What Modi Wants From the Indian Diaspora in the US
During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five day visit to the U.S. he reached out to the Indian diaspora, sharing his vision for India’s development and asking for their support in building a stronger India.
On Sunday, Modi said India would lead the 21st century in a speech to 20,000 American-Indians at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG). He said India’s large, youthful population, demand, and the fact that it has a functioning democracy are the strengths that will propel it in the coming years.
“By 2020, only India will be in a position to provide workforce to the world,” he said, according to a translation by the Indian Express Newspaper.
Wealthy, Educated Diaspora
Indian Americans are one of the wealthiest and most educated diaspora in the United States.
According to a Pew Research survey, the median annual income for an Indian household was $88 thousand in 2012, over $38 thousand more than the average American.
Indian immigrants are twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree and almost four times as likely to have a master’s degree as the rest of the US population, according to the survey.
Analysts say Modi is aware of this fact, and is paying them special attention because of their influence in the U.S. and at home.
“The Indian diaspora has extraordinary influence, not only on the economic affairs of the U.S., but has huge potential of high level technology and investment transfer,” said Dr. Kodur Venkatesh, a Bangalore-based strategic affairs analyst.
“The U.S. and particularly the decision makers in the U.S. government and policy making is, to a certain extent, influenced through Indian intelligentsia,” he said.
According to Kodur, the majority of the Indian Americans support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party to which Modi belongs.
“You may not have voted in 2014 but I am sure that when the results were coming, you didn’t sleep and you all celebrated,” Modi said on Sunday.
Before becoming Prime Minister, Modi was the Chief Minister of the western coastal state of Gujarat. The Indian diaspora from this state have played a very important role in Modi’s political success, and the success of the economic policies of his government in Gujarat.
“The Gujaratis have now discovered a reliable Indian leader for whom they can commit political allegiance expressed through long distance nationalism. Such opportunities come rarely in history and the Gujaratis,” said another analyst, professor T.G. Suresh from the Center for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Modi invited them to share their thoughts on his MyGov.nic.in website, which asks for “advice, thoughts and ideas on topics that concern India.”
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 25, Modi termed the thriving Indian American Community as a “metaphor for the potential of our [Indo-American] partnership, and for the possibilities of an environment that nurtures enterprise and rewards hard work.”
Modi arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 26 and stayed till Sept. 30, spending four days in New York and one in Washington D.C.