Narendra Modi and the Diaspora: From the Indian to South Asian

Modi has bet that Indian diaspora can enhance its contribution to India's economic development, act a bridge to the nations that host them, and help promote India's broader international goals.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | Published:January 8, 2017 3:22 pm
Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, Narendra Modi, Indian diaspora, Modi speech, Modi Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, Pravasi Bhartiya Divas modi, modi speech Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, Modi bengaluru, Modi news, india news The premises of Modi’s engagement with the Indian diaspora are equally applicable in connecting to the rest. (PTI/File)

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political romance with the Indian diaspora continues, there is a strong case for extending his outreach to all the peoples of South Asian origin. Having transformed the way Delhi thinks about diaspora, Modi must now try and connect it to the Subcontinent’s expatriate communities around the world.

Modi made no mention of the South Asian diaspora at the opening of the biennial Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru on Sunday. But his remark that Delhi must look beyond the ‘colour of the passport’ to the ‘blood relationships’ applies to all of the South Asian diaspora. Since South Asia has multiple sovereign entities, Delhi can’t extend all possible support to the Subcontinent’s diaspora population. For example India can’t provide consular services to citizens of its neighbouring countries.

But given the depth of historic, cultural, ethnic and commercial links that bind the South Asian people and the varying levels of contemporary special relationships with the neighbours , there is much that Delhi can do in promoting links with the Subcontinental diaspora–from mobilizing their resources for common developmental goals in the region to providing humanitarian assistance to those caught in crisis zones.

If the Indian diaspora (including citizens and people of Indian origin) is today estimated to be around 30 million, the numbers from our neighbours are equally impressive. If we take the expat communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the total South Asian diaspora could add up to more than 50 million. The premises of Modi’s engagement with the Indian diaspora are equally applicable in connecting to the rest.

If Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation for reimagining India’s ties with the diaspora at the turn of the millennium, Modi has made it a key area of national priority. For Modi, the diaspora is an ‘asset’ rather than a ‘liability’ and India’s intellectual power beyond borders ‘brain gain’ and not ‘brain drain’.

Modi has bet that Indian diaspora can enhance its contribution to India’s economic development, act a bridge to the nations that host them, and help promote India’s broader international goals. Beyond these objectives, the South Asian diaspora could facilitate some special goals that Modi has set for the nation–of accelerating regional economic integration and building on the shared cultural heritage.

Promoting bonds with the South Asian diaspora could help rejuvenate historic cross-border associations and moderate some of the inter-state conflicts. All the South Asian diasporic communities are all loyal to their own particular countries. Living as they do in distant lands, they are acutely conscious of the shared Subcontinental identity. This is a very precious resource that remains to be tapped by Modi’s foreign policy activism. A modest beginning can be made my inviting South Asian community leaders to Modi’s interaction with the diaspora during his travels abroad and to the PBD conventions and conferences in India.

The writer is Director, Carnegie India, Delhi and consulting editor on foreign affairs for The Indian Express.

For all the latest Blogs News, download Indian Express App

  1. S
    Seshadri
    Jan 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm
    Diaspora does not deal with Rs.500 and Rs.1000. So they shouldn't Ben worried about demonetization.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Diaspora doesn't speak Hindi-so they shouldn't be worried about what the FK Pravasi Bharatiya Divas means.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;One reason for leaving India-horrible politics.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Modi has done nothing on political reforms.
    (0)(0)
    Reply
    1. F
      Fgh
      Jan 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm
      For those outside SOUTH ASIA, there is nothing called India. Privately they would say "FK with Hindia".
      (0)(0)
      Reply
      1. M
        MyTake
        Jan 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm
        (Subcontinental diaspora–from mobilizing their resources for common developmental goals in the region to providing humanitarian istance to those caught in crisis zones.)lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;This will have far reaching consequences and the Mullahs and the Hindian sickulars will be caught in the cross fire!
        (0)(0)
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Jan 8, 2017 at 7:13 pm
          It should be for those who choose to be part of this. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Those who say "FK with Hindia" India should have the right to say "FK with you"! In fact the suious elements should be kept out of this and initial investigations is crucial to determine this! There must be a declaration on part of the recipient of the benefit which can be used against them should it be necessary later, anytime!
          (0)(0)
          Reply
          1. A
            ashwin
            Jan 8, 2017 at 10:06 am
            And what kind of pujaris are reliance,adani baba ramdev,etc.? And what kind of power obsessed dictator you are mr so called self declared fakir?
            (0)(0)
            Reply
            1. D
              Devadoss Eswar
              Jan 8, 2017 at 10:20 am
              This person is proving himself a innocuous looking schemer and more so , day by day , dictating things with a set of YES MEN as his advisors , with least empathy on what is happening to his own countrymen who voted him and his all round immature party to power . All kinds of diaspora have by now understood what kind of a leader he is ! It is high time he quits.
              (0)(0)
              Reply
              1. D
                Dinkar C
                Jan 8, 2017 at 10:23 am
                South Asian term is very useless.Only people who like it are non-Indians.
                (0)(0)
                Reply
                1. V
                  Vishnu Bhat
                  Jan 10, 2017 at 5:27 am
                  the diaspora will come for the few days of festivities and go back to their lives in their adopted countries. Where is the Govt's gameplan to engage them and how?lt;br/gt;If we cannot set our thoughts, actions and house in order, it is silly to expect diaspora to help - how will they?
                  (0)(0)
                  Reply
                  1. P
                    pradeep
                    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm
                    The least the PM could have announced is the allow exchange of Old Currencies upto Rs 25,000/- upon NRI's arrival at the International airport. Now the NRIs are required to go to RBI office only available in very few locations
                    (0)(0)
                    Reply
                    1. Load More Comments
                    Express Adda