In a bid to make India a top power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has eased visa rules to lure millions of people of Indian origin to return to their ancestral homeland. Specifically, President Pranab Mukherjee has approved an executive order to ease the way for those whose families left India as many as four generations ago, as well as their spouses, to get lifetime visas and to own property in India.
Modi told an annual gathering for people of Indian origin in the western state of Gujarat:
“There was a time when professionals in India went to distant lands to explore new possibilities. Now India awaits you with opportunities.”
India has the world’s second largest diaspora after China, with more than 25 million people settling overseas (from Guyana in South America to Singapore in East Asia) since colonial times. This diaspora also holds investments of more than $100 billion in India.
Young, foreign-educated Indians did come back in droves at the turn of the millennium and poured in funds as the Indian economy took off. However, this flow has dried up as growth sputtered in the past few years and Modi is keen to reverse that trend.
Among those who have already returned to India are some high-profile individuals, including Arvind Panagariya and Arvind Subramanian, two of the world’s top economists, who recently joined Modi’s government after long careers in the United States.