’Diaspora too is using the PM as part of its strategy’

Devesh Kapur, Director at the Centre for the Advanced Study of India  

How do you explain Mr. Modi’s affinity with the diaspora? In what way is it distinct?

It is distinct in that it is unabashed. He relishes the outreach rather than see it as a Prime Ministerial duty. He has a certain flamboyant style that makes him very different from his predecessors.

Mr. Modi appears to be using the diaspora, exhorting them to invest in India, adopt villages, realise his dream. Is he overstating the role of the diaspora?

Yes and no. If the goal is to get the diaspora to invest, then the more they are made to feel welcome the better, and hence giving the diaspora importance is a good rhetorical device. We tend to forget that it is not just the PM using the diaspora, but the diaspora using the PM as part of strategy to send a signal to the American establishment that the community is a force to reckon with. Having said that, except in certain areas such as technologically intensive sectors, the bulk of investment for India’s growth and development will have to come from domestic sources within India and so in that sense the diaspora’s role is overstated.

The BJP has traditionally had close ties with Indians abroad. The party has often seen a connection going to the past of a great Indian civilisation with global reach. Do you think PM Modi is trying to realise that vision through his outreach?

I think the degree to which the BJP has had close ties with Indians abroad is overstated… If the BJP does indeed have a vision of a grand Indian civilisation with global footprints, then the PM’s outreach is unlikely to realise this vision. For that to occur, India itself would have to be economically healthy, socially harmonious, and culturally self-confident to not ban books and films and foods at the drop of a hat. Intolerance is hardly the mark of a grand civilisation.

Mr. Modi is also seen as a polarising figure even among the NRIs.

Protest by NRIs has, at least as yet, been a relatively minor irritant, although the protestors of course think otherwise. The far bigger problem is that there are questions among many of his overseas supporters who were fans of Mr. Modi rather than fans of the BJP, about the slow pace of policy change and the sheer negative energy expended on cultural issues that has sapped this government’s efforts on the development front.

How polarising is PM Modi to the Indian diaspora?

No more than he is within India.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 10:04:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/diaspora-too-is-using-the-pm-as-part-of-its-strategy/article7874537.ece

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