A Study of the Indian Diaspora: Presence in the Global North

PRESENCE IN THE GLOBAL NORTH

The Indian diaspora has garnered significant presence and influence in the Global North. In general, the groups that had travelled to the West during colonialism and immediately afterwards – either forced under indentureship or voluntarily for better employment opportunities – are now powerful and numerous in those respective societies. Whether in blue-collar or white-collar occupations, the Indian diaspora encountered severe discrimination and ostracization in the host countries. Though their relative success as immigrants – politically and economically – facilitated their integration into Western society, they continue to confront prejudice and stratification. Even so, the Indian diaspora has negotiated important political and social roles in their host countries, bridging those polities and societies with their home country. Indeed, diasporic groups have played key roles in facilitating transformations in bilateral foreign policies formulated by the Global North that benefits India.

This article aims to examine the presence of the Indian diaspora in the Global North. It will first study the history of the diaspora in Europe, focusing on the Netherlands and Germany. Second, it will review their socioeconomics and demographics in the United Kingdom. Finally, it will consider their role and presence in the United States of America.

Diaspora in Europe

European cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Rome developed into attractive metropolitan centres in the 19th century, and Indians visiting these cities or fleeing persecution in Britain settled there. Belgian, Danish, German, French, and Portuguese missionaries found eager recipients in India, converted several individuals, and brought them to their home countries through various organized networks such as the Santal Mission of Northern Churches. Additionally, those employed in the trading communities owned by the Dutch East India Company in Surat, Agra, Lucknow, Patna, and Kochi also immigrated to the Netherlands after the Dutch lost their colonies. Scholars observe that the migration of Indians into Europe may be predominantly viewed in two waves. After independence, several individuals travelled to Europe pursuing higher education or technical and commercial training, found employment and often permanent residency, and settled there. In those early decades, there were no Indian diasporic associations across Europe, rendering it difficult for the immigrant Indians to maintain ties with the home country. Nevertheless, they preserved deep links with their families back home and eventually formed associations seeking to influence the politics and society of their host countries, also instituting forums for solidarity and discussion. The second wave identifies the Indian diaspora, typically referred to as twice migrants. The descendants of indentured labourers who were transported to the plantation colonies of the Dutch, French, and British colonial governments between 1834 to 1916 to replace slave labour, began to immigrate into Europe in the 1970s. For instance, Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda expelled most immigrant Indians from the country, and they fled primarily to Britain, Netherlands, and Germany. They also immigrated from Mozambique after its independence in 1974 or from the Portuguese colonies of Goa and Daman, and Diu to Portugal. Indeed, as the Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher governments in Britain upheld proscriptions on immigration from the Third World, Indians found it simpler to migrate elsewhere in Europe. There is evidence that semi-skilled and skilled workers arrived through chain migration – on family or kinship lines – across Europe, despite gradually strengthened restrictions imposed. Immigration into Europe intensified at the end of the Second World War, as “guest labour” from the Mediterranean, North Africa, Turkey, and India emigrated to rebuild devastated Dutch urban centres and industries. Though some returned, most settled there. These diasporas, however, found it difficult to construct a recognisable Indian identity. Not only was it difficult to cement ties in the new host countries, but twice migrants were also not referred to as Indians at all, thus further divorcing them from their identities. They were known as Surinamese Hindustanis in the Netherlands, and because the French government franchised immigrated Indians, they were known as French Indians. In 1990, Indians feeling the Taliban’s persecution in Afghanistan came to be termed Afghani Indians in Germany. They also found the compelled assimilation into European society psychologically troubling, eventually establishing diasporic associations to maintain their sense of identity.

After the Indian Embassy was established in the Hague in 1951, an Indo-Dutch Friendship Society was envisioned, aimed at exploring economic, cultural, and political relations between the two countries. Inspired by similar organisations created by the Creoles, the Surinamese Indians founded Manan, arranging festivals, meetings, and visits to India to allow twice migrant youth to better understand and appreciate their native cultures. They transcribed oral traditions into Dutch and Hindi and organised Emigration Day from 5th June 1963 to celebrate Indian social and cultural customs and tie the Surinamese diaspora with their Indian roots. As Indian journalists and media persons were invited to the Netherlands in 1956, Radio Netherlands Overseas Services and Dutch television services regularly broadcasted information about India, and museums in Amsterdam, Breda, Rotterdam, and Leiden conducted exhibitions about India’s cultural history; this was how the Indian diasporic identity in the Netherlands was strengthened. The India-Netherlands Association (NIA) was established in the 1960s and formed the basis of diasporic associations attempting to aid their home country and uphold cultural ties. Their role as bridges between their home and host countries became evident first 1967. During the severe famine in Bihar, they assisted the UNESCO project, Food for India, and raised nutritional aid to be transported home along with other countries. They organised melas to raise funds during other natural disasters and created the cultural basis for Indian students emigrating for higher studies into the Netherlands. They also facilitated the signing of two bilateral treaties on economic relations and scientific or cultural exchanges in the 1970s, leading to the Dutch news media and film industry gradually including Indian journalists and films in their programmes. The Indian Embassy also assisted the NIA in the Netherlands to publish journals and hold lectures about Indian culture, literature, folk and classical music, and democracy. This created a space to bolster diasporic contacts and allowed Dutch society to have a better idea about India, thus furthering diplomatic relations between the countries. The India Welfare Society (IWS) was established in the 1960s as semi-skilled and lowly-skilled Indian migrants migrated to the Netherlands for employment after immigration was severely restricted in Britain. Though they were migrating through kinship networks, they were alienated from the NIA as they worked in factory or janitorial occupations or owned weekly market stalls, did not speak the language, and found it difficult to integrate into Dutch society. As the economic depression of 1967-1968 precipitated demands that immigrants be returned and Dutch citizens perform their jobs, the Indian diaspora depended on the IWS and its cultural networks to find accommodation and employment and protect their Indian identity. Though the NIA enjoyed closer contact with the Indian Embassy, the IWS became integral to diasporic identity because it welcomed all Indians – from India, Surinam, Uganda, Guyana, Mauritius, and South Africa. Eventually, the Dutch government revised its immigration policies through inburgering, naturalised several Indians into citizenship, provided subsidized schooling and language training, and assimilated lowly-skilled diasporic groups into Dutch society. The government initiated self-help projects to facilitate the formation of diasporic associations, including the Surinamese Regional Foundation, Ekta, and Mathura at the Hague, Trideva, and Lallarookh in Amsterdam, and Shanti Dal in Rotterdam. The IWS assisted these associations in negotiating spaces for worship, play, schools, and cultural programmes, and were allotted subsidies for the purpose. The IWS also secured sites for conducting religious practises, and established gurudwaras and temples. The Foundation for the Critical Choices of India (FCCI), mobilising skilled and affluent Indians, was founded in 1980. Formed by twenty-two Indians across various professions in Netherlands, it aimed at marshalling experienced Indian intellectuals to assist India with any national concerns. After they negotiated the waiving of the double taxation system with the Dutch and Indian governments (allowing considerable benefits to diasporic businessmen), they founded the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT) in 2003 to advocate for deeper economic and trade relations with India. The Dutch policy of verzuiling or compartmentalisation on religious and political lines facilitated the creation of socio-cultural and political blocks by the diaspora and allowed their gradual inclusion into mass media, information technology companies, and eventually politics – municipalities and the Parliament. The global and universalised Indian diaspora in Dutch politics lobbied for special attention devoted to education second or third generations about their native cultures while also enabling the formulation of various bilateral agreements between the Indian and Dutch governments. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Indo-Dutch collaboration in science and technology, including life sciences, social sciences, agriculture and horticulture, green and water energy (through windmills), food, transport, cybertechnology, and communication was signed in 2008. An Indo-Dutch program was initiated in 2009, accompanied by a Mini Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration discussing “The Rising India and the role of the Indian Diaspora.” The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Indian Embassy inaugurated the Gandhi Centre in the Hague in 2011 to better explore Indo-Dutch cooperation. Therefore, it is evident that the Indian diaspora in the Netherlands have assimilated into influential positions in Dutch society and continue to bridge the societies and governments of their home and host countries together.

Indian migration to Germany was unique and multifaceted and illustrates how strengthened diasporic and ethnic identity facilitated the pursuit of resources from the host government. Indians migrated in droves in the late 19th and early 20th century, bolstered by the work of various German scholars and missionaries – including Johan Josua Ketelaar, B Schulz, and Max Mueller – on Indian languages and grammar. German missionary organisations like the Gossener Evangelical-Lutheran Mission were active in India since 1845 and provided further impetus for emigration as well. Germany also supplied asylum to individuals fleeing British persecution and assisted with moral and financial support in the independence movement. Most notably, the formation of the Indian National Army or the Azad Hind Fauj and the Azad Hind Association by Subhash Chandra Bose, and the Indian Legion within the German SS, formed the basis of diasporic migration and assimilation into Germany. Bose’s association with Hitler’s Germany proved to be a grave historical error but did allow Indian diasporic associations to develop gradually within cities. Former officers of the Indian Legion founded the Indo-German Society (Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft), and with the support of the Indian Embassy, inaugurated several chapters across Germany, even establishing the Indian Chamber of Commerce (Deutsch-Indische Handelskammer) in 1956. After the Hindustani Association of Central Europe was renamed to Bharat Majjlis in 1925 and its capital moved to Berlin after German reunification, a variety of local associations began to emerge – including Indian Culture Centrum (Indisches Kulturzentrum, 1974), the Indian Unity Centre (1978), the Tamil Culture Centrum (1979), the Berlin Kerala Samajam (1980), the Sikh Association Berlin (1986), the Indian Solidarity Action (1991), and Tamil Mandaram (1992). Indian students began to arrive in Germany in the 1960s, later settling into the society there. There is also an abundant Malayali population in Germany, initiated by individuals recruited by the German Catholic Mission in Kerala to work as nurses and assistants in German hospitals. The Malayali Association was formed to protect the rights of the Malayali diasporic community, which were severely impinged during the recession of the 1970s. Though many were forced to return to India, some acquired spousal citizenship. Others moved to Dusseldorf-Koln and established a settlement there, publishing a magazine entitled “My World” (Meine Welt) and founding a Union of German Malayali Associations to remain connected with their Indian roots. After German immigration policies were reformed in the 1990s to become more welcoming to immigration, two diasporic individuals – Sebastian Edathy, from the Social Democratic Party and Joseph Winkler, from the Green Party – won parliamentary seats in the Bundestag in Berlin. As the German government and corporations realised the calibre of Indian information technology professionals and engineers during the 1990s, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ordered the issuance of work permits to highly qualified professionals in 2001, allowing them to extend their stay eventually amending immigration laws for the purpose. Not only were employment opportunities expanded for the diaspora, Indian students and scholars also found representation in universities across Germany. The growing integration of the Indian diaspora into German society, and their increasingly influential positions therein, allowed for the institution of a variety of associations aimed at unifying the diverse diasporic community and holding religious functions – assisted by the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Satya Sri Sai BabaKrishnamurti, Trans Meditation of Mahrishi MaheshBhagwan Rajnish – to foster a sense of belonging to the Indian ethnic identity. In the Fifth European Hindu Conference conducted in Frankfurt between 28th to 30th August 1992, former President Zail Singh, the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana, and the Dalai Lama discussed ways for the diaspora to integrate into German society while maintaining their Indian identity peacefully. Hence, this Conferences concluded that all Indians abroad – regardless of religion, political proclivities, economic status, and current nationality – belonged to India, and their “living Indian identity” was to be maintained, protected, and preserved. The Afghan Indian refugees founded the Indian Associations in Hamburg, Koln, and Dusseldorf, organised conferences, and published magazines to appeal for assistance, cultivate a sense of belonging, and express their desire to assimilate into German society. The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) – an organisation based in the USA – established chapters in Berlin and was responsible for successfully condemning and demanding policy reforms to prevent discrimination and racist violence against the diaspora in Germany. The Indernet, or the Indian online community, is a German-language cyber network that was established in 2000, aimed at exploring the political and geographical contemporary of India through factual reports and the cultural, religious, philosophical, and linguistic traditions of the country through interviews, question-answer sessions, and comments from the editor. Its primary purpose is to bring Indian-origin youth born and raised in Germany closer to their homeland and construct an ‘Indianness’ among a generation of Indians for whom India has only been imaginary. The online discussion forum provides information about shops, weekly markets, religious centers, sports clubs, cultural program shows, film shows, Hindu temples, Sikh Gurudwaras, mosques, and meeting centres for the Indian diaspora and brings the Indian identity closer to the youth. Indeed, the organisational capacity of the Indernet renders it unique as a completely digital network dedicated to the interests of the diaspora.

Diaspora in the United Kingdom

During the 18th century, there were several waves of migrations of Indians into Britain. They either arrived as ayas (nannies), naukars (household servants), munshis (tutors), and laskars (seamen) or as part of the British Army during the First and Second World Wars. Indeed, the first diasporic association in Britain – India House – was founded in 1905 by Shyamji Krishanji, as a space for long-distance nationalism and discussions of reforms. Though the British government attempted to restrict the organisation and condemned the founder as “anti-British” and India House as a “notorious…centre of sedition”, it continued to function and formed the basis for the establishment of other diasporic associations in England, like the Sikh Society, the Khalsa Jatha, the Hindu Association of Europe, and the Muslim and Parsee Association. These associations gradually emerged as nodal networks for the transnational Indian diasporic identity, where they would discuss religious, economic, and cultural commonalities. Since the 1950s, Indians came to contribute significantly to economic development in the UK through diaspora entrepreneurship. Presently, at 1.5 million strong, with high rates of energy, ambition, employment, and professional qualifications – with more than 50% qualified to a degree level and over 40% in managerial occupations – they comprise one of the most affluent and dynamic ethnic minorities in the country. Lord Gulam Noon arrived in the UK in the 1970s and cultivated a business empire valued at £65 billion, and was inducted into the House of Lords in 2011. Following in his footsteps, presently, there are more than 65000 diaspora-owned businesses in the UK, with business leaders like Lord Karan Bilimoria, Kartar and Tej Lalvani, Srichand, and Hopichand Hinduja, and Lakshmi Mittal possessing considerable property, finances, and political influence. Indeed, as newer generations of diasporic entrepreneurs amass wealth and influence in politics, arts, sports, and science, the admixture of their cultural heritage and British assimilation render them integral to British society. Prestigious British academic institutions are populated by Indians in high positions, some of whom have held those posts since before independence and are now members of the House of Lords – like Baron Kumar Bhattacharya and Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009. In media, Indian-origin actors, broadcasters, comedians, and musicians have become increasingly visible in recent years, including journalists Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Naga Munchetty, comedian Nish Kumar, actor and broadcaster Sanjeev Bhaskar, actor Dev Patel, and writer and actress Meera Syal. Sir Anish Kapoor, a Bombay-born sculptor created the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, the largest public art in the UK. Filmmakers like Gurinder Chaddha, who directed the famous Bend It Like Beckham, have also become significant to the British cultural landscape. Indian cuisine has transformed British eating habits, and with Chicken Tikka Masala replacing fish and chips as the most popular takeaway in the country, it is evident why there are now thousands of Indian restaurants across the UK, six of which hold a Michelin Star. The Indian diaspora in the UK is also connected to their compatriots at home through the game of cricket, a tradition originating in the era before independence. One of the chief reasons for deepening UK-India ties is the widespread participation of the diaspora in British politics. The first Member of Parliament to be inducted was Dadabhai Naoraji, between 1982 to 1985. Presently, the House of Commons and House of Lords comprise of fifteen members and twenty-three peers, respectively, of Indian origin. Individuals like Baron Meghnad Desai, Rishi Sunak (Chief Secretary to the Treasury), Alok Sharma (Secretary of State for International Development), Lord Narendra Patel (Order of the Thistle, 2009), Baroness Usha Prashar (first chairperson of the Judicial Appointments Commission in 2006) have been awarded high civilian and chivalric honours in the UK and hold prominent positions across the government – the legislature, executive, and judiciary. Though the Indian diaspora comprise, only 2.5% of the population of England and Wales, more than 4% of those named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2019 were of Indian origin, included for their contributions to business, economic growth, pharmaceuticals, television, and public institutions like the National Health Service (NHS). Companies owned by the Indian diaspora generate an approximate annual turnover of £36.84 billion, investing £1.98 billion in capital expenditure and paying £1.045 billion in corporation taxes. Indeed, if their contribution to indirect taxes like VAT and employment tax are included, they comprise immensely significant contributions to the UK Exchequer. Researchers have found that diaspora-owned businesses are generally focused chiefly on the hospitality, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail and wholesale, real estate and construction, and food and beverage sectors, with individuals like Jasminder Singh (Edwardian Hotels), Surinder Arora (Arora Hotels), Chai Patel (HC-One), Kartar and Tej Lalvani (Vitabiotics), Mahmud Karnani (Boohoo.com), and companies like TLC Group, Advinia Healthcare, Avicenna Healthcare, B&S Group, Chemilines, Dhamecha Food, B&M Retail, Shaneel & Per-Scent, Noon Foods, and East End Foods, commanding large market shares and owning billions of pounds in portfolios. Not only do these diaspora-owned businesses generate entrepreneurship and income for the national economy, but they are also crucial providers of employment in the UK. Research indicates that diasporic businesses are generally based in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, and Leeds, and more than 35% have women directors on their board – numbers that are likely to grow in the future. A report entitled ‘India in the UK: The Diaspora Effect 2.0’, compiled by Grant Thornton and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2022, noted that the primary explanations behind the significant successes of the Indian diaspora in the UK are the importance of family support, the determination to succeed against all odds, a strong work ethic, and optimism for the future. Indeed, for the Indian government, these factors contribute to formulating diaspora policies that benefit from diaspora-homeland ties. According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the close-knit yet dispersed and heterogenous diaspora residing in the UK are the core of the bilateral relationship between the two countries and form the “living bridge of steel,” the ” living bridge “.

Diaspora in the United States of America

The Indian diaspora in the USA may have originated from the first Indian settlements on the West Coast in the early 19th century. Though they originally arrived in small numbers, their populations abounded as opportunities for wealth and prosperity grew, eventually rendering them the second-largest diasporic group in America – at 4.8 million and approximately 6% of the foreign-born population. Though the first wave of immigrants found employment primarily in the agriculture, lumber, and railroad industries, their numbers remained small through the early 20th century. They (and other non-European immigrants) were beleaguered by a variety of discriminatory legislations and exclusionary measures in 1917. 1921, and 1924, eventually prohibiting their presence overall. These policies did change, however. Where the Luce-Celler Act (1946) had prescribed a quota of hundred Indian immigrants annually, those national-origin quotas were removed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (1965). Transformations in legislations, educational exchange programmes, new temporary visas for highly skilled workers, and expanded employment-based immigration channels created new pathways for the educated and skilled Indian diaspora, who arrived in America for better education and employment opportunities and settled there with their families. Indeed, between 1989 to 2009, the Indian diasporic population in the USA increased thirteen-fold, emerging as the most popular destination for emigrating Indians (after the UAE). It is not merely that the Indian diaspora is numerous. Their widespread influence in American society is also because they are most likely to be highly educated, earn higher incomes, hold managerial positions, have lower poverty rates, and have high insurance rates. Though critics condemn diasporic groups for illegal immigration, reports display that most Indians in the USA have obtained lawful permanent residence (LPR or Green Card) legally through family reunification and kinship channels – as immediate relatives of US citizens or other family-sponsored and employment-specific channels. They also dominated the H-1B temporary worker visa programme (allowing firms to hire technically or theoretically skilled foreign workers) – at 64% in 2012 and received a substantial share of all L-1 visas issued – at 29%. American universities are replete with either Indian international students or members of the diaspora, and 15% of all PhDs awarded by American universities in 2012 were received by Indian-born or Indian-origin students. The 2014-2018 Census Bureau data, the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), and the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, provide the most recent demographic and socioeconomic indicators of the Indian diaspora in the USA. 20% of the population are concentrated in California, 10% each in Texas and New Jersey, and 17% collectively in New York, Illinois, and Georgia. The Santa Clara County in California, Middlesex County in New Jersey, Alameda County in California, and Cook County in Illinois are inhabited by more than 15% of the Indian diaspora in the country. The New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Jose metropolitan areas also account for approximately 30% of the diasporic population as well. Perhaps aimed at better assimilation, Indian immigrants are more likely to be proficient in English than the general foreign-born population – 22% of Indians aged 5 and over, and 12% speaking the language at home. The diaspora is younger than the overall foreign-born population, but older the median American population, indicated by the large number of those of working age. It also follows, therefore, that Indian immigrants not only have higher education rates than both their foreign-born counterparts and US citizens – with 79% over the age of 25 reporting at least a bachelor’s degree, but they also participate in the labour force and are likely to be employed in management, business, science, and arts occupations than their other foreign-born and US citizen counterparts – at 67% aged 16 and older in the civilian labour force. Consequently, the diaspora also displayed higher incomes than the overall foreign and native-born populations – at a median household income of $132000 and was less likely to be destitute. Even so, Indian immigrants are less likely to be naturalised at American citizens. This could be because most arrived after 2000, but scholars also signal racism and resource insecurity as why Indian immigrants are hindered in their access to citizenship. Though diasporic individuals were primarily employed in the medicine, science and technology, engineering, and mathematics-related sectors, they gradually grew to dominate the hospitality and information technology industries, with Indian Americans owning a third of all Silicon Valley start-ups and founding 8% of all high-technology firms. After Ramani Ayer was appointed as the first diasporic CEO of a Fortune 500 financial firm, presently 2% of the Fortune 500 companies of American origin – including Microsoft, Alphabet, Adobe, IBM, and MasterCard – are led by Indian American CEOs.

The Indian diaspora has pursued longstanding and multifaceted engagement in the society and polity of the host country and their home country. Indeed, surveys of diasporic philanthropic activities display that member of various professional, regional, and religious organisations donate significant amounts to aid their Indian counterparts every year. Though the diaspora in the USA is not the largest source of remittances back home, the amount increased by 55% since 2010, to more than $83.1 billion through formal channels, accounting for approximately 3% of the home country’s GDP in 2019. The exponential increase may be attributed to reforms in governmental and commercial bank policies. Though such rates of remittances contribute significantly to bolstering human development through investments in health and education, the diaspora also supports the Indian economy in other ways. As the present government strives to increase diasporic engagement, it has focused on the diaspora’s capacity to transfer skills and technologies and bridge their Indian counterparts with professional and social networks that it has established in the host country. Diasporic entrepreneurship and resources also invest in their host countries, assisted by ethnic and professional networks, and reduced transaction costs due to digitisation and air travel. Indeed, the Indian diaspora in the USA transfers technical and institutional know-how between regional economies with unprecedented flexibility, speed, and efficiency and are generally credited with the development of India’s information technology industry. The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) is a civil society organisation founded in the Silicon Valley in 1992 that assists diasporic entrepreneurs in strengthening their professional networks through education, mentorship, and networking. The Indian economy has gradually opened to foreign investments, through procedural and sectorial issues remain. Diasporic investment pathways were eased through the establishment of the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre in 2007, investment procedure reforms initiated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and attractive savings accounts schemes (with higher interest rates or those that may be denominated in foreign or domestic currency) exclusively for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). Indeed, in periods of economic instability or balance of payments crises, the government issued diaspora bonds – an overall $11.3 billion since 1991 – to rescue the national economy. Though dual citizenship is impossible under the present Indian constitutional scheme, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme allows for a model of de facto dual citizenship and grants a variety of benefits to the registered diaspora, including the ability to apply for Indian citizenship after five years of holding OCI status under Section 5(1) of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955. Though neither the American nor the Indian government formally this type of dual citizenship, the diaspora in the USA accounts for the largest number of annual OCI registrations, receiving 41 to 44% of all OCI cards granted. However, the paucity of formal recognition does not impede diasporic groups from establishing Indian political associations in the USA, including the Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Overseas Congress of America.

The diaspora has become increasingly active in American politics in the recent years. Advocacy organisations and political action committees have been instituted by various community leaders to aggregate and elevate diasporic interests and those of the home country on a range of issues, including the Indian American Forum for Political Education, the US-India Political Action Committee, South Asian Americans Leading Together, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Republican Indian Committee. Their presence in both Houses of Congress is also significant, with bipartisan caucuses – the Congressional Caucus of India and Indian Americans and the Senate India Caucus – dedicated to diasporic and Indian affairs. The rise and subsequent election of Kamala Harris as Vice President is evidence of the influence commanded by the Indian diaspora in the USA. Indeed, more Indian Americans hold public office today than ever before.

It was not always historically evident that the Indian diaspora would acquire the kind of influence and affluence it has in the Global North. For decades, they endured (and continue to endure) xenophobia and alienation from Western societies and were often compelled to return or ostracised from employment or education opportunities. Their exponential success is a testament to their ambition, energy, and drive, and the relationships they have maintained with their home countries continue to bridge the societies, cultures, polities, and economies of their home and host countries. Pursuing deepened engagement with the diaspora in the Global North would only reap benefits for India.

References

  1. Gautam, M. (2013). Indian Diaspora: Ethnicity and Diasporic Identity . San Domenico di Fiesole: European University Institute .
  2. Grant Thornton. (2020). India in the UK: The diaspora effect. London: Grant Thornton; High Commission of India; Federation of Indian Chambersof Commerce and Industry.
  3. Hanna, M., & Batalova, J. (2020, October 16). Indian Immigrants in the United States. Retrieved from Migration Policy Institute: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-united-states-2019
  4. Iqbal, N. (2020, August 18). Explained: The growth of Indian Americans, in public office and industry. The Indian Express.
  5. Migration Policy Institute. (2014). The Indian Diaspora in the United States. Washington, D.C: Rockefeller Foundation-Aspen Institute Diaspora Program.
  6. Press Trust of India. (2022, March 6). Family support strong factor in Indian diaspora success in UK: Report. The Economic Times.

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