Indian Diaspora is a dynamic phenomenon with various nuances which must be taken into account as we address the matters of interest of a growing Indian Diaspora: Ashook Ramsaran

Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, headquarters at New York is a non-partisan, non-sectarian global organization with chapters in several countries, actively promoting the interests of people of Indian origin worldwide. It also provides platform enhancing cooperation and communication between groups of Indians living in various countries. In an interview with Dr. Sadananda Sahoo, Editor, Roots and Routes, Ashook Ramsaran, President of GOPIO shares the vision of the organisation and challenges it confronts.

Q-1- As we know GOPIO is formed on the basis of human rights issues of People of Indian Origin abroad. How do you assess the achievement of GOPIO as an organisation promoting cooperation among Indian people worldwide while addressing it mainly from human rights point of view.

GOPIO is the premiere global Indian Diaspora advocacy organization addressing issues of human rights, equitable treatment and fairness under law for people of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in countries outside of India. GOPIO closely monitors the interests and concerns of PIOs and NRIs and brings human rights issues to the forefront for awareness and discussion, seeking remedy at its source and assistance with the Government of Indian where appropriate.

Starting in 1989, GOPIO has made many significant advances on behalf of PIOs and NRIs. These GOPIO initiatives include: 1989 and years afterwards in 2000 -Seeking UN intervention on the coup against Government of Mahendra Chaudhry in Fiji; 2006 – Protest at the United Nations against unlawful suspension of PIO Chief Justice Sharma in Trinidad & Tobago; 2007 - Peace march against attacks on Indians in Germany;  2008 – Change in “Trinity Cross” awards in Trinidad & Tobago; 1990’s – Protest against “Dot Busters” in USA; Discrimination against Indians in Malaysia; Attacks against Indian students in Australia; NRI voting rights, NRI property rights, fraudulent NRI marriages and successful protest against unwarranted passport surrender charges against PIOs.

Q-2- Does GOPIO promote inter community harmony with co-diasporas and host community?

One of the objectives of GOPIO is to collaborate with other organizations in the interest of PIOs and NRIs consistent with GOPIO’s mission and objectives. Recently, GOPIO has collaborated and participated in programs organized by the Organization of American States (OAS -El Salvador 2012); Commonwealth Diaspora (Birmingham, UK 2012); Indian Jewish Council (USA 2012); National American Association of Colored People (NAACP – USA 2013). I intend to advance this agenda in a more robust manner in 2014-2015 to build solid partnerships and engagement among other diasporas as the number of PIOs and NRIs worldwide continue the increasing trend.

Q-3- There are issues related to the conflicting interest among Old and New Diasporas. Diasporas are based on religious and regional identities that are prevalent in India. How does GOPIO addresses them. We learnt that GOPIO is not a single organisation rather many with some kind of contradictions.

There are certainly gaps in knowledge and perceptions among “old and new diasporas” based on difference in places of birth, history, education and exposure to other ethnic culture and groups. While no one has a monopoly of belonging, interest or feeling of being part of the Indian Diaspora, one must acknowledge the historic, cultural and emotional connections which are strong, unwavering bonds of both “old and new diasporas”. GOPIO is a single umbrella with membership among both “old and new diasporas” and actively encourages bridging and connectivity among all on this huge with many branches and deep roots. GOPIO chapters, councils, membership and hierarchy span all segments of both “old and new diasporas”.

Q-4- The diaspora population is growing day by day. There is a projection there will be more addition to the diaspora as the demand for labour will be increasing in many parts of the worlds, especially in the countries with aging population. Does GOPIO have any future plan to address the gigantic diaspora in the making?

This is an accurate observation: There is a trend of the number of PIOs and NRIs worldwide continuing a rapid growth of emigration from India as well as second journeys from those born and domiciled in countries with significant populations of PIOs and NRIs.

GOPIO’s plans include focus on expansion and growth in chapters, councils and membership worldwide to address matters of interest among youth, women, children and inter-generational issues, to focus on smoother processed of assimilation and adaptation – and lessons on peaceful co-existence of Indians in multi-ethnic societies. GOPIO also intends to collaborate with Diaspora academic institutions and organizations to conduct studies and surveys in order to understand the migration growth and expansion, and to take effective steps to coordinate efforts. It must be noted that the growth of the Indian Diaspora is a dynamic phenomenon with various nuances which must be taken into account as we address the matters of interest of a growing Indian Diaspora.

Q-5- Last one decade GOPIO also initiated many developmental work back in India that are related to healthcare, education, promoting investment etc. How do you think GOPIO achieved success?

GOPIO has made some strides in encouraging Indian Diaspora investments in healthcare, education and infra-structure in India, in collaboration with Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) and its Office of Investment Facilitation Centre (OICF), MOU partnership with Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), MOU partnership with Indian American Chamber of Commerce – USA (IACC-USA), MOU partnership with Indian Canadian Chamber of Commerce (IACC), and others. These partnerships foster increasing support for NRI and PIO investment in India in the areas noted above.

Q-6- Do you have a research wing in GOPIO? Is there any plan to promote research on the activities you intend to do or doing? I mean research is part of many global level organisations who intend to do sustainable work in large scale.

GOPIO does not have a research arm or wing although it has become more evident and necessary that the need exists and will become more of a necessity. As stated above, GOPIO intends to collaborate with Diaspora academic institutions and organizations to conduct studies and surveys in order to understand the migration growth and expansion, and to take effective steps to coordinate efforts in meaningful ways.

Q-7- Softpower is one of the most important instruments for many activities. It is also a very natural means to promote cooperation among the Indians. Indian cultures have been quite popular in West and many other parts of the globe. What role does GOPIO play in promoting Indian culture as promoting cooperation among People of Indian Origin is one of your trust area?

GOPIO’s presence in the many countries with PIOs and NRIs help promote Indian culture and cooperation among PIOs and NRIs in those countries. While practicing Indian cultural and traditions sustains Indianness even in remote areas and in countries with small populations of NRIs and PIOs, it nurtures and cultivates more widespread practice among PIOs and NRIs as well as more acceptances among non-Indian segments of such populations.



Interview Date:   Monday, Feb 10, 2014
Person Name:   Ashook Ramsaran

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