NEW DELHI, Jan 16: Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh will now on look after all issues related to expatriate Indians in the Gulf, reports the New Indian Express. “All matters relating to Indian nationals in Gulf countries will now be looked after by my colleague Gen V.K. Singh,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted late on Thursday.
There are nearly five million expatriate Indians in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A majority work as blue collar workers, and there are frequent labour-related issues.
Sushma Swaraj’s statement comes after the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) that looked after issues of Indians abroad was merged with the external affairs ministry this month. When an Indian national in Riyadh tweeted he was stuck after working for 24 months in a human resource company, Sushma Swaraj advised him to give the name and address of his recruitment agent (RA) to V.K. Singh. “RA must secure your return or face arrest,” she said.
Sushma Swaraj said on Jan 7 that she suggested to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to merge the MOIA with the external affairs ministry as much of MOIA work was done by Indian missions. Modi accepted the proposal.
The MOIA was established in May 2004 as the ministry of non-resident Indians’ affairs. It was later renamed the MOIA. Since its creation, there have always been two separate ministers in charge of the work of the two ministries — MOIA and external affairs. It was only in 2014 that one cabinet minister, Sushma Swaraj, and a minister of state, V.K. Singh, were handled both the portfolios.
That made everyone realize that more could be done to utilise the natural synergy between Indian foreign policy objectives and diaspora outreach, and that the division between the two ministries was unnatural, resulting in duplication of work and unnecessary delays. According to external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup, even for MOIA responses to parliament questions, it needed to rely on data provided by Indian missions and posts abroad. This year, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which was the flagship event of the MOIA, was organised by the ministry of external affairs on Jan 9.