Immigration and Identity: A Comparative Analysis of US and India

Amb. Anil Trigunayat

Comparing India with US is simply facetious in this regard. How can barely 250 years old country could, which had reached those heights with the help of talent acquisition from abroad, compare with a civilisational country — India which has imparted the knowledge to the world and continues to excel in the modern day world of information technology, points out former diplomat Amb. Anil Trigunayat in his exclusive column.

The United States of America or the US is going through a very complex and complicated election cycle where contest between the two geriatrics is turning uglier and murkier by the day. Nearly every issue is ipso facto election related. Trump and Biden have made stark choices and vertically opposite positions in the run up to the Presidential elections.

One such issue is really the immigration and its impact on local employment and jobs. Trump would like to stop and regulate the inflow. He even wanted to build a wall on the Mexico border to stop the influx of immigrants to the so called promised land. For his last victory the controversy paid him well. On the other hand, President Biden and his democratic party sees the reason in calibrated influx of talent and manpower from all over given the fact that most countries in the West will have the crisis of human resource.

The US, like Europe has a declining demography and working age population deficit has to be met from somewhere. It is not charity but is a necessity. A Pew Research Centre study (August 2020) states that immigrants are projected to drive future growth in the U.S. working-age population through at least 2035. As the Baby Boom generation heads into retirement, immigrants and their children are expected to offset a decline in the working-age population by adding about 18 million people of working age between 2015 and 2035.

When Biden talks about the immigration and its value, he would obviously be reminded of the well established history that the US is the nation of immigrants and owes a great deal to the immigrant workforce for its numero uno status. It became the crucible of talent and enterprise as the country projected itself as a land of opportunity and dreams. But the same US cannot absolve itself of utter racial prejudice and discrimination which is displayed on a daily basis.

Dotbusters have been a reality. Violence against Asians is a natural recurrence. Racial prejudice against the Blacks is a black mark on the US polity and society. Many Indian students have lost their lives. Attacks on temples and gurdwaras are not uncommon as the country continues to give refuge and promote extremist and separatist groups under the garb of political persecution and concocted definition of human rights violations by other countries. They do use such nurtured dissenters to create instability in the target countries as their intelligence agencies not only take out unpleasant targets but indulge in regime change agendas all over. 

Not only that the growing ultra rightists and highly conservative elements in the West are winning and expanding anti-immigrant rhetoric but are posing threats to their safety and security. The same Pew study also noted that overall, the Obama administration deported about 3 million immigrants between 2009 and 2016, a significantly higher number than the 2 million immigrants deported by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2008. They are also trying to find paid islands for expulsion of immigrants and refugees in other countries — UK’s Rwanda syndrome is a case in point.

Senility can take the better of an individual that was pretty evident when President Biden, at a fund raising event for his elections, accused Japan, India and China of being ‘xenophobic’ for not allowing the immigrants. He also attributed his calculation of slow economic growth in these countries to such policies. At the alter of polity facts are often sacrificed.

Biden is no exception when he claimed bragging that US economy was growing due to immigrants “The reason — look, think about it. Why is China stalling so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia? Why is India? Because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants. Immigrants are what makes us strong. Not a joke; that’s not hyperbole. Because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and want to contribute”. Japan and China may react themselves but India and xenophobia — only an intentionally blind one could say that.

India has been a crucible of cultures and civilisations for thousands of years where aggressors and explorers all imbibed the tapestry of her diversity, philosophical thought, material and spiritual riches and eventually became part of it and contributed to her growth and sustenance. This was mostly true until the British came with the sole purpose of exploitation and colonisation. It was since then that Indians themselves either migrated or forced out and taken as indentured labour.

But wherever the Indians have gone they have contributed to the development of their host countries and reach the heights in every which way, sometimes to the envy of the locals. This also attests to their talent, superior intellect, amazing discipline and dedication as they become a living bridge with India.

Comparing India with US is simply facetious in this regard. How can barely 250 years old country could, which had reached those heights with the help of talent acquisition from abroad, compare with a civilisational country — India which has imparted the knowledge to the world and continues to excel in the modern day world of information technology. Not to forget five times the population of the country compared to the US. Indian’s demographic dividend and exceptional human resource is her real strength. No wonder, it is the fastest growing and fifth or fourth largest  economy and largest democracy which aims to become a developed country before it completes century of her independence.

India has had her share of millions of refugees from across the region. Her philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ (world is one family) in thought and practice says it all. Besides, even the much maligned CAA ( Citizenship Amendment Act) by the West is meant to welcome minority communities from certain countries and to give them a dignified living.

Western media and think tanks are peddling negative image of India and its election in ill informed and negative way without knowing grassroot realities of India, its history and past. Democracies should have regard for each other and mutual respect. The narrative shouldn’t depend on how white is your democracy! West cannot lecture, demean and target India any further with hypocritical and immoral sermons. India will look for its own interests and will keep its own people above western interests, even if it may condone senility of some.

Amb. Anil Trigunayat is a former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta and is a Distinguished Fellow with leading think tank Vivekananda International Foundation.

The article was first published in CNBC TV 18 as Why Biden’s ‘xenophobia’ remarks tell half the story on May 3, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

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Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Aasthaba Jadeja, a visiting researcher at IMPRI.