FICCI, in partnership with Carnegie India, launched a report to bring awareness in India’s evacuation operations for its diaspora abroad.
As the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2017 is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, in Bengaluru, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), in collaboration with Carnegie India, brought forward its report ‘Bringing the Diaspora Home: India’s Expatriate Evacuation Operations’ by Dr Constantino Xavier.
Chaired by FICCI secretary, General Dr Didar Singh, this event was held on Thursday. He expressed the economic importance of the subject in question and outlined the relevance of the report in bringing awareness on India’s past successes in evacuation operations.
“India has extensive experience conducting evacuation operations, but given the rising economic contributions and political influence of Indian citizens abroad and the increasing complexity of these operations, the incentives to ensure the success of future ones are now even greater,” stated the report by Dr Xavier.
Ambassador Ranjan Mathai, also a former Foreign Secretary, noted that the report launch has been timed to perfection, in reference to the PBD 2017, as it is quite relevant to the diaspora. Flexibility of approach for different contexts of evacuation operations in accordance with each operation, keeping in mind an understanding of the destination country was outlined by him. Retired Vice-Admiral, Anup Singh, who was also present at the launch, highlighted the importance of maritime diplomacy.
The report had outlined that India had conducted more than thirty evacuation operations in the past, across Africa, Asia and Europe, including its largest-ever civilian airlift of 110,000 people from the Persian Gulf in 1990. “However, given the lack of any formal doctrine or emergency plan, the success of India’s missions has mostly been due to the individual sacrifices of officials from its diplomatic corps, flagship carrier, and armed forces,” it added, while noting the challenges to the in protecting the growing Indian diaspora across the world.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), an estimated 11 million Indian citizens now permanently reside abroad, and almost 16 million people of Indian origin hold other citizenships. The annual average rate of growth of India’s diaspora population was 4.5 pc between 2000 and 2015. More than 20 million travel internationally every year, and around 10 million Indian passports are issued every year. Given their rising role in India’s economic development, with their remittances increasingly contributing to India’s GDP, Overseas Indians have now become a priority for New Delhi’s foreign and security policies.
Need for a solid plan
Personal remittances are now 29 times more than what they were in 1990, playing a vital role in the country’s economic growth and development policies, as per the data provided by Dr Xavier’s paper. Due to the high and rising numbers of Indians overseas, the Indian government has consequently committed attention to the safety of the diaspora, most visibly during recent crises in the Gulf region. However, as the paper points out, as India lacks a clear cut formal doctrine as well as emergency plan, the past successes of India’s evacuation operations can be largely attributed to the individual sacrifices of its officials.
The paper also outlined, “A lack of standard operating procedures and inadequate coordination will only intensify as evacuation operations become larger in scope and public scrutiny increases.” Thus, if the FICCI and Carnegie India paper is to be considered, India can build on its evacuation operations for its people overseas through a larger institutionalisation of the operations and training of its diplomatic personnel.