From the Viewsroom

A lesser diaspora?

Tina Edwin | Updated on September 27, 2019 Published on September 27, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump at 'Howdy Modi!' rally. File photo   -  Reuters

Unlike Indian-Americans, Gulf NRIs aren’t getting much attention

The ‘Howdy, Modi’ event in Houston showcased the influence that the Indian diaspora has in the US and their importance as a powerful voting bloc. Indian-Americans are the most educated and successful community in the US and occupy high offices in government and the corporate sector. With US presidential elections a little over a year away, it should not surprise that President Trump and 24 other lawmakers including Ted Cruz, a contender for the Republican Party nomination in the 2016 presidential race, took time out to share stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a gathering of 50,000 Indian-Americans and non-resident Indians. For Modi as well as the organisers, the event was hugely successful, and no one would grudge him for reaching out to the Indian community in the US.

While the Indian-American community is a powerful bloc, should not Modi and the government consider the Indians in the Gulf countries an important constituency with which a constant dialogue is maintained? More than the Indian-Americans and diaspora elsewhere in the world, it is this set of people who make meaningful contribution to the country.

Every month, the millions who live in the Gulf remit huge amounts as foreign exchange into their accounts in India, to support their families and to invest in the country’s real estate sector, equities and other financial instruments. Without those remittances, India’s balance of payment position would have looked worse. More than 53 per cent of the $70 billion received annually by India is contributed by the Indian diaspora in the Gulf, many of whom are unskilled and semi-skilled workers, employed in low-paying jobs, bound by stifling contracts and living in over-crowded shelters.

The government needs to be more sensitive to the needs of India’s citizens living and working in West Asia. Modi would do well to use his good offices with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the emirates to get a better deal for these people — better working and living conditions and easier exits when they want to give up their work there and return home.

The author is a Senior Deputy Editor at The Hindu BusinessLine

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Published on September 27, 2019
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