The Indian Diaspora

by Dave


From Silicon Valley to Citigroup, the new face of success is increasingly of a rich caramel-brown color. Vikram Pandit has led the charge to rescue banking behemoth Citi, and Bobby Jindal, the whiz-kid Indian-American governor of Louisiana, could find himself with a new job in a McCain administration . In Washington lobbying circles, Indians are sometimes referred to–not least boastfully by themselves–as the “new Jews.” Today the three million Indian Americans have a higher median income than Jews. What Jews and Indians have in common is that their diasporas are force multipliers, inflating their national image and strategic footprint worldwide. Knowledge, money, networks, and trust–flung ever faster by globalization–have meant that even India, the country with the largest number of destitute people in the world, is considered a global economic powerhouse, even if it isn’t one yet.

Almost every ethnic or national diaspora in the world has some presence in America, but few achieve the scale of social, economic, political, and cultural influence that Jews and Indians have achieved.

Indians are assimilators, maintaining traditional values but adapting to any national context.
The British Empire planted Indian migrants around the planet, particularly in the West Indies and Africa–now there are twenty-five million Indians in the diaspora spread across more than one hundred countries. But wherever they are, Indians blend into the mainstream: You won’t find many “Indiatowns” in America.

Arguably the rest of the world is feeling the Indian diaspora’s rise more than India itself. Lakshmi Mittal bought Luxembourg steel giant Arcelor, Tata bought Jaguar, and Reliance Petroleum is building what will become the world’s largest refinery.

Indians continue to migrate and maneuver with ever more sophistication and savvy, creating win-win situations for themselves and their hosts. Yet the battle for global talent that is the main feature of international business today will play itself out on the diasporic plane more than ever. China and India are waking up to the loss of their best minds and are lobbying to turn the brain drain into a brain exchange, with India luring back several thousand Indian-American professionals a year into tidy gated communities outside Bangalore. India is also fumbling toward some form of dual citizenship, providing tax incentives and other carrots to bring in more diaspora dollars.

I once described this virtual Indian universe as Bollystan, an import-export marketplace of literary genius, spiritual essence, cinematographic border-crossing, and, increasingly, political savvy, together doing for India what nuclear weapons have not: making it a great power.

It’s not about tanks and nukes but brains and bytes.

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