The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, a cultural centre reflecting India’s connect with its diaspora, was Thursday renamed Sushma Swaraj Bhavan in honour of the late external affairs minister known for her empathy in reaching out to distressed Indians globally.
The Foreign Service Institute, a renowned institution where diplomats are trained, has also been renamed the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service. The government’s decision to name the two institutions in Delhi after Swaraj came a day before her 68th birth anniversary.
The illustrious leader who brought rare empathy and a human approach to India’s diplomacy as external affairs minister in the previous Narendra Modi government died on August 6 last year following a massive cardiac arrest.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter that the renaming of the institutes was a fitting tribute to a “great public figure who continues to inspire us”.
“We all fondly remember Smt Sushma Swaraj, who would have turned 68 tomorrow. The MEA family misses her in particular,” he said.
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said the two institutions have been renamed in solemn tribute to the “invaluable contribution” of Swaraj to Indian diplomacy, the cause of the Indian diaspora and the ethos of public service.
“The announcement is being made on the eve of her birth anniversary falling on February 14 in honour of the legacy and decades of public service of the former external affairs minister,” it said.
As External Affairs minister, Swaraj brought a sense of assertiveness in India’s diplomacy besides engaging the diaspora, a central focus of the country’s foreign policy priorities.
Swaraj was one of the most followed foreign ministers on Twitter globally.
She was known for helping Indians stuck abroad as she was quick to respond to their calls for help on Twitter. Swaraj even became popular in Pakistan for her response to people wanting to get visas for medical treatment in India.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra located in the heart of the Capital was set up to recognise the contributions of the overseas Indian community to India’s growth and development.
A museum in the Kendra depicts the history of migration of the overseas Indian community as well as their experiences and contributions.
Swaraj had many firsts to her credit — the youngest cabinet minister in the Haryana government, the first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first woman spokesperson for a national political party in the country.
She was Information and Broadcasting minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996 and got the Cabinet portfolio again after he led the BJP to power in 1998.
Long seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader L K Advani, she also was the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009-14.
Swaraj, a law graduate who practised in the Supreme Court, was elected seven times as a member of Parliament and three times as a member of the legislative assembly.
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