There is a Need for a Substantive and Long term engagement with Diaspora talent for Development in South Asia: Prof. Mizan R Miah



The issue of talent migration has been largely seen as a negative factor for a long period of time but recently, there is a rising trend towards talent gain in all South Asian countries. Many talented groups of people are returning to the country with advanced state-of the-art training in their professional fields and seeking substantive and long-term engagements in business, industry, higher education institutions, and research organizations. This is an encour-aging sign and should be recognized by the country of origins of diaspora populations. There should be systematic efforts from the home governments not only to facilitate this trend but also to develop formal policies to attract the talents back in the country and help sustain these efforts, saysProf. Mizan R Miah to Dr. Sadananda Sahoo, Editor of Roots and Routes.


Prof. Miah, you have been working on diaspora issue for long time. Being a diaspora yourself, how do you think about the role of “diaspora” in the contemporary globalised world?

In a globalized economy today, the presence of diaspora and their contributions are well documented.  Diaspora populations add profoundly to the richness, diversity, and strengths of the World culture and its economy.

Do you think South Asian diaspora can emerge as a constructive and development force and play a greater role in the region in the future?

Yes, of course. They are already playing noticeable constructive roles in the social, political, and economic sectors in the region today. In the future, I envision a much larger role from them as critical forces of development. 

The World Bank figure suggests that, South Asian countries are leading receiver of social remittances. Do you think social remittances can create economic development in the region if planned properly?

This is factually correct. In my opinion, social remittance is a key facilitator of economic development, if it is used properly, effectively, and efficiently.

Building human resource for the development in the region is as a major challenge. Adding to the underdevelopment in the economy, there is regular conflicts both within and outside the region. There is also consistently talent migration from all of these regions. How these problems can be addressed at the policy level?

There is no doubt an uneven development of human resources in the South Asian region and it is largely due to uneven educational opportunities available to its citizens in general. Inequalities in wealth, class, and status, and uneven distribution of property also severely divide the society along social, political, and economic domains. Consequently, conflicts of political, social, and economic powers beset the region and keep it sharply divided hierarchically. Conflict, however, may be a necessary corollary of development and should be seen as such. 

Individual players in the diaspora often play important role but their contribution cannot be wide spread. Do you think diaspora organizations can play constructive role?

Yes, an individual contribution is important and sometimes may bear historically significant impact but does not have much sustained effect as compared to organized efforts. While I support individual initiatives, it is the Diaspora organizations that can play more productive and constructive roles on a long-term and continuing basis.

There are instances where South Asian diaspora also play very negative role and instrument in conflict generating.  Why this happen and how there could be the solution for this?

Historically, a generation of South Asian diaspora was born during intense political conflicts and struggles in their own countries. Many of the early diaspora groups migrated (or were forced to migrate) from their home countries due to political repression and persecution. As the political control of the country is retained by an adversarial group, the migrated groups of diaspora may harbor strong belligerent attitudes toward them and thus the negative roles and conflict linger.

More open discussion and interaction through Diaspora organized forums and symposia involving policy makers, politicians, bureaucrats, researchers, academicians, intellectuals, students, and all other significant stakeholders could minimize this conflict and help create a new culture of understanding, tolerance, and cooperation.

Is there any effort from diaspora to promote more constructive engagement with the homeland in promoting peace and harmony and promoting better international relations?

Yes, there are many organized groups of diaspora in North America, Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Japan, Middle East, to name a few. Without any exceptions, these groups are in regular dialogues with their homeland governments, business groups, and civil societies, and are involved in promoting stability, peace, and harmony in their homelands. In these regards, the mass media is playing a major role to make their views heard publicly and openly. While the extent of their effectiveness is not specifically known, yet the public awareness of their views are becoming more and more pronounced. In a global context, the roles of diaspora populations in promoting World peace and harmony have been exemplary wherever their destination is. In fact, historically, the diaspora populations have been known to have taken pioneering and undaunted courageous stands for Human Rights and against all sorts of discrimination even though, at times, they themselves have fallen victims of inhuman persecution and violence. 

How do you assess and visualize Bangladeshi diaspora in the development of Bangladesh. Do you find there is any difference as compared to their Indian, Pakistan and Sri Lankan diaspora counterparts?

As you know, Bangladesh was born as a free Nation in December 1971 through an armed struggle (Freedom Fight) against the Military Rule of Pakistan at the cost of huge sacrifice of lives, honor and chastity (about two million women were raped by the Pakistani Army)  of Freedom Fighters and millions of common men and women of the country. Naturally, the Liberation War participants and the post-liberation diaspora cherish uncompromising nationalist feelings that may be fundamentally different from other South Asian diaspora groups. This Bangladeshi diaspora group has, therefore, a deep rooted commitment to build the country and help move it forward in all sectors of development irrespective of their personal political affiliations or leanings.     

South Asians have a common culture that often binds them together. The impact of literature, cinema (esp bollywood), ghazals, dress, food, music, languages often play a binding force for South Asian diaspora. Most of the artists celebrated across the border as well as in the diaspora. Do you consider these forces playing greater and constructive role in future in shaping pan South Asian identity?

Without any doubt, our South Asian common culture as reflected in our art, literature, music, paintings, folklores, songs, poems, stories, foods, Jatras, theaters, movies, dresses, and languages bind us almost eternally with a strong sense of belongings to our soil and our  people which may rightly be called a “Pan South Asian Identity”.   Outside of our homelands, as we participate in large-scale social and cultural gatherings in the diaspora community, we find strong manifestations that our Pan Asian culture, as an independent and dominant force, is already shaping an unmistakable identity for us that we may call our very own.

Today cyber space facilitates sharing of ideas and knowledge crossing geographical boundaries. There are increasing diaspora activities in different sectors such as healthcare, IT and resource sharing and in many emerging areas. What is your opinion on the emerging diaspora network in cyber space? Does that help in promoting knowledge revolution leading to overall development of South Asia?

I have no doubt in my mind, as the growing evidences in multiple development sectors show (whether it is healthcare, science, automotive, aerospace e or aviation technology, business, industry, education, and/or IT) that South Asian diaspora professionals are playing a leading role wherever they are settled. Diaspora network in cyberspace may definitely provide immense strengths to South Asian diaspora and, of course, may help promote significant overall development of South Asia. 

Any Other Comments:

Yes, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Editor (Dr. Sadananda Sahoo) and the management of “Roots and Routes” for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with the readers. 

Prof. Mizan R. Miah is one of the leading Social Scientists from South Asia, living in USA. Did his Ph.D. in Soci-ology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (1985) and M.S.W. from University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign (1998), at present he is Director and Professor, School of Social Work, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Prof. Miah is a former Chairperson of Sociology at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh; an ex-fellow of the Population Council; and an alumnus of the East-West Center Population Institute. Currently, he is serving on Social Work National Association of Deans & Directors International Task Force and Child Welfare Task Force. Prof. Miah has keen interest on South Asian Diaspora and he has been working on issues of South Asian Diaspora especially focusing on issues of elderly since long time.


Interview Date:   Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012
Person Name:   Prof. Mizan R Miah

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