Port Louis: Visiting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Monday termed India's relationship with Mauritius as "truly unique and extraordinary", and said India was working on including the Indian Ocean island country in its Visa on Arrival scheme.
"Mauritius was the first and largest recipient of indentured labour from India, and is home to the Aapravasi Ghat, a spiritual and emotional shrine to the memory of these brave souls," Swaraj said at the inauguration of the International Conference on Indentured Labour Route Project here.
Sushma Swaraj. Pic/Rajeev Tyagi
"India's relationship with Mauritius is truly unique and extraordinary, and is anchored in the footsteps imprinted on the sixteen steps of the Aapravasi Ghat by the first Indians that landed there 180 years back," she said. Swaraj, who is here on a three-day visit, said India has long supported Mauritius in all its efforts to research, document and preserve this precious history, and the Indentured Labour Route Project can also be assured of the full support of India.
Praising the Indian community around the world, Swaraj said, "India is extremely proud of its Diaspora around the world, and its achievements in various fields, be it political, economic, scientific, or cultural. "From Ebene to Silicon Valley, the Indian diaspora has made valuable contribution to the socio-economic fabric of their adopted countries. We also believe that the Indian diaspora has much more to contribute to the building of modern India.
To facilitate, and promote the engagement of diaspora, the new government recently announced the merging of Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizens of India schemes as well as other benefits. "Meanwhile, we have already granted lifetime visa-free access to India to all PIO card-holders. We are also working on the inclusion of Mauritius in the next group of countries to be included in our Visa on Arrival scheme," she said.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you all to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas being organised in Gandhinagar, Gujarat from 7-9 January 2015, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of Gandhiji's return to India," the External Affiars Minister said.