Edison, New Jersey: The Indian community in the tristate area accorded a ceremonial welcome to India’s new Ambassador Navtej Singh Sarna under the leadership of the Federation of Indian Associations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (FIA) at the Royal Albert’s Palace on January 12.
In his speech Sarna thanked the community for putting together a nice event in his honor.
Sarna, who served in the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, 14 years ago, noted the tremendous changes that happened in his absence. He pointed out the changes and improvement in the Indo-US engagement. There were political changes, like the changes in the prime ministerial level. There were changes in security engagement too. “But the biggest change is the strength and standing the Indian community has acquired. The community has come of age.”
“Indians are three million in America which is only one percent of the US population. Yet 13 percent of all start ups are set up by the Indians, 50 percent of all hotel business is controlled by them and 8 percent of all doctors in the US is of Indian origin.
“It means all of you carry a weight much bigger than what your number of 3 million would have given. Wherever I go I see Indian elected officials in the local level or county level or state level,” Sarna said.
He argued that the Fabulous Five people of Indian origin in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives has shown the growing political clout of the community.
Sarna said he looks at the community’s work from three angles. “The diaspora is constantly engaged with the adopted country,” he said. “At the same time they (its members) continue their engagements with the motherland. The third thing I noticed is the passion to bring the two together.”
Going by these standards the Indian community is a huge success, he said.
The ambassador pointed out that travel to India used to be hard 15 or so years ago when he was in the U.S.
He said that is “no more the same, thanks to Air India,” and added that “technology has helped the engagement with India. On TV we see instantly what happens in India.
He said things have changed in India, too.
“It is not the same India when you had left. Opportunities are many, which you did not see during your time there,” Sarna said. “I know you all have invested in India in one way or the other. The Indian community here is a knowledge-based community. Our strength is our knowledge.”
He pointed out that the US is moving to a new administration soon and said US-India relations are very robust and that everyone knows the strength of this relationship.
He said, “We are all proud of the way India is moving forward, keeping its many freedoms, preserving unity in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society and the way the parliament functions.”
New York Consul General Riva Ganguly Das also spoke on the occasion.
New Jersey State house member Rep Raj Mukherji presented a proclamation in honor of FIA. He said it was a proud day for the community in New Jersey when Gurbir Singh Grewal was sworn in as the prosecutor of Bergen County, the most populous county in the state.
Mukherji also lamented the apathy of the community to register as voters and go to vote. He said there are about 400,000 Indians in the state, but only very few are registered as voters. In his District in Jersey City, there are 30,000 Indians, comprising 15 percent of the population. Yet only 4,500 people are registered as voters and only 1,700 actually voted. He called for a change in the situation.
New York based artist Manoj Vyas presented Sarna with a portrait he had made of the ambassador.
At the start of the event FIA President Andy Bhatia greeted the ambassador and the community. Former president of FIA Ankur Vaidya was the emcee. Suchita Patel and Gurmail Singh Parmar, president of the Garden State Sikh Association presented flowers to the ambassador.
Ramesh Patel, chairman of FIA, welcomed the Ambassador. He said there is only one ambassador of India, while all in the community are also ambassadors in an informal way.
Vandana Sharma, regional manger of Air India noted that they are trying to make more gateways to India.
Anil Bansal, president of the First National Corp and V-Splash, spoke about his career background and support for FIA. He also spoke of the need to bring the two countries together.
Dr Ajay Lodha, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, spoke about the recent health summit held in India.
Albert Jasani, of Royal Albert’s Palace, Philippose Philip, general secretary of Federation of Kerala Associations in North America (fokana) Kenny Desai, president TAK Group and vice chair of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Srujal Parekh, executive vice president of FIA, Dr Sanjay Gupta, Pyare Singh of the Carteret Gurdwara, Neal Modi, president of the Association of Indians in America, and Anil Monga, founder of heavenly Palace in Punjab and trustee of America India Foundation were among the speakers.
FIA President Andy Bhatia introduced HR Shah, chairman of TV Asia and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Shah spoke about the many faceted personality of the ambassador – as a diplomat who served in UK and Israel and also as a renowned author.
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