The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dual citizenship sop for select NRIs

New Delhi, Jan. 5: The proposed dual citizenship scheme likely to be announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee next week may not be open to all non-resident Indians or people of Indian origin.

Indications suggest that if the scheme is implemented, the government will offer it selectively to only those NRIs it deems eligible.

Hectic parleys are on among senior ministers in the Vajpayee government. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is reported to have taken the lead in ironing out differences between the various ministries so that Vajpayee can announce the dual-citizenship scheme on Thursday at the inaugural session of the three-day “Pravasi Bharatiya Divas” to be held at Pragati Maidan.

Sources said though the new scheme may offer passports for Indians abroad, it will not amount to opening the floodgates for all and sundry.

Those given dual citizenship will be allowed to hold an Indian passport and set up business in India. But they will not be allowed to vote or take part in defence or the Indian civil services. Moreover, like the US, where such a scheme is prevalent, the government is likely to pick and choose between countries and people to whom the offer will be made.

More than 1,200 delegates — NRIs and people of Indian origin — from 55 countries across the world are expected to attend the first-ever meet of the “Bharatiya Pravasis”.

Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and V.S. Naipaul, Mauritius Prime Minister Aneroodh Jugnauth, former Commonwealth secretary-general Sridath Ramphal, S. Samy Vellu, minister in the Malaysian government, industrialist Swaraj Paul and Rajat Gupta of US consultants McKinsey are some of the luminaries expected to attend.

They will rub shoulders with a host of other dignitaries from different parts of the world at the biggest ever gathering in the country of Indians from abroad.

For the Vajpayee government, the occasion is an opportunity to not only express its gratitude to some of the ruling BJP’s overseas friends but also to put in place a mechanism to ensure greater flow of foreign investment into the country. At this point, the offer of dual citizenship is being seen as one of the sops the government may offer NRIs and people of Indian origin.

Many of those who will be present on Thursday morning to hear the Prime Minister’s address, do not have any knowledge of Hindi or any other Indian language. Translations in French and Dutch are being provided for them. But the combined wealth of the delegates who are likely to attend the three-day function, is said to be far more than the Indian GDP.

The chairman of the high level committee on Indian diaspora, L.M. Singhvi, said suggestions have been made to the government, among others, to grant dual citizenship to NRIs and the people of Indian origin, and adopt measures to convert their remittances into investments in India.

“It is not merely a festive gathering, but the first step towards starting a serious dialogue between India and the Indian diaspora,” Singhvi said. Attempts will be made over the three days of the seminar to put in place a comprehensive policy framework that will not only help in boosting foreign investment, but also help set up projects in education, health, trade and commerce, information and science and technology sectors.

Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra whose outfit is coordinating with the government on the programme, said: “The inspiration is to foster the bond among all people of Indian origin with the opportunity to renew ties with their ancestral land, build new alliances and explore new avenues of cooperation.”

He hoped this would help increase the foreign direct investment share of the Indian diaspora, resulting in a beneficial and interactive impact on the Indian economy as had happened in China.

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