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External Affairs Minister's remarks at Nari Shakti Abhiyan

March 06, 2020

My Ministerial Colleagues,
Smriti Irani Ji,
Muraleedharan Ji,
Debasree Chaudhuri Ji,
Secretaries to the Government of India,
Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Colleagues.


  • It is a very great pleasure to join you all this afternoon for an event leading up to the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. So, at the outset let me thank Smt. Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development, for agreeing to deliver the key-note address. My appreciation as well to Minister of State Muraleedharan Ji and Debasree Chaudhuri Ji as well as our Secretaries who have worked to make this happen. And, of course, to all of you whose presence today underlines your interest in this subject.
  • As those from the world of diplomacy, we all know that the influence of nations in the final analysis rest on their strengths at home. So, even as you assess India’s energies and activities abroad, I am sure that one part of your mind is also looking at the changes in our society. And those, without exaggeration, have been transformational in recent years. Whether it is the mind-boggling numbers of bank accounts, toilets, gas connections or school admissions or indeed the large number of public awareness campaigns some of which Vikas just mentioned, that have impacted our thinking, this country is very different from what it was just a few years ago.
  • As someone tasked with explaining India abroad, I often underline that the higher profile of recent years is reflective of greater aspirations at home and a higher confidence about its realization. The mindset of New India is one of inclusive growth and deep reforms that together, will bring about long-term changes. It is focused on greater harnessing of technology, especially the power of digitization. It is as dedicated to promoting smarter urbanization as to the betterment of the rural sector. The commitment to create a modern infrastructure is also apparent across diverse domains. And all of this is sought to be done while simultaneously addressing the challenge of climate change. The approach to governance is holistic and longstanding problems – in whatever field – are being tackled rather than kicked down the road. So this is truly an era of big ideas, bold measures and strong implementation.
  • Now, the heart of this effort is focused on India’s resource base – and for this country that happens to be human resources. The realization of Sustainable Development Goals is today a key objective of our national development. As we look back at other societies who have rapidly developed in the last few decades, the importance of improving our human development indices is clearly evident. It will, of course, visibly determine the scale and quality of our comprehensive national power. But equally important, the resulting expansion of our pool of talent has a deep significance for the world. It can make a big difference to the evolution of the knowledge economy and the pace of digital innovation. And obviously, given our numbers, India’s success in SDG is central to the success of the world.
  • The first five SDG goals are no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and gender equality. But the truth is that the first four depend very much on the realization of the fifth. In fact, not just the four, even the goals of clean water and sanitation, clean energy, decent work and economic growth or industry and innovation are all significantly determined by the contribution of women. The dictum of women holding up half the sky, if anything, underestimates their social centrality. This realization today drives our endeavours in the field of gender equality and women’s power. The message that women lead the transformation towards a New India is not just a slogan. It is a fundamental and actionable belief of this Government. And leading the efforts to make that happen is Minister Smriti Irani, whom I will now invite to deliver her key-note address.
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