After a hiatus caused by the Covid Pandemic, Government of India will be celebrating the 17th Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas (PBD) physically at Indore- the cleanest city in India from January 8-10. The theme this year has been aptly called the “Diaspora: Reliable Partner for India’s Progress in the Amrit Kaal ‘as India embarks on an unprecedented developmental journey during the next 25 years called “the Amrit Kaal”.
This will be the golden period to make India a developed country by 2047 through an exponential growth of its GDP to over $30 trillion with requisite economic and political and technological heft as a shaper of the new world order. India recently graduated to the 5th largest global economy, leaving behind UK, as it continues to remain the fastest growing major economy despite the pandemic and Eurasian war related headwinds.
In this quest, the role of the Indian diaspora, which has the unique distinction of not being only the largest but also the most successful and proactive in which ever domain they are present, will be very important.
Interestingly, this year world also witnessed the UK being led by PM Rishi Sunak, a person of Indian origin. There are or have been many leaders in the developed world with Indian connections be it the US Vice President, Portuguese or Irish Prime Ministers let alone host of others in Africa and the Caribbean or Singapore in East Asia . It is an established fact that Indian origin persons have indeed arrived in their social standing and politico-economic milieu in the countries of their choosing and have become a voice to reckon with.
Rightly, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is the Chief Guest at the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention and Ms. Zaneta Mascarenhas, Member of Parliament of Australia, will be the Guest of Honour at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which will be held on 8 January, 2023. Several topical panel discussions to identify synergies will follow.
In order to celebrate and connect with her 32 million strong diaspora a concerted effort was made through the establishment of PBD Convention two decades ago in 2003 since when several of them have been acknowledged and honored at each PBD with ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards ‘by the President of India for their excellence, integrity and contributions to the enrichment of bilateral relationship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid special attention to this outreach and has made it a point to interact with the community whichever country he visits. Madison Square Garden and ‘Howdy Modi’ events are still fresh in the minds of many. These interactions have made the host country leaders to also participate in such mega events which is an acknowledgment of the critical and influential role that the Indian diaspora plays in that country.
India is possibly one of the few countries that also looks after her citizens and the diaspora and their welfare with utmost care and importance. This has been clearly witnessed in various evacuations from conflict zones in Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen or Ukraine during the last two decades along with citizens of many other countries.
During the pandemic 100s of thousands of Indians were brought back through the Vande Bharat mission flights while rendering humanitarian and medical assistance to those countries. India follows a 4Cs policy with her diaspora which entails Care, Connect, celebrate and contribute.
I remember during my various assignments that earlier the Indian diaspora was mostly parochial and regional or ethnicity centric and hardly thought of India or Indian interests in a holistic manner. Promoting India’s interests was barely on the horizon unlike the Jewish diaspora for whom Israel was the centerpiece of their existence and enterprise irrespective of their other affiliations.
Even visiting Indian Ministers and dignitaries preferred to meet the diaspora hailing from their region or State only. But that has changed with the Indian leadership being proactive, especially that of PM Modi. Besides the fact that India herself has become an acknowledged economic and IT power and leader as the investment opportunities and likely return on investment continues to exponentially expand, NRIs and PIOs take great pride in it.
The perception of the diaspora towards India and India’s towards her diaspora transformed overtime from ‘Brain drain’ to ‘Brain Gain or Brain trust’. Even several sending states started their own PBDs to appreciate their own as the Government also experimented with regional PBDs abroad for a larger outreach.
Various Indians have excelled in politics, business, science and technology, professions, entrepreneurship even the leadership of major MNCs like the Google and Microsoft. A report from the IOM indicated that in 2021, households headed by an Indian immigrant in the US had a median annual income of $150,000, compared to $70,000 for all immigrant- and native-led households which speaks volumes of their collective heft which could be harnessed as we go forward.
India’s 9 million strong community of entrepreneurs and workforce both white and blue in the Middle East are greatly appreciated for their discipline, dedication and contribution for the development of their host countries and have become the preferred ones. Recent FIFA 2022 in Qatar is one such testament to their contribution.
However, with such large numbers there are occasional labour related issues which the Indian government, through its diplomatic missions and institutionalized arrangements and Labour Agreements including the Migration and Mobility Agreements as well as the Emigration Bill 2021, tries to address in an unprecedented manner and resolve which remains under constant review. This is the Indian diaspora which turned late Mrs Sushma Swaraj into the People’s Foreign Minister due to 24×7 diaspora diplomacy.
Another important geography is Africa whose umbilical connect to PBD relates to the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India. Even though Indians may have been taken there as indentured labourers, today they have become highly successful -yet were not given much attention. I can not forget the words of former Nigerian President Obasanjo that’ Indians were the second largest employers of the Nigerians after the Federal Government’. Since Africa will be the next big opportunity it is imperative that a special attention and initiatives be launched to garner the disconnected diaspora there though it has begun with increase in number of high-level visits to the continent.
21st century will be the period of excellence and edge in technology as India strives to take lead in the AI driven Industrial Revolution 4.0 . Even the workforce requirement will have to be sharply skilled to meet the needs of the countries welcoming Indians like Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada or Australia let alone the GCC countries who are climbing the technological ladder at a fast pace. In this enterprise the India’s living bridge in its diaspora can be a great asset.
Already several initiatives like PRABHASS: “Pravasi Bharatiya Academic and Scientific Sampark – Integrating Indian Diaspora with the Mother Land” has been launched to develop a database and a virtual platform to bring on board the Global Indian S&T Community to address the Indian social and scientific challenges and problems. The main objective of PRABHASS, is to invite and encourage Indian Diaspora to come forward and join hands with India to help solve challenges being faced by Indian people, thereby making an impact on society at large. In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Vaishwik Bharatiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) Summit, a global virtual summit of overseas and resident Indian researchers and academicians on Gandhi Jayanti.
It is a win -win enterprise with realistic expectations in which the diaspora becomes a part of India ‘s ascent but staying true and loyal to their adopted homeland.
This article was originally published by CNBC TV 18 as Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas 2023: Partnering with Indian diaspora for the ‘Amrit Kaal’ ascent on January 3, 2023.
Read more by the author: New Age of Sino-Arab Relations.