Long Awaited New Year's Gift


Dual citizenship for overseas Indians has finally arrived. 

As we went to press at the close of this year came the heartening news that the Indian Parliament has, at long last, passed a bill to grant dual citizenship to people of Indian origin.

The bill offers dual citizenship to people of Indian origin in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel and Sweden.

The news has been long time coming. We have been waiting for this act, in its various incarnations, for over 10 years. The bill was timed to coincide with the celebrations of the upcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held in January 2004.

As many have speculated, this measure is meant to get NRIs involved in the development of the country, making it easy to participate in the country’s affairs, and simplifying tax laws to facilitate business and commercial ventures.

In personal and family terms, the bill is likely to add a psychological dimension to the state-of-being for Indians abroad, as it brings India closer to them and restores to them the emotional privileges and rights in associating with all things back home.

One also hopes this exchange is a two-way street. We hope that India contributes to the well being of its citizens around the world in all earnestness and steadfastness, regardless of the political party dominating New Delhi.

The extensive lobbying and continuing efforts that it has taken for this step is behind us now and hopefully there will be open and fruitful exchanges between Indians abroad and Indians at home about the future of the country and its social, economic and global policies.

The burden on Indians abroad is also more tangible with this new identity. What was once a dream has become a reality. Most of us yearned for it as much for emotional reasons as for its economic advantages. As the legal status acknowledges the everyday reality of our lives, this dual citizenship will only bring us closer to India, and we can think of it as our own again. There is now reason and opportunity for real involvement and real effort.

Hopefully, those living in India will not view this dual citizenship as a new form of imperialism of the NRIs. There is no doubt that as an ambivalent import, the NRI is an object of scorn, envy and amusement and only occasionally of admiration.
This dual citizenship simply invites us home again; it does not give us a welcome better than what we have received in the past. We need to be mindful that we are not assuming a status more privileged and more honored than those who live their everyday lives in India and fulfill their duties as ordinary citizens.

Finally, we hope that the Indian communities in the 16 countries that have been accorded recognition in this bill, are only a start. As many have noted, the decision to limit dual citizenship to these 16 countries was motivated by financial considerations – that the wealth resided with Indians in these countries and it was the reason dual citizenship was not expanded universally. As we live each day away from India and each day closer to the diversity of the global Indian community, we can appreciate the need for all Indians to participate in the project called India, regardless of how much money we bring to the table.
Let that be our new year’s resolve 

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