American presidential elections are monitored worldwide with great interest as it has manifold ramifications in an economically interconnected world. A historic 2012 US election was recently concluded with Democratic candidate and incumbent President Barack Obama clinching reelection decisively over Republican party candidate Mitt Romney in both the electoral college and popular vote tally. It was a record turnout nationally but several commentators persistently elaborated on the decisive role played by the Indian American NRI’s in Barack Obama’s victory.
India born, Boston – US based, renowned Heart Surgeon and Healthcare Economist Dr Mukesh Hariawala who was in Sept 2012 awarded ” India’s Most Admired Surgeon ” by Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan , gave an exclusive interview to Central Chronicle.
Dr Hariawala is also a qualified MBA with visiting professorship in few US Universities teaching ” International Healthcare “. He is regularly featured as a keynote speaker at major global conferences and is candidly described as an extremely influential NRI leader with special interest in Indo US geo – strategic policy matters.
Here are excerpts of the Interview:
Q1. What is the population strength of US based Indian Americans and what circumstances led you to immigrate to US ?
Barack Obama , Dr Mukesh HariawalaA1. American Community Survey currently estimates NRI’s in the US to exceed 3 million which approximately is 1 percent of the total US population. In 1989 I went to London , UK for cardiac surgery training. On timely completion in 1994, I was invited to Boston by Tufts and Harvard University to initiate research on Angiogenesis therapy for heart disease. This project was a major success which in combination with Stem Cells will soon impact the lives of millions of patients worldwide. In recognition of my pioneering scientific contributions, I was nominated for American citizenship. Now, I am actively involved in taking some of these therapies to India where I am affiliated to Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital as a Visiting Honorary Cardiac Surgeon and Director of its International programs.
A2. According San Francisco based ” April Media ” which monitors voting trends reported that amongst ethnic NRI’s who voted in swing states Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia, 75 per cent of Indian Americans voted for Obama. The remaining 25 percent chose to support Republican candidate Mitt Romney simply because they believed Barack Obama had not lived up to his first election promises. Nationally, 60 percent NRI’s favored Obama to 20 percent backing Romney with the rest staying away on election day for personal reasons. This large block NRI voting pattern played a significant game changing role in reelecting President Barack Obama.
A3. Traditionally, American NRI’s have stayed polarized towards the Democratic party due to their soft immigration policies, welfare support to struggling immigrants and low interest lending programs for small businesses. Almost all Presidential candidates now regularly attend fund raising events organized by the high earning 50,000 strong membership of AAPI
( American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin ). Also, NRI’s are becoming powerful wealth generators with Fortune magazine in year 2000 quoting Indian Silicon Valley IT industry pumping out over 250 billion dollars. NRI millionaire’s are a big election campaign donors for both political parties with a presumptive goal of advancing their lobbying influence for community causes.
A4. The timing of President Barack Obama reelection and PM Manmohan Singh’s UPA government ” Reform Policies ” is optimum. This will herald in a historic era of Indo – US strategic partnership for mutual benefit which will set new benchmarks for the future. The second term of any US President is often a period of legacy building and President Obama is likely to view India as a top priority in his foreign policy agenda which will help the people on both sides of these two dynamic democracies. This will also work as a stability lever particularly with the growing influence of the fast emerging superpower China in the Asian subcontinent.
Q5. What is ” Obamacare ” and will the Bill bring new business opportunities to India?
A5. ” Obamacare ” is the Healthcare Bill proposed by current administration to Congress which will soon become Law. President Barack Obama conceived this vision and it is commendable since it will for the first time in US history give universal health insurance coverage to all Americans including those with pre existing medical conditions. However, as a byproduct it will passively introduce socialized form of healthcare in the US like Canada and UK. This will see long extended lines to secure appointments for elective surgery. Incidentally, it will open a wide door for Medical Tourism, with India likely to become the most desired destination.
This inadvertently will bring inflow of billions of revenue dollars to the Indian Healthcare Industry. Pharmaceutical Industry is likely to see a surge in increased US demand for their generic drugs. Additionally, the revamping of the entire US back-end systems to incorporate the new billing and prescribing nomenclature will require significant software scripting which will be new government contract avenues for Indian IT companies.
Q6. Are there any good initiatives taken by PM Manmohan Singh’s UPA government that NRI’s find attractive to bring Investments and increased participation in India?
A6. Multiple sector FDI including Retail across the Indian economy is one of the landmark policy decisions of UPA government under PM Manmohan Singh’s leadership. This opens doors to not only NRI investments but many global corporations who view India as a highly profitable and vibrant economy in the future. The option to secure an OCI ( Overseas Citizens of India ) status for NRI’s is attractive for property acquisition , visa waiver and engaging in all forms of legal business. The incentive driven tax concessions for large volume investments that can be made in India without penalty is extremely appealing to most NRI’s. All of these efforts will raise the struggling Indian GDP which will propel employment opportunities and prosperity for all.
Q7. Finally, kindly share with our readers the secret of why NRI’s worldwide continue to harbor a soft corner for India?
A7. For all NRI emigrants, India continues to remain ” Motherland ” and every other place in the world becomes an ” Adopted Land “. Thus the emotional bond with India is very strong which only strengthens with time due to separation from roots aptly described as ” Price of Immigration “. There is also a deep seated dream like desire amongst most NRI’s to see India progress economically, culminating in the upliftment in living standards for all Indians particularly the under privileged rural population.