Tharoor demands legal framework for Indian immigrants


New Delhi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday emphasized on addressing the issues related to immigration and refugees and demanded a legal framework for it. The former Minister of State (MoS) for MEA expressed his disappointment over the merger of Ministry of External Affairs with Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA).

“Largest refugee migration was when 10 million Bangladeshis came to India in 1971. We also have a large number of migrants from Nepal and Bangladesh.”

He was speaking at a panel discussion after a launch of book ‘The Politics of Migration: Indian Emigration in a Globalised World’.

“We have been very hospitable and very open, but it’s rather very bizarre that a democracy, which even has a seat on UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Executive Committee, has failed to write itself a refugee law and put a legal framework to it.”

“I have proposed one in private members bill in the last session. I have also been in correspondence with the Minister of External Affairs (Sushma Swaraj) on Foreign Immigration as many of us feel this is massively overdue. An immigration Policy must be codified into a law. At the moment our laws and policies are in grave danger of being out of date,” Tharoor said.

“I have also written very very concretely that the Standing Committee on Parliament on Foreign Affairs should be consulted before the government springs any Bill on the nation,” Tharoor added.

MoS in the MEA, Gen (retd) V K Singh spoke of the contribution of the Indian diaspora in different fields like politics of the nation they are residing in and also of their contribution towards remittance of USD 70 billion in 2014-15 alone.

“Today we have Mr Modi essentially asking the citizens of that country receiving him, to come and listen to him as a voice from their homeland. And he is actually walking a very fine edge there between what is appropriate and what is not so appropriate for a visiting overseas leader,” the Thiruvananthapuram MP said.

Tharoor mentioned the Indian diaspora’s influence in helping India, like in the Indo-US nuclear deals, and the imposition of sanctions post-Pokhran nuclear tests and Kargil wars.

“Should Indian foreign policy start leveraging on this. The answer is yes and no. Yes, but not overtly. The more overtly foreign citizens (of Indian origin) are made to look like sort of Indian power, the lesser their clout becomes. It’s better for us to encourage and quietly give them material, but don’t officially, publicly ever declare that.”

Tharoor also spoke to V K Singh for special attention on NRI’s issue.

“You may be aware that the Government of Kerala has officially opposed the merger of MEA and MOIA. I told General V K Singh that there should be full-time attention to the NRIs and migrants because the issue was a stepchild of the ministry. The merger means it will be further neglected. But this is rather a large and important set of issues and he has shown me that he is that MoS,” the Congress leader said.

Nadir Patel, Canadian High Commissioner to India, stated as many as 19 MPs are of Indian origin.  “Of these, 17 are from Punjab origin. Interestingly, Punjab does not have more MPs in Parliament (Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha seats) and we have four Cabinet ministers of Indian origin,” Patel said.

The Director of International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Sanjay Baru spoke of the importance of the term “brain gain”, coined by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, further exclaiming that Indian immigration should not be regarded as brain drain but as brain gain.

Rebecca Tavares, Country Representative, UN Office for Women in India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives regarded Indian diaspora abroad as a “strategic asset” which India should leverage on. (IANS)