2015 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
he Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi lighting the lamp at the inauguration of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on January 08, 2015. The Union Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Smt. Anandiben Patel and other dignitaries are also seen.PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the world was looking at India with "immense hope and optimism" and he firmly believed the 25-million strong Indian diaspora was a big strength.

India can make a global impact by reaching out to them, Modi said at the inauguration of the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the world's largest annual gathering of people of Indian origin. 

Modi also said that he had fulfilled his promise to the diaspora of merging the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards.

"I can say with pride that what I have promised I have done," he said on the merger of the two cards and granting of lifelong visas to the holders. His statement ignited loud cheers at the Mahatma Mandir convention venue.

He called upon the Indian diaspora to unite as a positive global force.

Modi recalled that exactly 100 years ago, a Non-Resident Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, returned to India to serve the people. Today, he said, he was welcoming NRIs from across the world as a Non-Resident Gujarati.

The event is being held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat from 7 to 9 January to mark the centenary of the return to the country of India's "sarva sreshtha pravasi Bharatiya" or foremost Indian diaspora member, Mahatma Gandhi, from South Africa.

The prime minister said NRIs are present in more than 200 countries.

"India is global because of you," he told the gathering. He said Indians had travelled in the past around the world in search of opportunities or to gain knowledge and exposure.

"Today, opportunities beckon you in India," he said.

He said the world was looking at India with hope and optimism and times were changing quickly. India, he said, was rising with great strength.

Modi called upon NRIs to forge and take pride in a common identity and heritage, and to use this strength collectively.

He said he had met representatives of 50 countries since assuming office in May last year, and he could say with confidence that all nations today feel that their goals can be met in partnership with India.

This, he said, was a rare opportunity and it was now upto everyone to use this opportunity for India's benefit.

Modi mentioned the support of 177 of the 193 nations to India's resolution at the UN on declaring an International Day of Yoga.

He urged the diaspora to contribute to India's success in any way possible.

The prime minister mentioned the project to clean river Ganga and make it a source of economic empowerment for 40 percent of India's population. He said he was sure all NRIs would be inspired to contribute to this cause.

Earlier, Modi welcomed Guyana President Donald Ramotar, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Mauritius Vice Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun who were on the dais with him.

He recalled how festivals like Holi and Diwali were celebrated in Guyana. He said 8 January also happened to be the founding day of the African National Congress.

Modi said Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary was observed in Mauritius with greater vigour than even in India.

A PBD Kendra is coming up in New Delhi and would be inaugurated soon, he said.

Modi proposed an online quiz competition for the diaspora youth on the subject "Bharat Ko Jano" (Know India).