Can the NRI’s, or other immigrant communities, exercise influence on the politics of their home countries?

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By Usama Khalidi

American Jews’ influence in Israeli politics is legendary, although it is tied into the Western civilization. But few can doubt the huge roles overseas communities have played in the modern histories of China, Sri Lanka, Greece, India and Pakistan, and probably Philippines, and much of Latin America.

The overseas Chinese investors role in China’s prosperity is well known. India created a union ministry for “parvasis” hoping for similar stimulus for development, and the Friends of BJP in America packed 50,000 people for a Modi rally in Dallas recently. Add to that the billions of dollars BJP Friends overseas send to India.

MQM’s leaders, sitting in London, ran a powerful movement in Pakistani politics. Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers rebellion was almost entirely funded by overseas Tamilian Sri Lankans. Canadian Khalistanis funded the rebellion and sacrificed many lives, mostly other people’s, but their own, too, for their cause. Same is true of the Kashmiris living overseas, many of them educated all over India in professional colleges at the government’s expense.

Can anyone expect minorities, who face sniper fire by police agents, as was the case in Delhi’s anti-CAA protests earlier this year, to start any kind of movement for change? Can the few successful minority-owned businesses afford to antagonize the ruling elites? Would they be suicidal enough to risk their financial strength to go up against their oppressors?Obviously not.

It is a fact, though, that non-resident activists, too, face risks to life and limb. My late brother, Omar Khalidi, is an example. Next year, it’ll be 10 years since he died in very suspicious circumstances: A train accident with no good explanation as to why he was there at the train station, when he had parked his car at his office. We feared that if confirmed, the death squad could come after us, too. This is America! Yes, it has happened to others here in USA. It is also a fact that almost all major countries, including the U.S., Israel and Russia, have killer squads taking care of their critics.

If it is rare in the West, imagine what goes on in the repressive, ideological countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India and China, too, unapologetically.

I am thinking of Gauri Lankesh who was killed in Bengaluru September 2017, and no killer found. Same with Pakistan’s Saleem Shahzad , and earlier the Karkari killing at the time of the Mumbai hotel massacre. The list is endless. We all know about Kashoggi killing in Turkey.

Compared to the dangers dissidents in their repressive home countries, the risk immigrants face in the West is negligible. They can provide the stimulus needed both in terms of ideas and hard cash.

Ruling elites in the third world, third-rate nations actually in terms of human rights, pay attention to what people in America and Europe are saying. Why? Because the weak always look up to the strong. The upper classes don’t pay attention to the lower classes much. ‘They all look the same’, that used to be the bigots’ way of thinking about the powerless and the voiceless.

It matters a lot to Indian elites what their superiors are thinking. They, of course, point fingers at the weaknesses of American and European societies. They also know that rule of law is sacred in the West. Can Indians say that about their society? Or Pakistanis about theirs? The brutal Saudi and its satellites are all as shameless as the other regimes in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

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