There are close to 32.1 million NRIs and PIOs residing outside India. They are huge reservoirs of talent and potentiality that India needs to draw upon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent address to the country called for the initiation of “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” - a nationwide appeal to Indians to be “vocal for local” thereby aiming at making India self-reliant. This policy announcement comes at a time when India is going through an unprecedented crisis in the form of Covid-19 and the government is looking for ways to effectively deal with this pandemic.
In an attempt to make India self- reliant, there has to be consistent focus on the five pillars mentioned by the Prime Minister: Economy, Infrastructure, Technology Driven System, Demography and Demand. At the same time, we need an interplay and cooperation of various ‘developmental’ actors at different levels both inside and outside the country. In this context, the role of the Indian diasporic community, present across the world, contributing immensely to different sectors and areas, becomes very important. According to the recent report of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are close to 32.1 million NRIs and PIOs residing outside India, one of the largest in the world. These diasporic numbers are huge reservoirs of talent and potentiality that India needs to draw upon.
This article reflects on the role of the Indian Diaspora in building and making “New India” which will be self-reliant, self-sufficient and a global power. Since coming to power in 2014, Modi-led government has always believed in tapping the role and prospects of the Indian diaspora and has considered them as an integral part of India’s development.
It was back in 2016 when PM Modi, addressing the Indian diaspora said, that they are not “brain drain” but “brain gain” and it is now that these words can be converted into ‘potential actions’.
The Indian diasporic community are “unnamed ambassadors” promoting and maintaining the rich Indian culture and interests on foreign lands. The subsequent points below highlight how Indian diaspora across the world can make India “Atmanirbhar” and how their potential can be tapped by India especially in the context of the five pillars enumerated above.
1. In terms of economic boost up, the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) should be given major incentives (attractive interest rates) to invest more in developmental projects in India including local artistry, small businesses, tribal arts, rural development etc. By doing this, not only unique talents could be promoted within the country but also, the diaspora can help open a new market outside India, facilitating exports, thereby contributing to the economy and increasing the demand, both inside and outside the country. This process needs immediate attention, as a nation can benefit immensely through investments made by its diaspora. Investment of Chinese diaspora in China is a classic example of this. In the past, Chinese diaspora investments have accounted for 40% of the total FDI and have not only provided capital but technology, knowledge, market etc. to make China’s export boom. In India, this has already begun but the pace has been slower.
2. There are many existing governmental policies and initiatives in place that encourage Indian diaspora to contribute in different ways. One of them that need to be formalized and implemented soon, should be in terms of tapping the expertise that the diaspora provides. It can be in terms of technical know-hows (in which the diaspora seems highly efficient), financial, scientific, social, cultural etc. By doing this, India can reap two sided benefits - first through ‘skills and expertise learnt’ it can use it in various infrastructural developments and capacity building within the country, thereby aiming at ‘self-reliance’. Second, it can establish strong connections with the diaspora who are our “agents of change in a foreign land” and can help India, diversify its rich, cultural and glorious traditions at a global scale.
3. Initiatives like “Know India Programme (KIP)” involving engagement with the diasporic youth (18-30 years old) and Scholarship Program for Diaspora Children (SPDC) are those frameworks that help familiarize the diasporic youth with India’s roots. These initiatives hint at capitalizing the youth energy and advocating India’s global image. In order to make an “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, we need to have many such similar schemes in place that will increase the engagement of vibrant diasporic youth with India, which in turn shall facilitate India’s journey towards greater development in terms of knowledge creation, enhancing global image, opening up its boundaries for innovation and research etc.
4. Since through “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”, earlier initiatives like “Make in India” get a great boost, it is the right time when Indian diasporic community, the NRIs, should think of creating “New Ventures” (either business or other) in India in collaboration with different actors. This would not only provide a boost to the economy but would reap other benefits like Employment Creation, Self Reliance etc.
During these Covid-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the emergence of a self-reliant India, a nation which is not only catering to the needs of its citizens but also supporting its international friends and partners. We cannot deny the fact that India has already embarked on a self-reliant journey, the need of the hour is to keep the momentum going. Therefore, it is time when our “Rashtra Doots”- the Indian diasporic community, should also play a significant role in India’s development and enable it to embark on a journey towards greater sustainability and global power.
(Monika Gupta is an Intern at A4N. The author is Commonwealth Scholar, Visiting Research Student, SOAS, University of London, & PhD Research Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)