The Indian government is unlikely to allow dual citizenship, at least in the near term, Dr. Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Foreign Affairs Department, told Connected to India.
“There are a lot of intricacies involved (in dual citizenship). So I don’t see that happening in the near future,” he said.
Currently, Indians living around the world fall into three categories:
- Non-Resident Indians i.e. those who still hold Indian passports but work/live in other countries;
- Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders i.e. someone who is a foreign citizen but who at some point held an Indian passport or whose parents/ grandparents/ great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India or is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO and;
- Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders i.e. those who have given up their Indian passports but hold certain rights in India except voting rights
As per a Ministry of External Affairs report, there were some 31 million NRIs and PIOs residing outside India as of December 2018. India has one of the largest diaspora populations in the world according to a 2017 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, an expert committee of the Election Commission of India approved proxy voting, which would allow registered Indian voters across the world to vote from the country of their residence via a proxy. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed in the Lok Sabha in 2018 but was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
“India doesn’t accept dual citizenship. Of course, through the OCI card people having other passports will have a lot of rights in India now - including the right of having property etc. but voting is something that I don’t think will be possible. So it will be restricted to only NRIs,” said Dr Chauthaiwale explaining that the government is still hoping to pass the proxy voting bill in the Indian Parliament.
60 countries across the globe currently allow dual citizenship in some form or other, including India’s neighbours on both sides, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
However, the Indian government does not believe that not having an Indian passport prevents Indians across the world from investing their money, time and effort into projects back home.
“Technology is a great enabler,” Dr. Chauthaiwale told Connected to India. “So it doesn't matter where you stay in the world or which passport you hold, you can always do most of the transactions or interactions online.”
“People who have given up their Indian passports are also contributing in a big way to India. They do a lot of activities in their village of origin by building a small hospital or renovating schools or creating drinking water facilities. In Gujarat you will see a lot of private universities being built by NRI communities. So, their contribution continues irrespective of the passport they hold,” he added.