Pravasi Bharatiya Divas - India Connects With The Indian Diaspora

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas - India Connects With The Indian Diaspora

Photo : Kamal Persad

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) departed from the norm on this occasion in that members of parliamentary and regional corporations and mayors, attended the PBD in New Delhi on January, 02, 2018.  One hundred and fifty-three lawmakers attended, and listened to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the conference.  One report stated that “this is the first PIO-Parliamentary Conference and is a way of reaching out to the Indian community overseas by the Government of India.

Prime Minister Modi said that “India has moved away…and aims and aspirations of our people are at an all-time high, and that is because of the transformation the country is going through.”  He further added that “keeping the needs of the 21st century, the government is increasing the investment in technology and transportation.  Over the last three years there has been a tremendous investment in many areas.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in her valedictory session that “I am confident that this is an historical conference,  will help  open new vistas for regular dialogues and exchanges of visits of PIO parliamentarians” and “the global Indians had become India’s  friends currently because of the several successful initiatives launched by the government to connect with the Indian diaspora.”

And the President of India,  Ram Nath Kovind  ”asked parliamentarians of Indian origin to link the priorities of their own countries with India development and see how the two can intersect.”

Over the years the PBD has provided a forum in India, and hosted by the Indian government for gatherings of Indians of the diaspora.  It is estimated that the Indian diaspora is about 30 million Indians. In 2017 it is estimated that the Indian diaspora transmitted US$70 billion to India.  The Indian diaspora is quite forceful presence in India.  In fact, this importance is fully appreciated in that national leaders such as the President, Prime Minister and Ministers of Government attend the PBD and give addresses. The regular conferences are treated with a great deal of respect and importance.

India Perspectives (Vol. 31 March-June 2017), a publication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave an outline of PBD over the years beginning in January 2003.  The other years are as follows:  2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2014. The conference shifted out of New Delhi to other  cities such as Mumbai (2005), Hyderabad (2006), Chennai (2009), Jaipur (2012), Koch (2005), Chandiapajer  (2015 and Bengaluru (2017). The theme for the 2017 was “Redefining Engagement with the India Diaspora.” In term of the categories of persons they are grouped as : (i) Non-Resident Indians (NRI),  (ii) Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)  and (iii) Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). Indian- Caribbean persons would be grouped in the main  PIO, descended from indentured Indians.  They are the only part of the Indian diaspora which can actually control countries such as Mauirtius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

Narendra Modi

Photo : Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi

Given that PBV is organised by the Government of India one can expect that the agenda would be controlled and the conferences would inevitably, be diplomatic and address issues like investment, development and the economy. Nevertheless, the gathering of hundreds of Indians of the diaspora and of India, in conference, is itself a powerful message of unity of the Indian diaspora with India.

Issues of racial discrimination against Indians in the diaspora would tend to be marginalised such as the situation of Fiji. Indian- Caribbean presence would have to deal with issues arising in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname and the smaller Indian presence in the Caribbean. It is clear that Indian diaspora in the Caribbean must foster bonding and unity to create a strong lobby to deal issues as they arise.

PBD nevertheless provide an India based diasporis forum to foster a lobbal perspective on the India diaspora. It fosters a global unity of  all Indians. Ti fosters a definition of Indianness and reinforce that India is the ancestral motherland.