Overflow crowd for India’s 70th Republic Day celebration at Indian Embassy in Washington

“I look forward to working with the Indian community here to meet many of our objectives”, says Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, January 27, 2019 – Indian-Americans, proudly waving the tricolor, turned up in unprecedented numbers for the celebration of India’s 70th Republic Day at the Chancery in the capital city.

The frigid temperature did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of patriotic members of the community who packed a public park across from the embassy which contains a towering bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi. It was here that the new ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla commenced the program by paying a floral tribute to the apostle of peace and non-violence, followed by a flag-hoisting and rendition of the Indian national anthem.

In an interaction with reporters, the envoy called the 70th Republic Day celebration “a landmark event” which, he noted, “also coincides with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev-ji. So, it’s an important event and we are very happy that we got such a tremendously supportive turnout of the community here”, he said. “I’m told that this is the highest turnout that has ever been seen and that too on a day which has record low temperatures”, he added clearly elated by the response from the diaspora.

A cross-section of the Indian-American community that attended the 70th Republic Day celebration, in record numbers, at the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC

“I look forward to working with the Indian community here to meet many of our objectives”, the ambassador told reporters. “I was very happy to meet (members of) so many community associations, so many students that have come from distant places, so many of the younger generation of citizens who are here, and also people of Indian origin who are new citizens. So, we are very happy that we have seen such a cross-section of people today at our embassy in Washington. This really, to some extent, demonstrates not only the fact that we have a very good spread of the community in the United States, but also that it is a community that is fully supportive of what India is doing, what India represents today, and how we will cement the relationship with the United States”.

The frigid cold temperature notwithstanding, a record crowd turned up to celebrate India’s 70th Republic Day at the Indian Embassy in Washington

Delhi’s top diplomat to Washington may have arrived from Dhaka barely two weeks ago, but he has hit the ground running – right from presenting his credentials to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office within a record 48 hours of landing in the nation’s capital, to interacting with leaders of corporate America, and meeting influential members of Congress as well as the US administration.

“Our function in the embassy is to implement the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump”, Shringla said at the press interaction in the Chancery. “That vision calls for an invigorated India-US relationship and this is something that we are working together with our colleagues on the US side to bring into fruition. Already, we have made tremendous progress and there is lot more to do and I look forward to trying our level best to accomplish that challenging, but, nonetheless attainable goal”.

India’s 68th Republic Day Celebrated at Embassy in Washington

As is customary, the ambassador read excerpts from President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the Indian nation on the eve of Republic Day. There was standing-room only inside the embassy for those who were fortunate to secure a spot.

Welcoming the crowd, Shringla said, “This is the first Republic Day that I am attending. It will be 14 days since I arrived here. It is a great opportunity for me to meet so many of our fellow citizens, so many of our well-wishers and so many patriots who are here on this cold morning to celebrate this very important event with us”.

Glimpses of India’s 70th Republic Day celebration hosted by the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC

In his message to members of the community, he implored, “Continue to strive, continue to achieve, continue to do what you have always done – excel in academics, excel in your professions, excel in your entrepreneurship – and in doing so, keep the image of India high. Certainly, as you are people of Indian origin, you will support a good relationship between our two countries”, he said exuding confidence. “You will be the bridge between our two countries and we greatly value your support, your role in our endeavor to strengthen the (bilateral) relationship”.

On hand at the event were young students of the Richmond, Virginia-based Gandharva School of Music who sang patriotic songs under the tutelage of their instructor Nirmal Bajekal.

Talented students of the Gandharva School of Music, North America, founded by Nirmal Bajekal, sang patriotic songs at the 70th Republic Day celebration in the Indian Chancery, Washington, DC

In his Republic Day address, president Kovind urged Indian citizens to vote in large numbers in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He called voting “a sacred act” and said this year’s polls should be regarded as a “once-in-a-century moment” that will shape the India of the remainder of the 21st century.

He believed empowering women and girls – ensuring gender equity and providing equal opportunities – is the best indicator of social change in India. “Young women in our country are moving ahead in every field – from academics to the creative arts, from sports to the armed forces. There is no stopping and no hesitation in this process. It is the route to India’s future”, he said.

The president noted that “The ‘Indian model’ rests on a tripod of diversity, democracy and development. We cannot choose one above the other; we must have all three and we will have all three”, he affirmed.

“This country belongs to each of us and to all of us – every group and every community, every region and every identity. It belongs to every citizen and every individual. India’s pluralism is its greatest strength and its greatest example to the world”, he said.

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