In a key move in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi&’s outreach to the Indian diaspora worldwide, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which looks after diaspora-related work, has been merged with the Ministry of External Affairs.
This was announced by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is also the MOIA minister, in a series of tweets ahead of the January 9 address by her on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
“As Minister for External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs, I realized that Substantial work of MOIA is done through our missions abroad. Therefore, I proposed to Hon’ble Prime Minister that MOIA should be merged with Ministry of External Affairs. Hon’ble Prime Minister has kindly accepted my proposal. So MOIA will now be part of Ministry of External Affairs,” she tweeted.
The MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup, addressing a briefing, said that Swaraj and Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, who were handling both ministries, felt that “more could be done” to enhance India&’s outreach to the diaspora, numbering 25 million worldwide.
Swarup said that it was felt that the division was “unnatural” and led to duplication of work and delays, as most of the work had to be done by the Indian missions abroad, which are under the MEA.
He said the merging of the two ministries was part of the Modi government&’s ‘minimum government maximum governance’ policy.
The merging of the two ministries comes after the government in October last year announced a “paradigm shift” in the format of the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), its engagement with the diaspora.
Swaraj had announced that instead of the annual PBD, a mega jamboree that was held every year with hundreds of diaspora members attending, it would be held every alternative year, and an event "focused on outcomes" would be held every other year.
She had said that "smaller events" of the PBD would be held in Delhi every alternative year, while the major "mela" would be held every two years in a different state in partnership with the state government.
On Saturday, Swaraj is to give the keynote address at the PBD and connect through teleconference with diaspora members in five countries with a large number of Indian expatriates, including Malaysia.
The last PBD was held at Gandhinagar in Gujarat last year, attended by around 3,000 Diaspora from around the world.
Prime Minister Modi has made outreach to the Indian diaspora a major part of his visits abroad. His addresses to the Indian diaspora, including at the Madison Square Garden in New York, Wembley Stadium in London, and the SAP Centre in Silicon Valley, have been mega events attended by thousands of Indian expats.