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A Q&A with the Minister of Overseas Affairs

By Deepti Sivakumar
September 2012
A Q&A with the Minister of Overseas Affairs

Photos by Vinod.

Vayalar Ravi, India’s Minister of Overseas Affairs, was recently in Atlanta, promoting the 10th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)-2013, to be held at Kochi (Kerala) from 7-9 January, 2013.

Heads of associations, as well as business, civic, and academic leaders of the Atlanta Indian community came together at the Palace Restaurant in Norcross for a luncheon hosted in honor of the minister on Saturday, July 28. Minister Ravi extended an invitation to the wide cross-section of guests to attend the PBD, held each year in India to acknowledge the contributions of NRIs and PIOs across the global diaspora.

Later in the day, Khabar had a short Q&A with the minister:

How does your Ministry compare or differ from the Ministry of External Affairs? With which Ministry are diplomats and consular officers more aligned?

The Ministry of Overseas Affairs addresses the concerns and the needs of overseas Indians whereas the Ministry of External Affairs governs India’s diplomatic relations with other nations. The diplomats and consular officers are more aligned with the Ministry of External Affairs.

12_11_BollywdBuzz_Shahid.jpg

Dr. Narsi Narasimhan, Consul General Ajit Kumar, and Ani Agnihotri with India's Minister of Overseas Affairs, Vayalar Ravi.

What programs, platforms or initiatives would you cite that have been most successful in accomplishing the mission of your Ministry in its liaisons with the diaspora?

Indian workers who do manual labor in the Middle Eastern countries have bad living and working conditions. Their salaries are below par. Our ministry works to protect the interests of such Overseas Indians.

There seems to be a perception that the Ministry of Overseas Affairs is mostly a PR agency? Is it designed to influence national policy towards the diaspora?

The Ministry of Overseas Affairs is definitely not just a PR agency; we take active measures to address the needs and concerns of overseas Indians and design the national policy to meet their needs. The overseas Indians are a part and parcel of the Indian society. Any policy adopted by the Indian government, be it foreign or domestic, always keeps in mind the needs of the overseas Indians.

What does it mean to be an OCI or a PIO and why is the process for renouncing Indian citizenship so complicated and expensive?

OCI and PIO are two categories for overseas Indians; now we have decided to merge the two categories and have only one card in their place. This card will help overseas Indians have a lifelong visa and stay in India as long as you wish, buy property, conduct business and enjoy all the rights of the other citizens, except voting rights.

The two-month-rule for tourist visas seems restrictive. Many PIOs, even after obtaining U.S. citizenship, have close ties with India and find a need to re-visit India within two months of their last visit. And often these are emergency visits that don’t give much time for additional applications.

The two-month rule was introduced after a Pakistani-American (David Hadley) was involved in a terrorist activity. We don’t want a repeat of that, which is why it is important to carefully scrutinize all the applications. Most of the applications are cleared, only in case of suspicious applications, the process may be delayed. In case of emergency, there are emergency visas available from all consulates.


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