Kartikeya | TIMES NEWS NETWORK
This may well be the ultimate ode to the globe-trotting Indian who, for centuries, has been criss-crossing the world in search of opportunity and adventure: Indian citizens are today permanent residents of all but three countries in the world.
The ministry of overseas Indian affairs has registered the presence of non-resident Indians (NRIs) in 180 of the 183 countries of the world. The numbers may vary from just two in Lebanon to almost a million in the US but the fact is that Indians call the whole world their home. It is only in North Korea, Pakistan and Bhutan that not a single NRI is to be found.
NRIs are Indians, who like steel tycoon Laxmi Mittal, proudly hold on to their blue Indian passports while living in another country. They are also different from ordinary Indian citizens who obtain visas and go abroad to work or study for a limited period of time. NRIs remain citizens of India but enjoy the right to live and work permanently in another country of their choice. Indians can now be found in the remotest corners of the earth. Go to the Republic of Palau, a speck of an island in the Pacific Ocean which is one of the world’s youngest sovereign states, and you will find five NRIs there.
NRIs opening global windows of opportunity
Non-resident Indians are to be found here, there and everywhere. Don’t be surprised to find 20 of them living in the mountains of Bolivia or a 375-strong Indian community living in tiny Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
Historically, Indian communities have had a major presence in several parts of the world. Be it Gujarati merchants who settled in East Africa, Tamil Chettinads who lived in South-East Asia or indentured labourers taken from Bihar to work on plantations in the West Indies, Indians have been migrating to other countries for centuries. During the two World Wars, they fought for the British army and settled down in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The NRIs were a post-independence addition to this long list of migrants.
But it is also true that, historically, the NRI’s favoured destinations have been First World countries or the Middle East, where employment opportunities abound. But the latest data confirm that in a globalised world NRIs are making opportunities in literally every corner of earth.
The largest number of NRIs are in Saudi Arabia (17 lakh) followed by the United Arab Emirates (14 lakh) and the US (9 million) but what is more fascinating is they can also be found—albeit in minuscule numbers—in Slovenia (10), Montserrat (10), Iceland (21), Bosnia and Herzegovina (30) and Burkina Faso (150).
Experts also point out that, if people of Indian origin (PIOs)—a term for citizens of other countries who have an Indian ancestry—are included, then both Pakistan and Bhutan would also find it difficult to shake off the Indian links to their populations.