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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 07:39 GMT
India forges closer ties with diaspora
Man stands in rubble after Gujarat earthquake 2001
Indians abroad give vital help during national crises

India's government has announced that it will grant dual nationality to some of the 20 million people of Indian origin living overseas.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at the start of a high-profile three-day event in Delhi for overseas Indians.

The conference has been seen as part of a move by the Indian Government to form closer ties with the Indian diaspora, which many see as a powerful potential source of investment, support and influence.

Many Indians living overseas have been calling for dual nationality for a long time.

Changing status

Although many of the diaspora maintain personal and professional ties with India, some complain that their status as foreign passport holders has made both travel and business difficult.

Belgrave Road, Leicester UK
The UK has become home to more than a million Indians
For others it is an issue of personal identity.

Careers or marriages might have taken them overseas but they do not want to feel estranged from India.

There are conditions attached.

The prime minister stressed that dual nationality was not an automatic right and would only apply to certain countries, which have not yet been named.

Some critics have accused the government of favouring ethnic Indians in countries like Britain and the United States - people who might have money to invest and whose political support for Delhi could carry weight.

Help hindered

Twenty million people of Indian origin now live overseas.

Many here realise that successful overseas Indians could play an important role in supporting India's development.

Many Indians living overseas already make a major contribution to investment, charitable donations and lobbying on India's behalf.

But some complain their official status as foreigners has made it harder for them to help.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jill McGivering reports from Delhi
"Delhi's leaders are keen to forge closer ties with the Indian diaspora"
  India's High Commissioner to London, Ronen Sen
"This has been under consideration for some time"
See also:

09 Jan 03 | South Asia
09 Jan 03 | South Asia
08 Jan 03 | South Asia
23 Dec 02 | South Asia
24 Jul 02 | Country profiles
18 Jan 02 | South Asian Debates
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