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Annual Indian Diaspora Conclave Loses Sizzle

February 2008
Annual Indian Diaspora Conclave Loses Sizzle

To coincide with the diaspora conclave held in Delhi last month, India’s overseas ministry launched a revamped monthly publication, now dubbed pb (Pravasi Bharatiya). With lower participation than usual, the conclave seems to have lost steam, although this year’s event was not entirely lacking in substance. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the creation of a PIO (people of Indian origin) advisory council, which intends to tap the experience and expertise—not to mention wealth—of an Indian diaspora that’s now 25 million strong in about 130 nations. The inaugural issue of pb focuses on the achievements of the diaspora, unsurprisingly, but it also highlights the gains and aims of the overseas ministry. The following projects are under consideration: (1) Welfare fund for overseas workers. (2) Overseas Indian welfare centers in Indian missions. (3) PIO University. (4) Council for promotion of overseas employment.

Among the initiatives already in progress, the most important is perhaps the OCI (overseas citizenship of India) program; over 175,000 OCI cards have been issued since 2006. Last year, for the first time, India’s estimated intake of $27 billion from its overseas community was the highest among all nations. Among the 12 recipients of the 2008 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (diaspora award), there were two Indian Americans: Joy Cherian and Thomas Abraham. Cherian, the first Asian American to be appointed to a sub-cabinet position, founded the Indian American Forum for Political Education. Abraham, who heads the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, has taken an active interest in diaspora affairs for over three decades. Other notable winners from around the world included Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius and Karan Bilimoria, a U.K.-based entrepreneur.

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