When NRNs think of Nepal More than the emotional facet

One afternoon in October 2007 in Nepal, I was chatting with a friend sipping hot aromatic tea and relishing the cool valley breeze on roof top of his house and the conversation strayed to the on-going NRN Conference which I was not able to attend. We exchanged views as to what Non Resident Nepali (NRN) should do and what could Nepal do for the NRNs. During the early 1990s, representing Association of Nepalis in the Americas (ANA) we had introduced the NRN concept to then PM Girija P Koirala, and his ministers including the then Home Minister Deuba. Since then we have formed global NRNA (Non Resident Nepali Association) and organized, conducted several Conferences, implemented various programs. One such program was a newly dedicated “ Bridhhashram Project” led by NRNs in Russia.

He jokingly said, “ The whole of Kathmandu is fast becoming a Briddhashram.” And continued, “None of these homes around me have any young person under 30 left behind, they all have gone to Gulf or America or anywhere they can .”

The buzz word “NRN” (Non-Resident Nepali) has been around for about decade and a half. These folks may or may not hold Nepali citizenship by choice or convenience. Nevertheless, the familial, cultural ties remain as strong as ever. What can be done, the provisions, and facilities provided to make it a win- win for both sides must be seriously contemplated.

Beside emotional ties, the NRNs wish to secure property rights, transfer skills, seek revenue generating investments, and do volunteering. Nepal too should be planning and formulating the Diaspora’s interests into a revenue generating machine and benefit from their capitals and specialized skills. Turning this migration phenomenon into a production, distribution, and service based profit making system should be promptly considered. Diverting a fraction of information technology based revenue from the southern border into the home country will have a major positive impact on the economy. How Nepal emerges in the world as a smaller yet viable player is not out of reach in tourism, second sourcing and fabrication of specialized products. This author’s experience as a consultant with a team to jump start a high technology company in Thailand years ago concludes such models are proven in Taiwan, Singapore, China and India is no secret. The scale in each case is/could be billions of dollars added revenue.

On the other side, NRNs too have some expectations that needs attention, efforts and timely implementations. The NRNs, who acquire residency of foreign countries keep in touch with the happenings, events and assist in development and support of the country in various ways. In every political crisis, the diaspora has pitched in their moral support. At the individual and communal level they provide scholarships, computer, books, library donations and emergency help to flood victims, hunger, losses of lives in tragic situations like in Iraq. They wish to be part of reconstruction, social, economic transformations and investments. One common interest seems to be investing in land and maintaining residence. In each case, Nepal stands to gain. In the last seven

years we saw formation of Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) with an objective to enhance and protect the interest of those who left the motherland. The NRNA has become a well recognized voice and has emerged as an institution to forge ties with Nepal.

The expectation of NRNs are: long term residency visa or dual citizenship, property acquisition rights, inheritance protection, gender neutrality in laws, constitutional/legal protection on investments, money transfer with ease and reasonable taxations, civil rights and employment accesses.

The present Nepali law has a termination clause; which means those who acquire the citizenship of any foreign country automatically lose the citizenship of Nepal. NRNA expects this law will be repealed on the grounds of ties and benefits to both parties. Many countries do provide dual citizenships such as U.S, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, France, and Russia. Some others like Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Philippines allow dual nationality.

The Non-Resident Nepali Act (2007) is one big positive step , which includes: right to purchase limited property, interstate inheritance right, visa provision for investment, tax benefits, right to operate industry or profession and benefits of convertible currency.

Nepal has some additional responsibilities. It needs to adequately train immigrants with language, communication and technical skills such as computer expertise and quality education such as India has done with its IITs. It is a moral obligation of the nation to help individual citizens be able to utilize their potential to maximum achievable. In return Nepal has short and long term benefits.

While it is perfectly fine to remind the NRNs of their obligations towards the motherland, the the mother too has her duties towards her children’s well beings. Giving and receiving must be mutual. And, it is a win-win proposal.

(Sharma is involved in many diaspora activities such as Nepal Forum and ANA)