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Business representatives from India and Sri Lanka,

Distinguished guests,

684-32 PM MODI AT Business Meeting hosted by Ceylon (3)

I am delighted to be here at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Thank you for coming here in such large numbers.

It is a real honour to visit Sri Lanka.

Over the course of these two days, I will meet people from all walks of life.

For me, this is one of the most important meetings in Sri Lanka.

This is because no matter how old and strong the relationship is, economic cooperation is often the locomotive that gives it momentum.

It is also important because for all of us in our region, the most important priority is transforming the lives of our people.

Our path will be determined by our economic choices and the quality of governance. But, business enterprises will remain critical for our success.

I often say that a nation`s fortunes are linked to its neighbourhood. There are many in India who would argue that India is too large to need her neighbours. There are many in our region who worry that India`s economic size will hurt them.

I disagree with both views.

For one, we all need a stable and peaceful neighbourhood to concentrate on national development.

I also believe that countries do better when the entire region moves together.

I said at the SAARC Summit that barriers of boundaries inhibit progress; international partnerships give it speed. That is why we see a rising tide of regional integration and cooperation across the world.

684-32 PM MODI AT Business Meeting hosted by Ceylon (2)

Our region is rich in resources. We constitute a large market. We complement each other. Therefore, our cooperation can be of huge benefit to all of us. There are already powerful examples in South Asia that show us that difference in size is no constraint to beneficial partnerships, if we use our strengths and seize our opportunities.

Bhutan benefits from hydropower exports to India. Nepal has significant manufacturing exports to India – in part driven by Indian investors. Infrastructure, energy, supply chains, traditional handicrafts, modern manufacturing, tourism and services – there are no limits to our possibilities.

I hardly need to tell this informed audience about the transformation unleashed in India over the past ten months. There is new purpose and clarity in our policies; a new vision for inclusive development; new standards in our governance; and, a new level of energy in our economy. Last quarter, India was the fastest growing global economy. We are confident that we can grow even faster.

The progress of one-sixth of humanity is a major economic opportunity for the world.

The global confidence in India has been restored. The world`s engagement with India is at a new level. But, the first claim on us should be that of India`s neighbours. And, I will be happy if India is a catalyst for economic growth in our own region. That is why I speak of a neighbourhood where trade, investment, ideas and people move easily across the borders.

And, as I said in Kathmandu, Nepal, in November, India will do its part for the region. We will work to integrate our markets more. We will make trade smoother and possible through the most direct routes. We will invest in regional connectivity. And, we will share our capabilities in science and technology with South Asia, from advanced medicines to disaster management or space science.

As a friend and neighbor, we attach the highest importance to Sri Lanka`s economic progress.

Sri Lanka is a nation of many achievements and great strengths. It has education, skills and enterprise. It has an excellent location. And, it has won peace now. Sri Lankan businesses have shown that they can compete with the best in the world. Our garments and tea industry know that!

We are pleased to be Sri Lanka`s largest trading partner and one its largest sources of investment. Our Free Trade Agreement in 2000 was a pioneering initiative in the region. It has given a big boost to our trade. Sri Lanka`s exports to India have grown sixteen times – yes, sixteen times – since then. This is impressive by any standards.

I know there are concerns here about the huge trade imbalance. I am prepared to work with you to address them. I want balanced growth in trade. We will try to make it easier and smoother for you to access the Indian market. That is part of my philosophy of ease of doing business in India. Our agreement on Customs cooperation is a step in that direction.

India is opening up to the world. We offer duty free access to Least Developed Countries, including in South Asia. And, India has Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN and others.

We should ensure that Sri Lanka does not fall behind in the changing and competitive world. That is why India and Sri Lanka should move boldly to conclude a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. You should also attract investments from India for exports to India. That should be the natural outcome of our proximity and your strengths.

Indian investments can also upgrade and expand your infrastructure. It is also natural that Indian investors are more likely to invest here because of familiarity and proximity. They are already here. And, I know that there are many large commitments in the pipeline. They are looking for your support.

During this visit, I am pleased with progress on Sampur Thermal Power Project and the Trincomalee Oil Farm. That is good for Sri Lanka`s energy security and for our partnership.

Sustainable development of the Ocean Economy can be a huge area for cooperation.

I also believe that when we connect the lives of people, we strengthen the bonds between nations. We have extended visa on arrival facility to Sri Lanka from April 14. We should do more to connect our countries by air and sea.

India and Sri Lanka were, in some ways, better connected in the past than we are now! In the past, a person could buy a rail ticket in Colombo and travel to Chennai by rail and ferry! Air India`s decision to launch direct flight between our capitals will help reverse that trend.

Tourism unites people and creates economic opportunities. India is already the biggest source of tourists here. We will work together to increase that flow.

684-32 PM MODI AT Business Meeting hosted by Ceylon (1)

In conclusion, let me return to the point I had made at the beginning. India`s progress gives us the ability to create opportunities for our neighbours. Our development partnership has injected commitments of 1.6 billion dollars in assistance from India. That has helped rebuild and upgrade infrastructure in Sri Lanka.

Today, we have offered another Line of Credit of about 318 million dollars for the railways sector. Reserve Bank of India has agreed to provide Central Bank of Sri Lanka a currency swap arrangement for 1.5 billion dollars. This will increase the stability of Sri Lankan Rupee.

It is not just in development partnership. We will also be supportive in advancing your commercial interests. I believe in Sri Lanka`s capabilities. We should engage more. We should open up to each other more.

We should move forward with greater belief in our own strengths; more trust in each other; and, with more confidence in the fruits of our partnership.

As I was saying before, Sri Lanka has the potential to be our most important economic partner in the region. We count on your support to make it happen.

Thank you and wish you all the best. Thank you very much.

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Baba Saheb Ambedkar was a person with universal vision: PM Modi
April 14, 2021
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Baba Saheb Ambedkar had a universal vision: PM Modi
Baba Saheb Ambedkar gave a strong foundation to independent India so the nation could move forward while strengthening its democratic heritage: PM
We have to give opportunities to the youth according to their potential. Our efforts towards this is the only tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar: PM

Namaskar!

Present with me in this programme, Gujarat Governor Acharya Shri Dev Vrat ji, the country’s Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank ji, Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani ji, Education Minister of Gujarat Shri Bhupendra Singh ji, Chairman of UGC Prof. D.P.Singh ji, Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ami Upadhyay ji, Association of Indian Universities President Prof. Taj Pratap ji, all dignitaries and friends.

Today when the country is celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence, the occasion of Babasaheb Ambedkar ji's birth anniversary also connects us with that great yagna and also with the inspiration of the future. On behalf of the grateful nation and all the countrymen, I pay my respectful homage to Babasaheb.

Friends,

During the freedom struggle, millions and millions of our freedom fighters dreamt of a harmonious and inclusive India. Babasaheb made the beginning in realizing those dreams in the form of the Constitution to the country. Today India is creating a new future and achieving new dimensions of success by following the same Constitution.

Friends,

Today, the 95th meeting of the Vice Chancellors of Association of Indian Universities is taking place on this auspicious day. Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University has announced the establishment of 'Babasaheb Samarasta Chair'. The four books written by Shri Kishore Makwana ji have also been released on Babasaheb's life, his thoughts and ideals. I congratulate all the dignitaries involved in these efforts.

Friends,

India has been the mother of democracy in the world. Democracy has been an integral part of our civilization and our way of life. Babasaheb laid a strong foundation to independent India so the nation could move forward while strengthening its democratic heritage. When we read and understand Babasaheb, we realize that he was a person of universal vision.

There is a clear vision of Babasaheb's philosophy in Shri Kishore Makwana ji's books. While one of his books introduces Babasaheb’s “Jeevan Darshan” (philosophy of life), the other focuses on “Vyakti Darshan” (individual philosophy). Similarly, the third book highlights Babasaheb's “Rashtra Darshan” (national philosophy), whereas the fourth book “Aayam Darshan” will introduce his philosophy of dimension to the countrymen.  These four philosophies are no less than modern scriptures in themselves.

I would like our new generation in colleges and universities to read more and more of such books. All these dimensions, whether it is the inclusive society, the concern for the rights of the Dalit-deprived society, the question of upliftment and contribution of women, or Babasaheb's vision on education and especially on higher education, will offer an opportunity to the youth of the country to understand Babasaheb.

Friends,

Doctor Ambedkar would say:

"My three revered deities are -- Knowledge, self-respect and politeness.” Self-respect comes with knowledge and makes a person aware of his or her rights. Through equal rights, social harmony emerges and the country progresses.

We are all familiar with Babasaheb's struggles of life. The position that Babasaheb reached after so many struggles is a great inspiration for all of us. Our education system and universities have this responsibility to carry the country forward on the path shown by Babasaheb Ambedkar. And when it is the issue of common goals and shared efforts as a nation, collective efforts become the means of accomplishment.

Therefore, I think the role of Association of Indian Universities becomes very important. AIU also has the legacy of scholars like Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan ji, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Smt. Hansa Mehta and Dr. Zakir Hussain.

Dr. Radhakrishnan ji would say: “The end-product of education should be a free creative man, who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature”.

It implies that education should be such which should liberate the person, so that he can think openly, and make something new with a new thinking. He believed that we should develop our education management as a unit of the entire world. But at the same time, he emphasized the Indian character of education. This becomes even more important in the global scenario today.

Here special issues were released on the new 'National Education Policy' and plan for its implementation. These issues are detailed documents how National Education Policy is a futuristic policy, a policy of global parameters. You all scholars are familiar with the nuances of the National Education Policy. The purpose of education that Dr. Radhakrishnan ji spoke about is reflected in the core of this policy.

I am told that this time the theme of the seminar is - 'Implementing National Educational Policy-2020 to Transforming Higher Education in India'. All of you deserve congratulations for this.

I have been constantly discussing NEP with experts. National Education Policy is as practical as its implementation.

Friends,

You have dedicated your entire life to education. You all know very well that every student has his own capability and capacity. Based on these capabilities, students and teachers also have three questions.

First: What can they do?

Second: What is their potential if they are properly taught?

And, third, what they want to do?

What a student can do is his inner strength. But if we add institutional strength to his inner strength, his development becomes expansive. With this combination, our youth can do what they want to do. Therefore, the country’s special emphasis is on skill development. As the country is moving ahead with the mission of the AatmaNirbhar Bharat, the role and demand of skilled youths is also increasing.

Friends,

In view of the strength of skills, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had placed greater emphasis on the collaboration of educational institutions and industries decades ago. Today, the country has immense opportunities, and there are new industries of modern times. India is being looked upon as a future centre of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data, 3D printing, Virtual Reality, Robotics, mobile technology, geo-informatics, smart healthcare and defence sector. The country is taking huge steps to meet these requirements.

Indian Institutes of Skills are being set up in three big metropolitans of the country. The first batch of the Indian Institute of Skills has already started in Mumbai a few months ago in December. The Future Skills Initiative was launched with NASSCOM in 2018. This initiative offers training in more than 150 skill sets in 10 emerging technologies.

Friends,

The new National Policy on Education also provides for NETF which emphasizes the maximum use of technology in education. We want all universities to be multi-disciplinary. We want to give flexibility to students so that they can complete courses anywhere easily through the easy entry-exit and Academic Bank of Credit. Every university in the country will have to work together to achieve all these goals. All the Vice Chancellors have to pay special attention to this.

A huge skill pool will be created in our universities for the new possibilities that we can create in the country. All of you are requested to work in this direction more expeditiously and the work should be completed within a stipulated time.

Friends,

The country is rapidly transforming the lives of the poor, Dalits, the victims, the exploited and the deprived following the footsteps of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Babasaheb talked about equal opportunities and equal rights. Today, schemes like Jan Dhan accounts are leading to financial inclusion of every person and through DBT money is reaching directly to their accounts.  The BHIM UPI that was launched for the digital economy has become a great strength for the poor today. Today, every poor person is getting a house and free electricity connection. Similarly, work is in the progress to provide clean water to villages under the Jal Jeevan Mission.

When there was a corona crisis, the country stood up for the poor and the labourers. There is no discrimination among the poor and the rich in the world's largest vaccination program. This is the path shown by Babasaheb and these are his ideals.

Friends,

Babasaheb always emphasized on women empowerment and made many efforts in this direction. It is with this vision that the country is giving new opportunities to its daughters today. From toilets at home and schools to combat roles in the army, women are at the centre of every policy of the country today.

Similarly, the country is working to spread Babasaheb's message to the people. The places associated with Babasaheb are being developed as Panch Teerth.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to dedicate the Dr. Ambedkar International Centre. Today, this Centre is emerging as a centre of research on social and economic issues and on Babasaheb's life.

Friends,

Today, we are close to 75 years of independence, and we have goals for the next 25 years. The country’s future, the future goals and successes of the country are linked to our youth. It is our youth who will fulfill these resolutions. We have to give opportunities to the youth of the country to the best of their ability.

I am confident that our collective resolve and conscious efforts of the education world will realise this dream of a New India.

Our efforts and the hard work will be our tribute to Babasaheb.

With these good wishes, I once again thank you all very much. I wish you all the very best on Navratri. I also extend my special greetings on the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Many thanks.