The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Passport to buy houses, not vote

New Delhi, Jan. 10: The dual citizenship scheme announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee yesterday for persons of Indian origin will not only be limited to certain countries, but also offered only to those who the government feels comfortable with.

Although the details of the scheme are yet to be worked out, some of its broad contours are with the government. The scheme, after necessary legislation is introduced in and passed by Parliament, will offer a passport to those who fulfil the guidelines to be set by India.

The dual citizenship will enable persons of Indian origin to buy property and set up business in India.

However, as of now there is nothing to suggest that the dual citizenship holders will be given the right to vote or work in the Indian bureaucracy or the armed forces.

Although a passport will be offered, it will only facilitate their travel to India from the country of their residence.

The L.M. Singhvi Committee, which recommended the scheme, had suggested that at the initial stage it be offered to those PIOs residing in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and some other European countries like Holland and Belgium.

Indian officials, though not willing to comment on the final shape the scheme will take, conceded that to start with, this suggestion would be implemented. But they were quick to point out that even though PIOs living in the mentioned countries can apply for dual citizenship, it will not be given to all. “The government will have the last word on it,” a senior official said.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today tried to explain as to why the scheme was open only to PIOs in certain countries. “One of the primary factors guiding our decision was the simple requirement that the host country should also have a law granting dual citizenship,” he said. “In countries where such a provision does not exist, PIOs cannot enjoy the status of dual citizenship.”

Advani admitted another important factor that guided the government’s decision was concerns of national security.

This in effect means that persons of Indian origin who have had links in the past with extremist groups or organisations will not be offered dual citizenship even if they lived in the US, UK or, say, Canada and applied for it.

Some of the points on which the government is trying to work to develop the scheme are:

n The PIOs will not have voting or any other political rights in India.

n The PIOs are getting some sort of a dual nationality, which will give them the right to live, work and buy property in India. But unlike in some countries, here the dual citizenship will not help them to get full citizenship.

n Unlike in the past, when the PIO card was being offered for $1,000 dollars, this time it will be much cheaper. (The exact price is being worked out.) But it gives them greater economic rights and the passport which comes with it also makes travel to India much easier, without going through visa formalities.

n But this travel document will not be valid elsewhere. It can be used by the PIOs only while travelling to India and not to a third country.

n By reserving the right to offer it only to PIOs in certain countries and that too to those who have no antecedents of anti-Indian activities, the government plans to take care of its security concerns.

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