Thousands of Indians are giving up their citizenship. 1,33,049 Indians gave up Indian citizenship in 2017, 1,34,561 in 2018, 1,44,017 in 2019, 85,248 in 2020 and 1,11,287 in 2021. According to Ministry of Internal Affairs figures from 2021, 40% of them came from America, followed by Australian, Canada and the UK.
While it would be overstating the case to call it a mass exodus, the numbers are revealing. And worrying.
India Forbids Duel Citizenship
The chief problem is that India does not offer dual citizenship and therefore one has to make a choice between India and the country in which you want to take up citizenship. This puts many wealthy Indians in something of a quandary: renounce your Indian passport and all that means symbolically or keep it and put up with its shortcomings.
Under The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, Persons of Indian Origin are not allowed citizenship of two countries. If you obtain the passport of some other country, you have to surrender your Indian Passport immediately. However, there is a way of circumnavigating this by applying to be overseas Citizen of India, which enables you to live and work in India
A Rwanda Passport is worth more than an Indian Passport: Henley & Partners
The reasons are complex but part of the explanation lies in the perceived value (or lack thereof) of the Indian Passport.
India stands at the 84th number on the passport power rank according to the Henley and Partners’ passport index.
On this showing, India’s passport has less value than that of Rwanda, which is ranked 82. Japan and Singapore share the number one spot, while the UK comes in at 6 together with the USA, Norway, New Zealand and Belgium.
This index is the standard reference tool for global citizens and sovereign states when assessing where a passport ranks on the global mobility spectrum.
What has gone wrong?
The India of today is a force to be reckoned with. It is rich, increasingly powerful and a nuclear power to boot.
In 2019 Prime Minister Modi said that he vowed to India a USD 5 trillion economy and a global economic powerhouse by 2024-25, thereby making her economy the third largest in the world. Despite the economic impact of Covid, India is indeed on course to achieve this target. Indian economy is estimated to grow at 9.2 per cent during the current fiscal while 8-8.5 per cent for the next financial year.
Why then does the Henley Index have so low an opinion of it?
It should be pointed out that the Henley and Partners Index ranks passports according to the number of destinations a holder can visit without a visa. This is the sole criterion by which they judge a passport to have value. Of course, there are many ways of measuring value, many of them not quantifiable. Presumably that is why the Indian Government does not attach much credence to the report. But make no mistake, it does rankle and the signs that many of India’s richest people are leaving in droves are an undoubted worry.
Visaless Access to 60 Countries: Not Good enough
The passport’s chief shortcoming is that it gives one visaless access to a mere 60 countries. Contrast this with that of Japan: 260 at the time of writing. It is steadily improving year by year and no doubt demand will rise in inverse proportion as it climbs the ranks. That said, it is an embarrassment.
Small wonder so many South Asians are turning to Citizenship by Investment as a means to visit more countries without a visa.
Pakistan Fails to Improve Passport Position for three years in a row
The passport of Pakistan is ranked at 104, 20 points lower than that of India and lower than North Korea. One reason given for its poor showing is that Pakistanis have something of an overstaying habit. It has been alleged that some Pakistanis deliberately overstay in the country they are traveling to and earn some money there. Their aim is ultimately to be granted legal status.
Many Pakistanis are quite rightly worried that the ranking tarnishes Pakistan’s image. It does. Perception is all.
Another reason is terrorism and Pakistan’s alleged links to it in the past. This serves to undermine confidence. The long and short of it is that Pakistan lacks credibility internationally.
Dr. Nadir Cheema (Senior South Asia Fellow at Chatham House and the author of the much-respected book Making sense of Pakistan) believes much of Pakistan’s ills stem from the struggle power between different factions in the country. On the one hand, one has a liberal secular camp and on the other a more conservative religious camp. And never the twain shall meet:
“The complexity stems from the fact that there are competing centres of power in Pakistan, all of whom have very different visions of what kind what kind of image Pakistan ought to project internationally. If you take the political classes, the elected government for example, the emphasis particularly since 2008 would be to try to project an image of the country as one which is genuinely engaged in the process of democratic transformation, of a country that highly values the ideals of liberal modernity, without of course compromising its Islamic identity (although even that Islamic identity is often cast by sections of the political classes as a modern identity, one that is able to accommodate ideas that might be considered broadly progressive).”
It is an equal woeful story with Bangladesh’s passport, which Henley & Partners ranks 103rd. It shares its position with Kosovo and Libya.
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh All Have Image Problems
For all the hype about India as the next superpower, it, too clearly has an image problem, as Bangladesh. One can’t rely on governments to mend matters. The damage has been done and may take years to repair.
Is CBI the Solution?
That’s why many wealthy Indians and Pakistanis are turning to CBI in a big way. If you have the means, then you have a way out. Historically, Wealthy Indians and Pakistanis have had little trouble in acquiring Canadian citizenship, British, American and latterly Portuguese citizenship. The same goes for the far cheaper schemes on offer in the Caribbean such as that of St. Lucia from which you can buy citizenship for the trifling sum of $100 000. Some have even gone so far as to give birth in the USA and Ireland, thereby securing citizenship for their children.
The President has this to say in every Pakistani passport: “Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan requires & requests in the name of President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan all those to whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”
Alas, this is more honoured in the breach than the observance.
With India and Pakistan and Bangladesh languishing in the rankings, demand has been steadily growing amongst South Asians to obtain citizenship by investment and residency elsewhere. Covid has only served to hasten this trend. Anecdotal evidence form some of the top CBI firms confirms that this is so.
If you or someone you is contemplating pursuing CBI or CRI, we’d love to hear from you.