Triumph of the Indian Diaspora (Part 2)

The Indian diaspora's unrivaled success, trustworthiness, and global impact contrasts with the challenges faced by the Chinese diaspora, propelling India towards greater heights while fostering global relations.

Published: Jul 9, 2023  |  

Journalist and presenter of ‘India Matters’


The first part of this article, exploring the differences between the global representation and public perceptions of Chinese influence and integrity, can be found here. 

From boardrooms to ballots: A political metamorphosis

The Indian diaspora’s ascent reaches the pinnacle of political power when individuals of Indian origin occupy influential positions worldwide. From Indian-origin chief executives at S&P 500 companies to leaders in the vibrant landscape of the tech industry, and even political stalwarts such as Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and America’s Vice President Kamala Harris, the diaspora’s ascent to prominence is undeniable.

This meteoric rise stems from a confluence of factors: India’s vast population, its commitment to quality higher education, proficiency in the global language of English, and the enduring influence of liberal democratic values. As the diaspora actively engages in political affairs, both in their adopted countries and in India itself, their ties to their homeland strengthen, forging a bridge between nations and cultures.

In contrast, the Chinese diaspora in the United States has only one representative in Congress, Judy Chu, who identifies as Chinese American. The limited representation raises concerns, particularly during a period of heightened suspicion and strained relations between the U.S. and China.

Having more politicians of Chinese descent in the Capitol would have provided an opportunity to exert influence, foster dialogue, and potentially alleviate tensions. Notably, President Biden referred to Xi Jinping as a dictator in a recent statement, further highlighting the strained dynamics. Some attribute the lack of significant participation in national politics from the Chinese diaspora to cultural factors that may have instilled deep-rooted undemocratic values.

These cultural influences could play a role in shaping individuals’ political engagement and may contribute to the limited presence of Chinese Americans in elected positions.

Fostering global relations and soft power

India’s democratic values, upheld by the successful diaspora, have played a pivotal role in forging stronger ties with the West. By showcasing the achievements and contributions of the Indian diaspora, India has cultivated an image of a nation that exports talent, ideas, and innovation.

This projection of soft power on the global stage elevates India’s stature, commanding respect and admiration. The Indian diaspora has emerged as a crucial bridge, mitigating potential damage to India’s reputation and fostering a nuanced understanding of its complexities.

PM Modi’s recent state visit to the U.S. underscored the United States’ respect for the world’s largest democracy, acknowledging its unique challenges. India is seen as a reliable ally for the U.S., offering trust in areas such as economic cooperation, military collaboration, security initiatives, climate action, and advancements in fields like artificial intelligence.

This partnership is based on shared democratic values and a common vision, which align with the interests of both nations. The Chinese government’s response to PM Modi’s state visit reflects their displeasure. By refusing to take calls from the Pentagon, China made it clear that it does not view the relationship with the U.S. as one of healthy competition but perhaps as an indication of an approaching new era of a cold war. 

Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have strengthened their grip on power within China while also disrupting democratic nations in the region. Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan serve as prime examples of how Chinese influence has eroded democratic values in neighboring countries.

Recently, China has characterized its relationship with Russia as “a high priority” and “infinite,” drawing parallels to alliances formed during the 1930s as preparations for a potential future conflict. In such a scenario, the United States can place trust in India to stand firmly on the side of the democratic world.

Cultivating bonds and nurturing potential

The success of the Indian diaspora serves as a clarion call to nurture and strengthen the bonds between India and its global citizens. A symbiotic relationship between the homeland and its diaspora offers a gateway to mutual growth, prosperity, and shared accomplishments.

Equally imperative is India’s fostering of ties with the West, cementing relationships that transcend borders and enrich cultural understanding. The continued nurturing of these connections holds the key to unlocking the full potential of the Indian diaspora and propelling India toward a brighter, more inclusive future.

In contrast, the Chinese diaspora lacks the shared values of diversity, equality, and democracy that serve as a foundation for the India-US partnership. These values come naturally to Indian Americans and form the pillars of the evolving relationship between India and the United States.

With the exception of a few countries, China is widely perceived as a nation led by a dictator who aspires to be a global leader while undermining democracy worldwide. The Chinese diaspora, unable to fully embrace these values, contributes to the growing tensions shaping a new era of a potential cold war.

As Indian Americans excel in various fields in the United States, the Chinese diaspora tends to shed their specific cultural identity and assimilate into the broader category of Asian Americans, which includes individuals from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries. This dilution of identity leaves only a few leaders, such as Judy Chu, to define what Chinese American culture represents in the broader context.

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