Diplomatist Special Report: West Asia - North Africa 2018 WANA 2018 - Page 24

Capacity Building in West Asia: Indian Diaspora, Cultural Diplomacy and Remittances By MD. IRFAN ANSARI* 24 •West Asia-North Africa T he emerging market and free trade policies in the West Asia & North Africa will increase the roles played by a growing number of external powers in the region. While the United States and Russia have long displayed their military power, and China is known for its economic power, India’s presence in the Gulf is distinctly shaped by its massive expat community there. Upon hearing of the Qatar crisis, the Indian foreign minister’s fi rst response (covered by the global media) was to stress that Delhi’s priority was helping stranded Indian workers. India’s diaspora provides an unassuming asset to New Delhi; a unique soft power advantage that improves India’s image as it competes with more powerful states. Simultaneously, however, it constitutes an added burden that can restrict Delhi’s strategic options. Capacity Building and the Indian Diaspora India’s diaspora in the West Asia, North Africa & Gulf, numbering between around 7 and 8 million, has of course always been important to the country’s economy, and its policy objective of alleviating poverty. The region is India’s main source of expat remittances. In 2015-2016, Indian workers sent back $35.9 billion in valuable foreign exchange. But New Delhi’s interest in the region is no longer restricted to economic transactions of selling labour and buying oil. Partly in line, with the country’s other major objective, to raise its global status, India has growing strategic and security interests