Perhaps nostalgia prompts many NRIs to develop a streak of hyper-nationalism.

Since the liberalisation of the Indian economy, the number of people going abroad both for studies and work has increased manifold. Gone are the days of the mid and late 1990s, going abroad is no longer an opportunity merely for the elites and middle classes.

Despite living abroad, the bonds of Indian culture are so strong that the Indian diaspora in almost all countries that it has a foothold in remains connected to its roots. India is the leading receiver of remittances accounting to about 12 per cent globally.

Estimates suggest that in 2015, non-resident Indians (NRI) sent home $68.91 billion, this translates into about four per cent of the GDP. In recognition of the contributions of the diaspora in the development of India, January 9, the day Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915, is celebrated as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. Since 2015, the event has been organised biennially. The next one scheduled for 2019 in India.

The contributions of the diaspora are spread across many fields and as Indians we can take pride in the fact that by and large we have integrated well in the host countries, and yet been able to maintain our unique identity.

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With the tenets of Ahimsa and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ingrained deeply in our culture, Indians are natural agents of the state’s soft power. However, there are many aspects that we need to introspect into and make amends for to continue contributing towards the country’s progress.

With the advent of the social media, it has become easy for NRIs to interact and engage with people back home in real time. Comparisons with the developed host countries and India often raise aspirations of both NRIs and people back home. One of the prime matters of concern is corruption, which became an election issue during the general elections of 2014.

However, the discourse seldom includes pragmatic solutions to tackle the issue of black economy or parallel economy. Corruption is often understood in simplistic terms and people do not discuss the structural changes that are needed to curb it.

A critical approach to deal with corruption is often missing. This can be discerned from the popular support given to demonetisation, which was seen as an attempt to fight corruption. The rationale behind introducing a Rs 2,000 note was hardly questioned, neither was the prudence in making 86 per cent of the currency in circulation redundant overnight.

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When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the diaspora to a thundering applause in Japan, no one questioned the impact it would have on the economy. It is now becoming increasingly clear that demonetisation could fight neither corruption nor black money.

Instead it is one of the prime reasons for severely crippling the Indian economy. Rather than comparing India to Western countries, it would be more practical to understand the ground realities back home. This will certainly help NRIs take part in more meaningful discussions on how to make India a better society.

Perhaps nostalgia prompts many NRIs to develop a streak of hyper-nationalism. This needs introspection too. Despite living abroad, the “Indianness” of the diaspora is seldom questioned and there is no need to overcompensate for it.

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Paradoxically, many NRIs often question the patriotism of Indians back home who question the government, forgetting that criticising the government is not tantamount to criticizing the country. Indulging in hyper-nationalist banter online only adds to the ecosystem of hatred that’s brewing back home.

It’s ironic that the diaspora that is more likely to experience xenophobia in a foreign land, is inadvertently stoking the same in Indian society by promoting a brand of intolerant nationalism.

Indians, whether living at home or abroad, should mull over the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi whose return is celebrated as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and fight the ideology of hatred being viciously spread by vested interests. It isn’t enough to send money back home. We must work hard to preserve and promote our culture.

In a world riddled with hatred and violence, Indian teachings of non-violence, peace, inclusiveness and universal fraternity are the need of the hour. The Indian diaspora must act like ambassadors of Indian culture and enhance our soft power, if it truly wants to contribute to the larger interests of the country. #KhabarLive

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