong security cooperation.
Terrorism is the biggest threat to the world today. It knows no boundary. It uses the name of religion to draw people to its cause. But, it is false.
And, it kills people of all faith. We have to delink religion from terror.
The only distinction is between those who believe in humanity and those who do not.
I have said it before and I will say it here. The world must come together to combat the biggest challenge of our times.
We can strengthen intelligence cooperation. We can use military force. We can make the international legal system for cooperation stronger.
But, when I say that the world must come together, it is not just about more security cooperation.
It also means ensuring that no country uses or promotes terrorism. There are no sanctuaries. There are no funds. There are no arms.
But, we also have to work within our societies and with our youth. We need the support of parents, communities and religions scholars. And, we have to make sure that internet does not become a recruiting ground..
We have to promote peaceful relations, mutual understanding and cooperation in our region. Peace is the only foundation for a prosperous future.
We have many common interests and challenges. So, all nations in the region, big and small, should work together to ensure that our nations remain safe, our seas secure and free for commerce, and our economies prosperous.
I will meet His Excellency, Prime Minister Najib tomorrow to take our relationship forward.
India and Malaysia have much to benefit from a closer relationship.
Whatever we choose to do, you will be a part of it.
You will breathe more life and strength into relations between India and Malaysia.
We will always seek your partnership in India's march to progress and in taking this special relationship forward.
But, what we value even more, is the love and affection that binds us together. For, this is priceless and beyond any measure of value.
You have remained connected with us despite the difficulties of distances and regulations. You are the window to our heritage and the mirror to our progress.
You are the bridge between India and your country.
You support families and communities in India. Many of you help a child find her way to a school and a mother access to healthcare.
You do this without seeking an award or getting a headline. So we must do what we can for you.
We have merged the OCI and PIO cards and we have made the visas life-long. Besides, Indian origin up to 4th generation is enough to register for OCI now. This is especially helpful for people like Malay Indians, whose ancestors came here generations ago.
Minor children, who are foreign nationals, and foreign spouses can also get OCI status now.
We have introduced e-visa that has made travel simpler.
Here, in Malaysia, we have opened nine visa collection centres. There is an eMigrate portal to make it easier and safer for workers to go to certain countries. It also alerts officials about foreign employers with cases pending against them.
We have an Indian Community Welfare Fund and a fund to help distressed Indian women abroad.
There are times when workers from India get into difficulties here. Their welfare and security are at the top of our concerns.
Last year, we assisted more than 8000 Indian workers to return home safely.
In Malaysia an India-students Trust Fund was set up in 1954 to give financial assistance to Malaysian-Indian children who lacked the means for education.
This Fund is still needed by a section of the Indian community in Malaysia. We are happy to announce grant of about 1 million US dollars in additional funds to the corpus of the Trust Fund.
Thousands of your children go to India to become doctors. While doctors are a critical need for our societies, I hope that you will take the opportunity to get education in other areas as well.
Malaysia and India should immediately recognize the degrees conferred by both our countries. This is something I intend to take up with Prime Minister Najib.
In conclusion, let me say how proud we are of what you stand for, how you live in this society and what you have achieved. There are always challenges, but there are also dreams.
And each succeeding generation has been defined more by their successes than by their challenges.
So I ask you to continue to pursue your dreams for yourself, for Malaysia and for our two great nations.
I want to leave with you the words of a great son of India, a great symbol of humanity, who also came from the shores of Tamil Nadu.
The late former President APJ Abdul Kalam, one of the makers of modern India, came here in 2008.
He wanted to be here again with you, but God had other plans. But, his life, his message and his dreams remain forever a source of inspiration.
He said : "My message specially to the young people is
to have courage to think differently,
courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path,
courage to discover the impossible,
and to conquer the problems and succeed.
So in your success, remember that you will have the joy and pride, not just of fellow Malaysians, but also of the 1.25 billion Indians.
God bless you. Thank you.