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Summary of Press Briefing by Mr. L.M. Singhvi, Chairman of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora and the Official Spokesperson

January 08, 2002

The Spokesperson introduced Dr. L.M. Singhvi, Chairman of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora to the media. She said that the report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora was presented to the Prime Minister this morning and said that Dr. Singhvi would brief the media on the subject and take questions thereafter.

Opening remarks by Mr. Singhvi :

"I was very happy to present the report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora to Prime Minister, today in the morning at 10.00 am, at Vigyan Bhavan. The High Level Committee was appointed in September last year and completed its work last month. It has presented a report which covers a wide range of issues and areas concerning the large community or communities of the Indian diaspora which has spread out throughout the world. The world is so large…the world of the Indian diaspora is so large that the sun never sets on it – from Fiji to the Caribbean, to the Pacific - everywhere you have people of Indian origin and in many countries they are of substantial number. Historically there were many waves of Indian migration, apart from the waves of migration in ancient times and the many centuries, there were waves of migration in the 19th century, in the 20th century and the period after independence. These are… these constitute the diaspora which is not the same everywhere, it is conditioned by the countries in which the people have gone and made their homes. There are also a large number of non resident Indians (NRI) who are citizens of India, but nevertheless stay elsewhere. Our report has six parts – in these six parts it deals with various issues relating to… which are country specific as well as general issues. We have included in part two of the report 21 country and regional profiles where the Indian diaspora is to be found. We submitted three interim reports all of which have been accepted today by an announcement made by the Prime Minister. With regard to the ‘Prabhasi Bharatia Diwas’, he made an announcement that hereafter the Government of India will observe the 9th of January as the ‘Prabhasi Bharatia Diwas’. He also announced that the ‘Prabhasi Bharatia Samman’ awards would be instituted to all our people of the Indian diaspora, throughout the world. We have raised major issues pertaining to the Indian diaspora, consular difficulties for instance - people who arrive here and face difficulties, people who visit India and find that they are not receiving the treatment they deserve or the courtesy that should be extended to them. Then larger issues and more abiding issues of culture, economic development, education, health, media, science and technology, philanthropy, the construction of a ‘Prabhasi Bharatia Bhavan’, dual citizenship, diaspora relations and organisational structures. Our conclusions and recommendations are wide ranging in respect of all these matters. We are trying to provide a blue print of ideas, institutional innovations and policy frameworks. We have also in addition to the report which comprises of 600 pages- 300 pages of annexures of selective documents which are vital to the understanding of the report. The report we sent which will be released officially in a few weeks time as soon as we have the clearance of the Government. It can’t be published at the moment, but we have been authorised to release to you the.. some extracts and the summary – an executive summary of the report. There are copies with Mr. M.P.Sharma who is the Joint Secretary in the division. There is also a statement by Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who by special permission of the Prime Minister’s Office was appointed to see the report as a whole and he analysed it and has come to four important conclusions. He says that it has four important distinguishing features – based on carefully gathered statistics about the overseas Indians and is a first ever-comprehensive statement of the Indian Diaspora. For the first time it provides a comprehensive framework for discussing India’s relations with its overseas children. Hitherto the relation has been discussed in a tentative and casual manner. The High Level Committee Report provides a new vocabulary and is to be greatly welcomed. The report is full of highly novel and important practical suggestions. These ideas will lead to effective NRI contribution to India’s economic, political, cultural and other areas of development. The report will increase the general level of consciousness in India about its overseas connections going back several centuries. We tend to think of ourselves as a people whose history was made only in India. The report shows how false this view is. 119 countries where our people are to be found to represent our ‘Karma bhumi’ just as much as India. I warmly commend the report and very much hope that the Government will accept and implement its recommendations.

The recommendations are summarised and we have prepared a short note for your use which Mr.Sharma will be able to hand over to you.

Q: How will dual citizenship help the NRI and PIOs and how many people are likely to benefit?

A: The dual citizenship that we have recommended is not automatic. People will have to apply for it. So as far the NRIs are concerned, they are citizens of India, the only benefit that comes to them through this provision is that they will be able to apply for the citizenship of the country in which they are living but they are already citizens of India. Others who have taken citizenship of that country or any other country would, if they satisfy the criteria laid down by us, be able to apply for dual citizenship passport or dual citizenship document. There is a fairly large number of individuals who would be eligible. The eligibility criteria have been laid down by us and we have said that no amendment of the constitution is necessary. We have indicated how … we have also drafted the amendments that would be necessary in the citizenship act in order to firmly provide for dual citizenship. The exact number of people who would take advantage of it cannot be estimated at this time. But the number of people who would be eligible would be about several millions.

Thank you very much. You would have the more detailed papers from Mr. Sharma.

A press release on the visit of H.E. Mr. Zhu Rongji, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China to India from January 13-18, 2002.

In response to questions the Spokesperson said the following:

  • Asked to comment about a report in the New York Times, the Spokesperson said that our stand on the issue was perfectly clear and reiterated what we expected from Pakistan. She said that what we were looking for in terms of response from Pakistan was concrete, serious, substantial actions to deal with the issue of cross-border terrorism and with the question, the issue, the problem of terrorist groups that operate from Pakistani soil and had made terrorist action against India their sole occupation. She added that we were still to see action in that regard from Pakistan and that was want we wanted to see.
  • Asked to comment about Gen. Musharraf’s statement, as to whether he was looking for an ally or a mediation, the Spokesperson said that she did not want to read extraneous meanings into what the President of Pakistan may have stated. She said that as far as the issue of third party involvement in matters that essentially concerned India and Pakistan, that related essentially to bilateral issues, outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, the position of the Government of India had been made perfectly clear on a number of occasions. It was for our two countries – India and Pakistan to deal with such issues, to seek a resolution of such issues, to address these issues directly and there was really no room for other countries to be involved.
  • Asked to comment about the desire expressed by the principal political ideologue of the LTTE to come to India to start negotiating the peace process, the Spokesperson said as far as the peace process in Sri Lanka was concerned India had welcomed the announcement of the cease-fire by the LTTE and the corresponding reciprocal announcement of cease-fire from the side of the Sri Lankan Government. She recalled India had consistently stated that we supported the initiative taken by the Sri Lankan Government to further the peace process within Sri Lanka. She added that India had always stood for peace and stability in Sri Lanka and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. That was our position.
  • Asked to react to Gen. Musharraf having said that his Government would look into specific cases on the basis of the list provided by India and that India needed to give evidence, the Spokesperson said that there was nothing substantially new in what he had stated. She emphasised that India was looking for concrete, serious, substantial steps by Pakistan to address the centrality of the issue that had been raised with them, to respond to the demands that we had made of Pakistan following the attack on our Parliament on December 13,2001. She said that Pakistan really had to openly renounce cross-border terrorism which was directed against India. She said that we would wait and see what action Gen. Musharraf would take on this and then we would make our considered assessment on the basis of what action Pakistan was prepared to take and would take on these issues.
  • Asked if there was a perceptible change in Pakistani position with Gen. Musharraf saying that he would look into specific cases with regard to the list provided by India, the Spokesperson said that this was not the time for a head long rush into the sort of conclusions that were being arrived at from the statements that had been heard from Islamabad. She said that India preferred to wait and assess what concrete action Pakistan was prepared to take in this regard.
  • Asked to react to Gen. Musharraf condemning terrorism in all its forms, the Spokesperson said that we did not see any shift in Pakistan’s position in terrorism as it was directed against India. She said that the time had come for Pakistan to shed the ambivalence that it continued to maintain on such issues. Asked whether there was any change in India’s earlier position about giving time to Gen. Musharraf, the Spokesperson said that our position had been clear from the outset. We were waiting for Pakistan to take concrete steps and recalled that EAM had also made our stand extremely explicit in this regard - If Pakistan was in the process of taking these steps, yes, we would wait and see what action ensues from that process. As India had said earlier, we were still awaiting such concrete action and we were yet to see satisfactory, substantive action being taken.

Press Briefing

Ministry Of External Affairs, India

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