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NDA rule bolstered diaspora ties, says Sushma Swaraj

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New Delhi: India’s ties with its diaspora have intensified greatly ever under the NDA government, said Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister.

At the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, Sushma Swaraj said in her speech, ” Contacts with you have strengthened since our government came to office”.

“It is our effort now to reach out to the maximum number of the diaspora”, she said.

She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken engagements with the diaspora to a new level.

Starting with the Madison Square Garden event in 2014 where Modi addressed a huge gathering of the Indian diaspora after much scepticism, Sushma Swaraj said the Prime Minister has made a number of addresses in public gatherings of the Indian diaspora across various parts of the world.

“Recently, as you all know, when the prime minister went to the United Kingdom, the Madison Square Garden’s record was broken and the number of people who were present at the diaspora event (in Wembley Stadium) was three times that number,” she said.

She said that earlier when Indian prime ministers went to other countries, the diaspora there would get to read about it in newspapers but now, they get to know even a month in advance that the prime minister would be visiting their country.

“The Prime Minister speaks to them. He goes prepared knowing their problems, he listens to them, he listens to their pain and once he returns to India, he resorts to solve these problems and this is the way in fact contact with the Indian community has increased by leaps and bounds after this government came to office”, Sushma Swaraj said.

Stating that overseas Indians now knew that there was someone back home to help when they get into trouble, she said in its short tenure of 19 months, the government faced four major problems.

“It was on May 28, 2014, that we took our oath of office and on June 3, the crisis erupted in Ukraine where 1,000 Indian students had to be evacuated,” she said.

“Five days later, on June 8, the problem in Iraq erupted when 7,500 Indians had to be evacuated.”

Even as the problems in Iraq persisted, the crisis in Libya took a turn for the worse and 3,500 Indians had to be evacuated, the minister said.

From Yemen, apart from 4,500 Indians, India evacuated 2,500 foreign nationals from 38 countries.

Stating that the government issued advisories for Indians when there is any problem in one part of the world or the other, she said unfortunately little heed was paid to such advisories.

She urged all Indians living in countries where trouble starts to follow these advisories.

In this age of social media, Sushma Swaraj said that whenever Indians abroad find themselves in trouble they can always tweet her and she would immediately respond and ensure that the Indian mission in the country concerned came to the person’s help.

She also said all Indian missions have been colour-coded and if a large number of complaints piled up in a particular mission, that mission’s colour would turn red.

Coming to overseas Indians’ contributions to India’s development story, she said the government has launched three flagship programmes — Make in India, Skill India and Digital India — and three programmes that were in the mission mode — clean schools, clean India and the Namami Ganga project.

“There was a time when opportunities in India did not exist to have a good income and people went abroad seeking greener pastures and there was a lot of brain drain”, she said.

“But today, India has changed and there are all kinds of opportunities to earn and make a very good living and the time has come for you to rethink about coming back to India”, the minister said, adding that people can also keep one foot in India and one foot in their country of adoption.

Stating that the time has come for overseas Indians to repay their debt to their motherland, she urged them on the occasion of the PBD to pledge to contribute to the success of all developmental programmes of the country.

Coming to the change in the format of the PBD, she said that earlier the event was an annual three-day “mela” that ended without any concrete results.

“But now we have decided that we will hold this ‘mela’ every two years and in the intervening years, there will be a lot of thinking and a lot of thought process that would go into it.”

“People would study the various issues and come up with various recommendations so that the problems of the diaspora could be solved”, Sushma Swaraj said.

Saturday’s event was webcast live in London, Dubai, Port Louis, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Sushma Swaraj held question and answer sessions with diaspora members present in those places and discussed their problems and issues.(IANS)

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Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A.

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US Embassy in Jerusalem drawing criticism from across the world. Pixabay

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US. The Indian-American diaspora has proven to be a vital resource contributing to the economic, political and social development of India.

Devesh Kapur highlighted the importance of the Indian diaspora in his classic 2010 book, “Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India”. Kapur’s analysis focused primarily on the period from the late 1960s until the end of the 20th century.

Indian-American influence, impact, and contributions were significant then and have grown even more so as we move forward into the 21st century. Part of the reason for this is that the Indian-American population on average stands head and shoulders economically and educationally above those in other Asian American subgroups and the US population in general.

A Pew Research study released in 2013 disclosed that the median annual household income for Indian Americans was $88,000 compared to $66,000 for all Asians and $49,800 for the US population. The study also revealed that 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
Around 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population. Pixabay

Indian-Americans excel as high tech entrepreneurs. A study by Vivek Wadwha for the period from 2006 to 2012 showed that overall immigrant entrepreneurship “stagnated” compared to the period from 1995 to 2005. But start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans.

It’s not just that Indian Americans are doing well. They are also inclined to stay connected with India through investments, philanthropy and personal involvement. The Indian Diaspora can bring broad economic benefits to India. They can make substantial contributions in the areas of Innovation and entrepreneurship; health care; education; and skills development. They can help in creating jobs and in creating new companies across India. They can create a platform by sharing best practices and technology with small and medium enterprises and helping them to access financing.

In its 2014 paper, “The Indian Diaspora in the United States”, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reports that “The Indian diaspora community is noted for being very well organised and having a deep and multifaceted engagement with the homeland. Many consider giving back an obligation and a welcome responsibility.”

I am one of those who feel that responsibility. Through the foundation my wife Debbie and I have established, we have underwritten the building of a new management complex, Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, which was opened last year at my alma mater Aligarh Muslim University. We have also pledged to provide considerable financial support to develop a technical training school for women in India so that they can be empowered through higher education.

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A. and Ekal which provide a structured and organised approach for giving across a wide range of areas. Thanks to the work of these organisations and others, a number of high-impact initiatives have been launched in India in fields such as education, poverty alleviation and job training.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
The start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans. Pixabay

Indian-Americans can reach out to have an impact in India through a wide variety of organisations. As the MPI notes in its study: “The Indian diaspora has established countless highly organised, well-funded, and professionally managed groups. These organisations address a broad range of issues and take on many different forms, including philanthropic projects to improve health and education in India, advocacy organisations, business and professional networks, media outlets, and societies for the promotion of Indian culture, language and religion.”

The Narendra Modi administration recognised the pivotal importance of the US-India relationship and that is why it established a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue during President Obama’s Republic Day visit to India in 2015. After Donald Trump became President, it scheduled an India-U.S. two-plus-two dialogue.

That dialogue was to revolve around India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was tentatively scheduled to take place on April 18-19 but was postponed due to Tillerson’s firing by President Trump.

Now that Mike Pompeo has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State it appears that the two-plus-two dialogue will be set up for some time in May or June. This meeting is important to the future of India-US relations. But it is also important to note that two-plus-two only adds up to four.

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India has grand ambitions and the success of its Make in India National Manufacturing Policy depends on the US being one of its key partners. This requires much more than ambition. It demands multiplication and exponential assistance in order to achieve its India’s lofty goals.

Indian-Americans have been a vital resource in the growth and development of India to date and they have the wherewithal to be even more so. Because of their accomplishments in the US and understanding of India they are uniquely positioned to help India address pressing issues and priorities in order to achieve its full potential.

India needs to reach out to Indian-Americans and their organisations and make them central to its growth and development process. They will make the difference by being the vital resource and ally that India needs to convert dialogue and talk into action and results. (IANS)