Gandhinagar, Jan 8: Guyanese President Donald Ramotar, the chief guest at the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Thursday urged India to play a more active role on the global stage and be the voice of the developing world.
Ramotar was also full of praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that he was impressed by the development and the "tremendous transformation" in Gujarat, where Modi was chief minister for over a decade till May last year.
He said Modi's "leadership played a key role in transforming this key state" and expressed hope that the prime minister would achieve success in replicating the development across India.
Ramotar, who became president of the small nation on the Caribbean coast of South America in December 2011, said that he felt great humility and pride in being part of the large Indian diaspora.
Mahatma Gandhi was a great inspiration for the Indian indentured people and others who worked in the European colonies to fight for their rights and eventual freedom, he said.
He said Guyana and India have age-old links since the time Indian immigrants were brought there to work in the sugar fields in 1838 and a former Guyanese president Cheddi Jagan, who is also known as "Father of the Nation" in Guyana, was the son of an indentured Indian labourer.
Guyana has closely followed developments in India and the freedom struggle in India had a great influence on what was then known as British Guyana, he said.
Ramotar said that India has the second largest diaspora in the world that includes presidents, prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, Nobel laureates, those holding top positions on the Forbes list and others with notable accomplishments, which all must be proud of.
"Therefore it is of great significance that we are here together. India has on its shoulders a great responsibility in creating a tomorrow, in seeing that all countries develop and advance to greater heights," said Ramotar, an economist who joined Jagan's People's Progressive Party in 1967.
Ramotar, who became general secretary of the party in March 1997 after the death of Jagan, and retains that position today, said that just as India played a pivotal role in granting political and intellectual leadership to a wave of nations, including his, "so too shall India provide leadership in developing nations of the world".
He said small countries have no voice in multilateral fora like the G20 and would like to "turn to a larger influential friend like India who can be the voice of the developing world" and this is an opportunity for India to play a more active role globally.
India should play a more active role in global development banks and organisations and its businesspersons must venture outside with more investments to establish their global footprint, he said.
He also said Guyana supports India bid for permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
Earlier, the guest of honour, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said she was happy to join in the celebrations of the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa.
She described India as her second home having spent six years as a high commissioner here.
Mashabane, who was attired in a pink Benarasi sari, said the landmark occasion of the centenary of Gandhi's return to India also coincides with the formation of the African National Congress by Nelson Mandela on this very day in 1912.
She said Gandhi's relations with South Africa and the ANC go back many years and his resistance against oppression contributed to the intellectual and spiritual struggle against colonialism.
Noting South Africa is home to the largest Indian diaspora community with some Indians as leaders and ministers in her country, she said: "We must continue to use the bond in the global arena."
She said her country and India can become partners and together explore opportunities for mutual benefit and added that South Africa is keen to partner India in IT, renewable energy and also for the Indian Ocean region economy.