Indian Diaspora is playing a greater role in India's Foreign Policy Today, J.C. Sharma

Published Date:   Thursday, Aug 02, 2012


A talk on “Role of Diaspora  in India’s Foreign Policy, national security and economic development” was delivered by Ambassador J.C. Sharma, Former Member of High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora at Vivekananda International Foundation Auditorium, New Delhi on 31 July 2012. Ajit Doval who welcomed Ambassador Sharma highlighted the importance of diaspora especially the human resource it posses in the national development. “We have not really understood the total potential of the diaspora”, he mentioned. Ambassador Sharma has highlighted some of the impact of diaspora in the national and international politics out of his own experience during his long career as Foreign Service personnel of the Government of India. He mentioned that the events which are sensitive and racial have reverberation faraway places outside the country of origin. This is due to the presence of diapsora. Diaspora which according to him can be divided into three categories i.e NRI (Non Resident Indians), PIO (People of Indian Origin, who are no more Indian passport holder but whose forefather migrated to other countries) and SPIO (Stateless PIOs in various places such as Sri Lanka and elsewhere). He then highlighted the various phases of Indian diaspora and how diaspora policies during those times. While during colonial times, the rulers only taken care of the colonial interest, it is after independence the real diaspora policy emerged. He however mentioned that the All India Congress Committee use to take some diaspora issues in its meeting too. He highlighted Nehru’s policy before and after independence. He mentioned that Nehru who before pre-independence period mentioned that India will take care of diaspora interest, changed his stance after independence saying “Out interest on India’s overseas was primarily cultural and civilization”. His change in attitude is understood the constraints India faced during the post independence period.

Ambassador Sharma mentioned that the real engagement with the diaspora started during emergency to woo the diaspora support. In one hand it was by the congress and on the other by the Bharatiya Jan Sangha. The next phase of the diasporas engagement was during the Kargil war where diaspora communities in USA played a very powerful role in lifting the sanction against India. The post kargil there were many more developments in institutionalizing the diaspora engagement through Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, opening up new Ministries etc.

He highlighted the major concern of the diaspora policy today is related to the issue of security. He gave the example of Khalistan movement, Tamil movements and more recently the Kashmir movements are the serious concern in the diaspora policy. He mentioned that diaspora policy which is a part of the overarching foreign policy of India needs more caution while dealing with sensitive issues involving diaspora.

Ambassador Sharma mentioned the role of diaspora in the economic development of the India. Quoting from the World Bank remittance data, he highlighted that the contribution to the remittances is highest in the world today a whopping 54 US$. Transfer of technology in healthcare and Information technology is noteworthy. However, there is very little done at the policy level from the Government side, he said.

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