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NRIs all set for the first Diasporic meet

January 08, 2003 21:31 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to announce on Thursday the government's decision on grant of dual citizenship at a conference of over 1,000 Persons of Indian Origin and Non-Resident Indians gathering in New Delhi for a three-day meeting.

Coming with conditions, the dual citizenship will be confined to PIOs living in specified countries on the basis of reciprocity and will not be automatic. It will be the government's prerogative whether to grant or not in the case of each applicant.

The prime minister's announcement is expected to be made during his inaugural address at the first-ever Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi on Thursday.

Over 1,200 NRIs and PIOs from 55 countries are participating in the three-day meet jointly organised by the external affairs ministry and FICCI.

The prime minister will present the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards to ten eminent NRIs and PIOs.

Mauritian Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, who will be honoured along with nine others, will deliver a special address at the conference.

Vajpayee would light the lamp, marking the opening of the conference followed by invocation by sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar and shehnai wizard Bismillah Khan, both Bharat Ratna awardees.

PIOs in Pakistan will not be eligible for grant of dual citizenship.

There are an estimated 20 million PIOs living abroad.

With no requirement for any Constitutional amendment, the government is required to effect changes in the Citizenship Act by bringing the requisite Bill for Parliament's approval or enact a new law.

Those who are granted dual citizenship, would be entitled to all rights and privileges enjoyed by Indian citizens but would not be allowed to contest elections nor have the right to exercise their franchise in this country.

All aspects of this measure was deliberated at length by the External Affairs, Home and Law ministries in consultation with the attorney general and the solicitor general.

Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan and Defence Minister George Fernandes will also address the conference.

Noted NRIs and PIOs including Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and V S Naipaul, former Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Choudhry, and Malaysian Works Minister S Samy Vellu are attending the conference.

The conference will deliberate on steps for increasing the share of foreign direct investment by the Indian Diaspora.

Apart from the inaugural function, the opening day of the meeting would focus on 'India and the Diaspora: Forging a constructive relationship,' and 'Science and technology.'

Advani will have a special interactive session on the second day. The plenary sessions on this day are: 'Culture, language, literature, films and the Diasporic identity'; Voluntary sector and development; 'Diaspora and the emerging challenge in India's social development: Role of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas'; and 'Science and technology: Networking for excellence' among others.

On the last day, there will be a session on 'Indian states: Leveraging the Diaspora' and another on 'Opportunities in defence and homeland security research and development.'

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will be observed in India and abroad every year on January nine as it was on this day in 1915 Mahatma Gandhi had finally returned to India after almost two decades in South Africa.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Sridath Ramphal, British MP Lord Navneet Dholakia and McKinsey partner Rajat Gupta are among 10 eminent Indians abroad to be honoured by the prime minister at the conference.

Other PIOs to be honoured are Ujjal Dosanjh, former Premier of British Columbia (Canada), D Samy Vellu, a Malaysian Minister; Prof Fatima Mir, well-known freedom fighter from South Africa; Manubhai Chanderia, businessman and philanthropist from Kenya; Hari Lila, businessman from Hong Kong and Kanakbhai Khemji, a businessman in Oman.

The conference is being organised in recognition and appreciation of the constructive, political and philanthropic role played by the Indian Diaspora worldwide.

The main objectives are to understand the sentiments of NRIs and PIOs about the country and create a policy framework for a sustained and productive interaction and to acquaint the Indian people with the achievements of the Indian Diaspora and their expectations from India.

It also aims at creating a network of the Indian Diaspora across 110 countries and recognise the contribution made by this segment towards improving India's relationship with the host countries.

A gala extravaganza of Bhangra pop from the United Kingdom, blend of Bhojpuri and Caribbean foot-tapping music and performances by Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Raveena Tandon and others will also unfold at the three-day celebrations.

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