The Indian diaspora refers to the global community of people of Indian ancestry who have migrated to other countries. The Indian diaspora is a diverse and influential group, with significant populations in countries all around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Indian diaspora has a long history, with evidence of Indians migrating to other countries dating back to ancient times. In more recent centuries, the Indian diaspora has grown significantly, driven in part by economic and political factors such as colonization, globalization, and the demand for skilled labor in other countries.
The Indian diaspora has made significant contributions to the countries in which they have settled, and has played a role in shaping the culture and society of these countries. Many members of the Indian diaspora have achieved success in a variety of fields, including business, politics, academia, and the arts.
The Indian government has also sought to engage with the Indian diaspora, recognizing their potential as a bridge between India and the rest of the world. For example, the government has established programs to encourage the diaspora to invest in India, and has sought to involve diaspora organizations in efforts to promote cultural exchange and cooperation.
According to the Global Migration Report 2020, India continues to be the greatest country of origin for international migrants with a 17.5 million-strong diaspora, and it received the highest remittance of $78.6 billion from Indians living abroad (equating to a staggering 3.4% of India’s GDP).
Today, the Indian diaspora is more rich than in the past, and their contribution to India’s growth is growing. It contributes through remittances, investments, campaigning for India, promoting Indian culture overseas, and constructing a positive image of India by virtue of its intelligence and industry.
India’s Diaspora Policy
Initially, India was concerned that advocating the cause of abroad Indians may anger their host countries, who are ultimately responsible for their welfare and safety.
According to J. L. Nehru, the diaspora could not expect India to fight for their rights, hence India’s foreign policy in the 1950s was designed as a model of non-interference whenever emigrant Indians were in danger in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, etc.
However, Rajiv Gandhi was the first prime minister to reform the diaspora policy in the 1980s by urging all Indians living abroad to engage in nation-building, similar to the overseas Chinese communities.
Then, under the administration of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after the year 2000, a number of positive measures were implemented, including a separate Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the Overseas Citizen of India Card, NRI funds, and voting rights for Indian citizens abroad.
In addition, the Ministry of External Affairs created the e-migrate system in 2015, mandating that all overseas employers register with the database.
In 2016, the current government introduced the ‘Know India Program’ (KIP) for diaspora engagement, which introduces Indian-origin youngsters (18 to 30 years) to their Indian ancestors and modern India.
Importance of the Indian Diaspora
Economic Front: As one of the wealthiest minority in many industrialised nations, the Indian diaspora was able to negotiate for favourable conditions addressing India’s interests. Indians, who make up only 1% of the U.S. population, are the most educated and wealthiest group, according to a Pew poll conducted in 2013.
- The exodus of less-skilled labour (particularly to West Asia) has also contributed to India’s decrease in disguised unemployment.
- In general, migrants’ remittances contribute positively to the balance of payments. Seventy-to-eighty billion dollars in remittances assist in bridging a larger trade imbalance.
- Migrant labourers enabled the transfer of tacit information, commercial and business concepts, and technology into India by establishing transnational networks.
- Political Front: Numerous individuals of Indian descent hold high political positions in a variety of nations; in the United States, they are now a large portion of both the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the federal government.
- The political influence of India’s diaspora may be measured by the role it played in swaying sceptical legislators to vote in favour of the India-U.S. nuclear accord.
- The Indian diaspora is not just a component of India’s soft power, but also a completely transferrable political vote bank.
The reception held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden is a gesture of gratitude to the Indian-American community members who contributed significantly to his electronic campaign and election funds.
The institutionalisation of “diaspora diplomacy” is a clear indicator that the diaspora community of a nation has become a subject of much greater importance for foreign policy and associated government operations.
India’s potential must be unlocked because the Indian diaspora can give the necessary strategic impetus.
India should adopt a new NRI policy, and the government must engage promptly with industrialised nations to request that they return a share of the income tax payments they get from the Indian diaspora.
This is fair because these nations did not contribute anything to the development of this skill, but instantly gain when immigrants pay taxes overseas.
There is a need for a planned diaspora evacuation programme from crisis zones in a world where crises materialise unexpectedly and offer governments very little time to respond.
For significant programmes such as Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, Make In India, Digital India, and Skill India, where India’s foreign policy seeks to convert ties into advantages, the diaspora has several avenues for participation.
VAJRA (Visiting Advanced Joint Research Faculty) initiative, which tries to formalise a rotation programme in which top NRI scientists, engineers, physicians, managers, and professionals lend their knowledge to Indian public sector companies for a limited term, is a positive development.
Enhancing the simplicity of conducting business will go a long way toward attracting investments from the Indian diaspora.