Diaspora-Homeland Interaction: Indian Diaspora in the United States, 1990s-2011

The culturally and religiously distinct identity the Indian Americans can claim is the one that they have inherited from their homeland. The enhancement of their identity requires a continuation of their interaction with the homeland.


BY HEIGRUJAM PREMKUMAR

Indian diaspora today is recognised as a global community.* Today, a successful interaction between the diaspora community and the homeland becomes not only desirable but inevitable. It is natural for any diaspora community to show a desire to connect to the homeland. They are linked in terms of language, culture, religion, folklore, and ethnicity and so on. The Indian diaspora community in the United States has been showing the same constant desire to connect to the homeland. At the same time, with its economic status, size of population, excellent technical knowledge, the homeland country increasingly needs the diaspora community for its economic growth and strategic development. Equally with such developments is the need to study the diaspora-homeland interaction at various levels- economic, political, and religious and cultural.

sunder-pichai-indian-diaspora
Sunder Pichai, CEO, Google is one of the most successful Indian Americans in recent times.

Among the Indian diaspora, the Indian Americans may be described as one of the most influential community not only in their host country but also in their homeland India. The country is also “home to one of the largest Indian populations in the world, as well as to substantial diasporic Indian communities from places such as Fiji, Trinidad and Guyana.” Moreover, the Indian Americans are regarded as the most affluent community among other Asian communities in the United States and in fact some of the biggest names in Indian diaspora are found in this community alone. The community’s influence in India’s decision-making in terms of economic and political policies and even religious and cultural practices has been very significant. And, the Indian Government has also become aware of the potential that the community can offer in the growth and development of the country. In this light, a thorough and critical study of the interaction between the community and the homeland at various levels becomes increasingly important and this term-paper is an attempt to that goal.

BACKGROUND

The immigration of Indians to the United States since 1990s onwards is important in many respects as compared to early periods: before 1965 as well as post-1965. One significant aspect is the size of immigration, and another is the composition and character of immigration.

The Indian immigration to the United States grew rapidly particularly during 1990s and 2000s due to various reasons the most important being economic. According to the 2010 U.S. census the total size of Indian Americans (or Asian Americans, as mentioned in the Report) in the United States is reported to be 2.8 million. In a recent census report, it is reported that Indian Americans have surpassed the Filipinos as U.S.’s second largest Asian community (in 2000 census, it was third) only next to Chinese. California, especially the area around the Silicon Valley, has become the main concentration of the community.

The composition of the immigration is dominated mostly by professionals, technicians, doctors, students and family migrants. Most of them are products of India’s premiere institutes such as IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), IIMs (Indian Institute of Management), AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), and other reputed institutes in the country, a phenomenon described by many as ‘brain drain’ (I will take this up later). The character of such migration can be attributed as ‘pull factor’ especially because the students or the professionals who went to the United States were actually seeking a lucrative career and highly paid job prospects which the host country was seemed ready to offer. Subsequently, India has become the leading source of highly skilled people, also called ‘knowledge workers’ for the developed countries particularly the United States. These people have immensely contributed in the development of the host country, and many of them have become permanent citizens. In fact, migration of Indians to the United States led to the formation of the new diaspora.

It naturally arrives at the fact that significant population of the Indian Americans are highly educated and affluent. Most of the people of the community have held important positions in the mainstream economic and socio-political set up of the host country. There have been Nobel laureates, governors, CEOs of leading companies, administrators, industrialists, etc., among the Indian Americans.

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