Howdy Modi
Attendees at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston, Texas, US | Photo: Scott Dalton | Bloomberg
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As Abhijit Banerjee’s Nobel Prize was announced, a reporter in Kolkata asked his mother about his citizenship, pointing out that he became a US citizen in 2017. “He travels a lot,” his mother explained.

The Indian passport ranks a poor 86 as of 2019, down from 77 in 2010. This rank signifies how many countries give visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival to the passport-holder. With a large number of poor people, India is one of the world’s biggest sources of illegal immigrants (311 Indians have just been deported from Mexico). Developed countries are not going to give the Indian passport easy access into their airports anytime soon, no matter how much of a world ‘power’ anyone thinks India has become.

It is for this reason that talented and wealthy Indians who travel frequently and live abroad tend to take foreign citizenship. The act of taking foreign citizenship, for most Indians, is not ‘anti-national’ but a matter of convenience. Anyone who has filled up a US or UK visa form will empathise.

Between 2014 and 2017, 4.5 lakh Indians opted for citizenship of another country. As foreign countries offer easy citizenship in exchange for cash and investments, the trend is only set to grow.

It is plain silly for the Indian government to not offer dual citizenship to such Indians. Eighty-five countries in the world offer dual citizenship. India needs to join this long list to avoid embarrassments such as an Indian winning the Nobel Prize but not being an Indian citizen.


Also read: Abhijit Banerjee’s Nobel in the US: Is it a comment on the quality of Indian institutions?


Overseas unCitizen of India

India does offer something called the “Overseas Citizen of India” card. Yet, these “overseas citizens” are not citizens because India doesn’t have the option of dual nationality.

The OCI status amounts to partial citizenship. It removes all barriers to entering, exiting, living and working in India. What it doesn’t allow is the right to vote.

If you don’t like Abhijit Banerjee, think of Akshay Kumar. At some point in his life, the Bollywood actor took Canadian citizenship, probably to enable easy international travel. At another point in his life, he decided to re-brand himself as a great nationalist from an action hero, because that was the flavour of the season. As people questioned how his nationalist credentials could go hand-in-hand with his Canadian citizenship, Akshay Kumar claimed it was an honorary citizenship, a lie that was nailed. 

Had India allowed Akshay Kumar to call himself a dual citizen, vote in elections, have an Indian passport alongside his Canadian passport, what would happen? Would the heavens fall? Would it cause climate change?

It is an emotionally difficult decision for most people to give up their Indian passport, often for easier international travel or to pay lower taxes or benefit from the social security services in countries where they live. For both taxation and national pride, it would help India to let Indians have dual citizenship.


Also read: Akshay Kumar’s Canadian roots go deeper — from campaigning for a PM to owning mansion there


Addressing intricacies

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump recently addressed thousands of Indian Americans in Houston, Texas. Some in the crowd must have had Indian passports and some must have had American passports. For neither Modi nor Trump, there seemed to be any conflict of interest. For both leaders, the crowd could have dual allegiance, to both India and the United States, at the same time.

No wonder a recent survey has shown that Indian Americans are in favour of dual citizenship. However, Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s foreign cell, has ruled out the possibility of India granting dual citizenship. “There are a lot of intricacies involved (in dual citizenship). So, I don’t see that happening in the near future,” he has reportedly said.

Many countries have found a way around the technical issues involved. Bangladesh requires its citizens to obtain a “dual nationality certificate” so that it can control who gets to take dual citizenship and under what circumstances. Brazilians can acquire another country’s passport but they must enter and exit Brazil only on the Brazilian passport. Canada actually encourages dual citizenship; the US discourages but allows it. If the concern is security, one can look at Pakistan, which allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship of only 16 other countries, doesn’t let dual citizens run for public office or join the military. Signing dual citizenship agreements with other countries helps prevent its misuse.

Blood ties

There are no ‘intricacies’ that can’t be addressed. The main issue, however, is nationalism. Allowing dual citizenship in India seems unthinkable because it would hurt national pride. Our nationalism is monogamous, it demands exclusive love. But the world is increasingly polygamous. One can love two countries, or maybe three — some countries even allow multiple nationalities.

The countries that allow dual citizenship belong to both the developed and the developing world. They do so because they realise it is the wise choice in a globalised world of easy travel. Narendra Modi often tells ‘Overseas Citizens of India’ that blood ties matter more than the colour of the passport.

Exactly. So why not let people have different passports of different colours. If Akshay Kumar can be a Canadian citizen and an icon of hard Indian nationalism, if Abhijit Banerjee can be a US citizen and still make India proud, it is time for India to accept dual nationality.

It might just also make us go easy on our jingoism.


Also read: Indian passport less powerful than Brazil, Russia and China, ranks a poor 86th globally


Views are personal.

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. I was here to understand the benefits and potential ease of Indian dual citizenship. Instead, I came across a prejudiced article bashing nationalism.

  2. There is no need to allow dual citizenship, OCI card is good enough . Citizenship of any or most countries require swearing an oath of loyalty to that country OVER any other country. Dual citizenship can mean dual loyalty, any naturalized citizen of USA cannot become President for possible dual loyalty reason even today. As for people talking about being ‘Global Citizens’ etc.. I ask them to show a passport that says they are ‘Global Citizens’

  3. Pakistan has dual citizenship and all their politicians already have built their safe havens abroad and know that they can escape with their loot. No, we don’t need to have dual citizenship.

    The truly patriotic Indians can come back to India renouncing their citizenship if they truly want to make a difference. Agreed the bureaucracy is painful but dual citizenship presents more harms than pros.

  4. For enhancing transparency and understanding conflict of interest, if any, it is reasonable to expect that every columnist/reporter/editor disclose his/her current citizenship status at the end of their write up/article

  5. My personal opinion is that india has faced lots of problem from foreigners especially British in providing dual citizen ship the history repeats

  6. Shivam has indeed a wonderful and creative mind, He has knack of writing articles on topics which are nowhere relevant to the current context. This is one of them. There are a few countries which allows dual citizenship but when one has OCI card, there is really nothing that the Indian origin and now a foreign national is missing in India. He can travel all over the world on his adopted country’s passport and have full freedom to come to India and do anything except vote and own agriculture (other than inherited one). In this context, we do not need dual citizenship, But what we actually need is the facilities to vote in national and state elections for the NRIs when they are abroad. Many countries have such facility for their citizens abroad and it is time India should do this, however complicated it is. Incidentally, iIt is a matter of grave concern that Shivam has not uttered Modi word even once in this article!

  7. Mr Vij, it’s not only how many countries give a visa-free entry to the country that encourages people to surrender their Indian passport and take up the nationality of another country. When you become a citizen of another nation you get a pledge from that country that you will get value for the taxes you pay, be it in terms of health care, safety, law and order, equal opportunity, education and equality before law. One does not have to plead before bureaucrats or politicians for services which are rightfully ours. It will take a quantum leap for India to achieve this level-certainly not at the present time.

  8. Rahulji rejected the idea of dual citizenship. He is keeping only Indian citizen ship. He canntake Italian passport as a right since his mother Matron Soniajiwas Italian at the time of his birth. Priyankaji has the right to hold British and Italian passports. But they reject that concept as they want to do Seva to India. This is on contrast to the author who looks like is trying to take foreign citizenship .

  9. What is the advantage that India will have by giving dual citizenship; to claim Abhijit Banerjee as one of our own? The security situation in our country is very different from those countries whose examples are being cited. Pakistan is an exporter of terrorism. Canadian politicians feels that the country requires immigrants, till its citizens revolt against it, as is happening in Europe. OCI card gives a person all rights that are generally required.

    • I agree OCI is good enough, but oddly enough Modi govt had made it difficult to obtain OCI, than the previous admin. The paperwork should be made easier most of this should be done online, without physical copies.

      • Though I am opposed to this communal government if they are making it hard for the other people to get OCI that move has our full support. But looks like you are not saying the truth as my friends are saying that OCI process has been simplified and they are getting it very quickly.

    • !! Asatyam Shivam Sadaa Sandesham !!

      Did you really read this article by Shivam We…zzzzz? Moreover, took it seriously and commented on it?
      Shivam We…zzzzz is a master of irrelevent/absurd headlines, topics and in fact a page-filler writer of ThePrint.

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