BY ASHOOK RAMSARAN
Toward far away places from India such as Durban and Detroit, wavesof Indianshave
been migrating for centuries to various parts of the world seeking better
livelihood for themselves and their
families. This migration pattern
includes the earlier pre-colonial era,
the period covering colonial indentured laborers and present day
skilled and unskilled labor migration.
Quoting from the Indian High Level Commission Report of
“People of Indian Origin began to migrate overseas in significant numbers only in the 19th century driven by economic compulsions generated by colonialism. In a unique diverse
pattern, Indians spread initially to countries of Africa, South
East Asia, Fiji and the Caribbean - and the enormous demand
for cheap labor after the abolition of slavery. In the second
half of the 20th century, a steady flow of professionals to
developed countries of the west and India's skilled, semiskilled and unskilled labor in West Asia and Gulf States.”
Today there are over 28 million in the Indian diaspora, from
recent emigrants to several generations in the older legacy
diaspora, speaking many languages and residing in numerous
countries in all continents. In addition, there is a significant
number working on temporary visas in both skilled and
unskilled jobs in many countries, in particular the Gulf States.
The fact that there are over 160 Indian high commissions and
consulates worldwide and the establishment of the Ministry of
Overseas Indian Affairs confirms the widespread domiciles
and increasing numbers of Indians outside of India, and the
interest of the Indian Government to connect with the Indian
The Indian diaspora is indeed a unique phenomenon of
migration where the culture, heritage and values bind and
bond with an overwhelming dose of hereditary jewels, traits
and attributes that reside within the Indian whenever and
wherever she/he goes. Indian heritage is like a huge banyan
tree, strong and vibrant, with many branches and extremely
deep roots of shared values of Indianness that cannot be easily discarded or denied. Indian heritage is undeniably an
invaluable source of inspiration and pride which sustain and
motivate as well.
The fact that there have been vibrant organizations and associations from the outset among Indians who migrated worldwide confirms the strength, resilience and value of the Indian
diaspora, even while one tries to fathom the depths of heritage
and how certain attributes sustain the diaspora. Other than the
Jewish Diaspora, the Indian diaspora is unique that it adds to
our legacy, a priceless treasure envied by others, intrinsic in so
Indian heritage is the cornerstone of the diaspora, transcending time and place, surviving obstacles and severe situations, remoteness and influences. Despite speaking different
languages, living in different and sometimes remote places,
sustaining and improving lives, the global Indian community
shares heartfelt feelings of Indianness and the urge and yearning to connect and belong. Meanwhile, Indians have inherited
and taken a lot from India and transformed lives and societies
of respective countries of birth, adoption or domicile.
The Indian diaspora is a continuing phenomenon and can be
likened to the movement of people seeking better lives for
themselves and their families with remarkable achievements
which flourish and accelerate with each succeeding generation
after assimilation and adaption. These subsequently contribute to economic and social progress in the respective countries of birth, adoption or domicile. Indian heritage, culture
and values are the driving elements for sustenance, survival,
achievement, pride and progress at all levels.
However, we have a knack for reconciling our two (2) identi-ties - our inherent Indianness and birth or newly adopted citizenship. We learn very easily to adapt and co-exist and
progress in other countries with multi-ethnic societies far away
from India. Indian heritage is such a powerful asset in the diaspora that some other colonial powers marginalized persons of
Indian origin curbing cultural observances and by making it
difficult to maintain cultural traditions; despite such efforts,
those Indians persevered and sought more to preserve and
protect Indian by culture, heritage and values, and survived
and remained vibrant.
It should be noted that adherence to Indian heritage and cultural origin should not - and must not - diminish national loyalty. In fact, assimilation and adaption are key attributes to
progressive lives in other birth or newly adopted countries.
While NRIs and PIOs have remarkable achievements in their
adopted lands and have contributed significantly to the countries of their adoption, they have also, in many ways, collectively contributed to India's transformation and resurgence
into a modern economy. While PIOs and NRIs are domiciled
in other countries, there is an abiding connection to India by
the inherent bond of history, culture and heritage which contribute to a special relationship between the global Indian
community and India. The longevity, strength and resilience of
this deep and abiding bond are the cornerstone of the intrinsic
value of the Indian Diaspora spanning generations and continents.
The accumulated experiences and acquired skills as well as
broader perspectives of living in other countries provide the
NRIs and PIOs with unmatched courage, energy and interest
in the well being and improvement of their respective homelands. While it can be viewed as a responsibility of the NRI or
PIO to contribute to the well being and development of her/his
country of origin, it is also incumbent on of her/his country of
origin to outreach to the diaspora, to recognize the strengths
and interest, and engage and encourage the collective contributions for social and economic development.
While the opportunities abound for the diaspora to be
engaged in the social and economic development of India
and/or other country of origin as well country of adoption,
birth or domicile, there should be a focused effort on selected
areas of interest which can be beneficial to both the diaspora
and India (or respective countries of origin or domicile). It is
vital that the Indian Diaspora and the Government of India
should further nurture and sustain a symbiotic partnership of
shared interest and values in planned and preemptive ways.
Some of the areas of importance, engagement, interests and
contributions can include the following:
*Defining the Indian diaspora's relevance in 21st century, its
value, its rightful place in history, while making progress and a
potentially huge difference in lives of people locally and globally.
*While a lot of emphasis is being placed on economic
progress and rightly so, it is important to also develop and
skillfully and beneficially utilize human capital based on education, social responsibility, values, tolerance, understanding,
need versus want, collaboration and cooperation - and peace
*Concerted broad based appeal and tapping into the unparalleled and enormous resources, skills and interest of the diaspora with a focused strategy and sustained effort in consistency, accountability, national upliftment, mutual benefits and
*Maximize the utilization of diaspora achievements and contributions in science and technology, politics, academia, entrepreneurship, literature, medical, academia, social services - for
social and economic development in accordance with the
national agenda of more progress and reform.
*Be mindful of human rights abuses among the weakest,
most susceptible and most vulnerable in the Indian Diaspora
who migrate, live or work in other countries - that is, by constantly monitoring and addressing the plights of Indians and
human rights abuses and bringing Government of India, united Nations and international agencies official rebuke to bear
and remedy where necessary.
*Nurture and sustain the process of assimilation and adaptation in new countries of domiciles by understanding and
conforming to national laws and established social policies,
without compromising national loyalty and by minimizing cultural conflicts, while retaining sense of origin, heritage and
*Sustained and continuous contributions to national social
programs, public agenda, philanthropy, engaging in the fabric
of society and promoting good citizenship in countries of adoption, birth or domicile.
*Leading the way with respect for nature and the earth, protection of natural resources, and zest for clean, sustainable and
renewable energy for clean environment, water, hygienic conditions and sanitation with social and economic progress at all
*Emphasis on peaceful co-existence in multi-ethnic societies
especially in those countries where PIOs and NRIs are small
percentages of the host population while they gain in positions,
affluence and wealth, and can be viewed with jealousy and can
potentially elicit retribution and adverse consequences.
*Due recognition of Indian history, the struggles of the past
and present, lessons of migration, discipline, pioneering and
hard work and progress, tolerance and accommodation, while
helping to define the future; the destiny of the Indian diaspora
is dynamic and not yet written.
*A must: Accountability, fairness, equitable treatment and
good governance at all levels: official, corporate, institutional,
social and personal.
*Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual Indian Diaspora
showcase event: Need for more relevance, better planning and
content with team of selected international organizations
being permanent members for consistency, continuity and
promotion; recommend no charge registration for international attendees (registration and access closely monitored).
Indian Diaspora’s opportunities in engagement
...Continued on page 21
India Abroad September 2014 Response Feature S15