India: Non Resident Indians Are Being Courted By The Government

2004

Dr Auriol Weigold

A new Ministry for Non Resident Indian Affairs was created in June 2004 to put in place and oversee policies for the country's re-engagement with its diaspora. This initiative will be ably supported by Indian Business Chambers and by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries' (FICCI's) Diasporic Division.

The creation of the new ministry would seem timely as indicated by a reading of the recent literature discussing India's extremely successful entrepreneurial engagement in the American economy. This engagement has been buoyant despite being briefly threatened, particularly in the IT sector, by the so-called 'bloodbath of the US recession' (officially from Mar. 2001-Nov. 2001, with the economy remaining sluggish at least up until mid 2003). Previously described as a 'brain drain', articles published from around mid-2003 suggest that Non Resident Indians (NRI's) have now become a valuable 'external resource'.

There would appear to be a clear coincidence of NRI, foreign and Indian interests. For example, the Times News Network on 25 August 2003, expressed the view that India is becoming a more dynamic and attractive place in which to engage in business 'while the US is mired in recession'; that especially in the software industry, Indians should become more proactive in bringing companies to India. This was seen as not only resulting in business advantages, but as also enabling the strengthening of 'culture and giving back to our country of origin'. The article ended by expressing the belief that increased interest in India amongst NRI's was stimulated by their recognition of India's business growth potential.

Despite the general Indian unease about recession in the US, the Indian Government and Business Chambers have recognised the advantages of embracing NRIs globally. FICCI's Diasporic Division, for example, will 'create specialised networks across sectors and countries to leverage the diaspora's strengths for India's economic growth and development'. This is amongst a raft of incentives aimed at advancing and constructing a 'productive relationship' with NRI's (www.indiaday.org).

While there seems to have been a significant fall in philanthropic contributions from overseas Indians, perhaps particularly from those located in the United States, the Congress Government is now seeking to institutionalise links with NRI's that were initiated by the former BJP Government. A comprehensive list of investment opportunities and facilities enabling non-residents to support a variety of investment options at home has been published; and, as noted above, there is now a Ministry for Non Resident Indian Affairs.

WATCHPOINT: Will the new focus on NRI's as 'a valuable external resource' rather than as a 'brain drain' elicit from them 'the more productive relationship' with India the Government is seeking?

 

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