It is an honour to join as the Editor-in-Chief of PRAVASI INDIANS, the best monthly magazine for Indian immigrants settled abroad, the Indian diaspora. The timing is perfect. Ajay Banga, born, bred and educated in India, has been nominated as the World Bank president by US President Joe Biden. In October 2022, Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, became the first person of Indian origin to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The milestone followed Kamala Harris’ becoming the first person of Indian origin to be Vice-President of the United States of America. Before Harris became a Senator, two Indian-Americans – Bobby Jindal and Nimarata Nikki Haley – had been elected Governor in Louisiana and South Carolina, respectively.
The Indian diaspora’s successes are not limited to politics. Scores of them have headed private corporations as CEOs, presidents and chairpersons. The Indian diaspora has prominent presence in technology, industry, business, media, and academia globally. Bloomberg estimates that 26 top Fortune 500 companies, constituting over 5 percent of the S&P 500 Index and 13 percent of its total market capitalisation, have Indian-origin CEOs. Sundar Pichai of Google and Alphabet, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Vivek Sankaran of Albertsons, and Arvind Krishna of IBM are some of the icons of the corporate world.
From my perspective, the selection of Sunak, Harris and Banga signifies the coming of age of the Indian diaspora in public life and politics, a watershed development with longer-term significance compared to the selection of Indians as CEOs of the private corporate world. As PM of the UK, Sunak can help sign the FTA between UK and India, an agreement with transformative potential to alter global trade relations.
Before Sunak and Harris, Indian-origin politicians ascended to top leadership positions in Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago. About 32 heads of state and heads of government globally have been of Indian origin, including Sunak. The critical difference is Sunak and Harris have achieved the pinnacle despite Indians being 3 percent of the UK population and over one percent of the US population. In sharp contrast, in other countries with Indian PMs and Presidents, the proportion of the Indian population is much higher.
With $100 billion remittances in 2022, the highest in the world, Indians settled abroad maintain a strong cultural connection with their homeland. Indians abroad have collected enormous funds to revive some of the cash-strapped campuses all over India: the IITs, IIMs and other leading private universities. According to one estimate, although India is a $3.5 trillion economy, Indians have already reached a $5 trillion economy, adding the Indian diaspora’s wealth to India’s aggregate GDP.
In future editions of PRAVASI INDIANS, we will explore different angles while covering the 32 million Indian diaspora and its links with 1.4 billion Indians. The task is daunting. However, with two decades of experience abroad, as student and an Editor, I hope to live up to the challenge.
Happy reading PRAVASI INDIANS !
(Ajit Kumar Jha)