New Delhi: India will
merge the two visa facilitation cards that are issued to people of
Indian origin and soon register non-resident Indians in the
electoral rolls to help them exercise their franchise, Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday.
"We recently reviewed the Overseas Citizenship of India Card and
Person of Indian Origin Card. We have decided to merge them into
one," the prime minister told the 9th edition of India's annual
event to connect with its 25-million-strong diaspora in 130
Both these cards are issued to people who are of Indian origin but
not its citizens. But for some subtle differences on matters such
as fee and processing time, there are little differences between
them. The diaspora, accordingly, wanted them to be merged.
The prime minister also said necessary amendments had been made to
extend voting rights to non-residents to enable them exercise
their franchise. "New legal provision will give them legitimate
right to participate in Indian electoral process," he said.
"I am sure they will bring a breath of fresh air to Indian
The prime minister was addressing what is formally called Pravasi
Bharatiya Divas that was attended by some 1,500 delegates from 51
countries. New Zealand Governor-General Anand Satyanand was the
Others who spoke at the inaugural event included Minister for
Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Development of
North Eastern Region B.K. Handique and Overseas Indian Affairs
Secretary A. Didar Singh.
The prime minister said the past year was a busy one for India,
with leaders of all nations that are permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council -- China, France, Russia, Britain
and the US, visiting New Delhi.
"India's rise as emerging nation is a positive indication for
international relations," he said, adding: "Our unique experience
of tackling development, challenges, building consensus among
different sections has been remarkable. We will seek to promote
what is good for India and good for the world."
The prime minister said during his visits to various countries in
the past years, he was particularly pleased when its leaders
lauded the role played by the Indian community in their land of
"The richness of India's classical tradition and the contemporary
Indian culture is making waves around the world."
He also unveiled the foundation stone for the Pravasi Bharatiya
Kendra here and hoped it will fulfil its envisaged role of
becoming a focal point for engagement between India and its vast
Earlier, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Ravi told the delegates
that India had already amended the Representation of People Act to
address the long-standing demand of non-resident citizens to
enable them to exercise their franchise.
"I am happy to say non-resident Indians will be able to enrol
themselves for voting."
Sir Satyanand said people of Indian origin who migrated to distant
lands thousands of miles away over the past few centuries have
never forgotten their roots. "To this day, they remain proud of
their Indian heritage."
He said till 1976 the strength of the Indian diaspora in New
Zealand numbered 6,300. But today, their numbers had swelled to
over 100,000 people, to make them second largest Asian ethnic
group in the South Pacific nation.
"The 25 million diaspora, the second largest expatriate community
in the world, can give a powerful support to India in its ongoing
path towards development. We should give our continued support to
Satyanand also hoped that the free trade agreement being
negotiated between the two countries will fructify soon, as it had
the potential to enhance bilateral economic engagement to a new