Photo : Dnyaneshwar M Mulay
Some twenty Members of Parliament (MP) each from Trinidad and Guyana and many others from Surinam and around the Caribbean region are heading to New Delhi for a conference with government of India officials. The meeting was requested by the government of India which is covering the costs for transportation from the home country to Delhi as well as hotels, meals and local transport in India.
Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa and Overseas Indian Affairs), a newly created post in the Ministry of External Affairs, announced the holding of this conference of PIO (person of Indian origin) Parliamentarians (MPs) which will be held on January 9, 2018 in New Delhi. It will be hosted by the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will declare open the conference and have lunch with them while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will engage the diaspora MPs and have dinner with them. Shri Mulay-ji is in charge of planning and coordinating the conference. He announced that the conference will help MPs of Indian ancestry to better understand India and to help improve relations between those countries and India. In addition to the conference on the 9th, the MPs will be hosted by a NGO (ARSP) on the 10th to discuss improving people to people relations and how ARSP can better relations between India and other countries.
Addressing media personnel in mid-December, organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC), Mulay-ji said that "There are around 285 parliamentarians of Indian origin and over 125 of them are expected to be at the Delhi conference˝.
Mulay said that of the 285 parliamentarians, 70 are ministers, speakers of parliament, and even prime ministers in their respective countries. He noted that in the US alone, there are four members of the House of Representatives and one senator who are of Indian origin. There are several MPs of Indian origin in the UK Parliament and House of Lords.
Mulay posited that the government has laid a strong foundation by making diplomacy people-centric.
He said that the government's interaction with the Indian diaspora has been "transformational".
He claims that the total number of such diaspora around the world now stands at 31.2 million.
Mulay made reference to the Madad portal set up by his ministry that is used to address the grievances of Indians living abroad. He said: "We received around 26,000 grievances in the last one year and over 20,000 of these have been resolved". He also said the grievances were also received via social media and through call centres.
Speaking about the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card that offers a lifelong visa to people of Indian origin abroad, Mr Mulay said that many people are applying for it.
He added that Indian missions have now been allowed to print OCI cards in their respective countries.
I welcome India’s hosting of this international conference of members of parliaments who are of Indian origin from around the globe. India-diaspora relationship matters and such a meeting will help to ement ties between India and her diaspora (particularly the less developed countries which) receive enormous benefits from India. The MPs will have an opportunity to discuss issues affecting the Indian communities in their respective country. India is a natural ally of all of these countries. It is praiseworthy that the government has taken the initiative to develop closer relations with diaspora communities through their MPs.