Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur has been conferred with the prestigious Sikh of the year 2009 award for her outstanding contribution to the state of Punjab.

At the annual dinner of Sikh Forum International held at the House of Lords here last night, NRI businessman Lord Iltaf Sheikh presented the award to Ms. Kaur in the presence of a distinguished gathering including Lord Navnit Dholakia, Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Lord Sheikh told Ms. Kaur “you are worthy recipient of this award for your outstanding contribution to Punjab.”

Accepting the award, Ms. Kaur said though she had the good fortune of receiving several honorary degrees and awards in the past, “there can be nothing more valuable or precious than receiving this award today in the House of Lords amongst the august gathering of achievers of our Diasporas in the UK.”

“It is a wonderful feeling to be here in London at a time when the relationship between our countries is at its very best,” she noted.

Others present at the function included Lord Viscount Slim, Justice Mota Singh, Ranjit Singh, OBE, President of the Forum, R S Baxi, founder of Europe’s leading recycling firm and winner of Asian of the year 2008 award, Surinder Aujla, NRI entrepreneur and Rami Ranger, leading NRI entrepreneur.

“The Indian community in the UK has a unique place in our Diaspora. UK is the first country which has an Indian community truly representative of its diversity,” Ms. Kaur said, adding “your involvement in the economic, social and political life of this country has been positively significant.”

Referring to the growing bilateral trade, she said, “while UK is one of India’s most important trade and investment partners, India has become one of the largest investors in the UK.

“There have been significant investments in IT, life sciences and advanced engineering. Over 600 Indian companies have opened their offices in UK and have secured the second highest number of jobs by a foreign employer in the UK.”

Describing India as one of the fastest growing economies of the world, the minister said, “India’s dynamic growth coupled with its large reservoir of skilled workforce, its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, all taken together make India a very attractive investment destination.

“India has achieved levels of European productivity at a meagre 20 per cent of the cost. Global corporations clearly understand the value of leveraging India’s advantages.”

Referring to a minute’s silence observed at the function in memory of those killed in last year Mumbai terror attack, Ms. Kaur said, “the spectre of terrorism, extremist ideologies have become transnational in nature. No country is immune to them. Thus it requires global response.”

Ranjit Singh presented a cheque for 10,000 pounds to a charity to help heroes families of those killed in action. The Forum had donated 32,000 pounds to the charity of Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, last year.

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