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.

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  1. S
    Jan 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm
    Diaspora does not deal with Rs.500 and Rs.1000. So they shouldn't Ben worried about;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Diaspora doesn't speak Hindi-so they shouldn't be worried about what the FK Pravasi Bharatiya Divas;br/gt;lt;br/gt;One reason for leaving India-horrible;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Modi has done nothing on political reforms.
    1. F
      Jan 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm
      For those outside SOUTH ASIA, there is nothing called India. Privately they would say "FK with Hindia".
      1. M
        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!
        1. M
          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!
          1. A
            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?
            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.
              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.
                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?
                  1. P
                    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
                    1. C
                      Confused Desi
                      Jan 8, 2017 at 10:58 am
                      Why the Indian PM must focus on Indians;br/gt;It was the Indians (yes, we know, the 31%) who voted the man to;br/gt;But the Indian voters are;br/gt;The diaspora, beyond the first generation, do not consider themselves;br/gt;Just as Anglo-Saxon Australians and Americans do not consider themselves as the British;br/gt;So, do not waste time and resources on the so-called diaspora. Gains for India from the so-called diaspora will be big zero.
                      1. R
                        Raman Govindan
                        Jan 11, 2017 at 11:07 am
                        south Asia is geographical unit not one by consensus of shared ideas. certain eating habits, dress, and a common languages that can be understood comfortably by the citizens of the 4 major nations, viz, India and stan, Bangladesh Srilanka, they act like enemies and zero consideration for other's ideas and compion. as we can call even Europe , Amercas, Australia/Newzealand. as more integrated than the Indian subcontinent! even though they are separated by long distances and ocean and by different languages there is a certain commonality and compion for one another!
                        1. R
                          Jan 10, 2017 at 11:15 am
                          1. R
                            Jan 10, 2017 at 3:20 pm
                            Well! its not sure that Modi will succeed or not in this. But i hope, he has the good intention behind it.
                            1. H
                              hindi ringtone
                              Jan 15, 2017 at 9:05 am
                              i think modi thinks about and only for not for other countries . modi policy of banned currency so bad;br/gt;
                              1. L
                                Jan 8, 2017 at 6:40 pm
                                Do not know what he will call himself, but you ar definitely a high grade moron. Is it congenital or some oppression during childhood?
                                1. U
                                  Jan 8, 2017 at 11:45 am
                                  I am sorry to disagree with some your commentators. Modi is doing the right thing by engaging with the diaspra so that India can benefit from their broader world view and fighting for India's development. China used its American and Singapore diaspora to develope so quickly. They helped China with its foreign policy and financial matters to negotiate deals. She used them very effectively to bring in the FDI. Mody know this and is now doing the same. Besides India being an English speaking nation has an advantage. I can understand why some of the opposition politians are not happy. They have not helped any diaspora or spoken for them in the same way as Mody has engaged with them and they have missed out to Mody.
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