NRIs in Germany appealed to the Indian government to include Germany
for dual citizenship


Duesseldorf, Oct 11, 2004

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in Germany have appealed to the Indian government to include Germany in the list of countries whose nationals of Indians origin could avail themselves of dual citizenship.

In a memorandum to visiting Indian Minister for Non-Resident Affairs Jagdish Tytler, they pleaded for the grant of dual nationality to NRIs and persons of Indian origin (PIOs) living in Germany, which did not figure in the list of 16 countries whose nationals of Indian origin will be entitled to Indian citizenship.

The memorandum was handed over at a reception-cum-dinner hosted by a local Indian association called the Fellowship of Indian Men (FIM) at the SAS Radisson Hotel.

Tytler, who was in Germany on a two-day visit to mobilise Indians to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-Resident Indians Day) 2005 on Jan 9, 2005, in Mumbai, arrived in Duesseldorf from a tour of other Europeans countries such as Spain, Portugal and France.

NRIs and PIOs living in Germany have been agitated for quite some time that they will not be entitled to Indian citizenship because, as New Delhi argues, the German government does not allow dual nationality. They argue that even if the German government did not allow dual citizenship to former Indian nationals, India should exercise its prerogative as a sovereign state to grant citizenship to its former nationals.

After all, they point out, China, Pakistan, Turkey, Israel and others grant citizenship to their former nationals without first having to consult Germany as to whether the citizenship should be given or not.

Germany, on its part, also confers citizenship on anyone having had even one German parent in his ancestral lineage. It has been doing this since decades to people living in Eastern Europe having German ancestry going back four or five generations.

"Our position is that India is willing and ready to give dual nationality to NRIs and PIOs living in Germany provided the host country allows dual nationality. In the case of India, Germany does not allow (dual nationality)," Tytler told IANS.

According to Tytler, 16 countries had agreed to allow dual nationality to former Indian citizens and people of Indian origin living in their countries. Another 75 countries had shown interest in discussing this issue further. However, Germany was not among the 75 countries, he made it clear.

FIM chairman Chandru Mahtani told IANS that NRIs and PIOs in Germany will now lobby with the German government to allow them to also adopt the nationality of their former motherland.

The memorandum also seeks Tytler's assistance to set up a consular representation in Duesseldorf, the capital city of Germany's largest federal state North Rhine Westfalia (NRW), which has the maximum business and economic interests of all the German states in India.

"It is politically and economically unwise for India not to have a full-fledged consular representation in this state," agreed Wolfgang Reuter, a businessman with strong business ties with India. He also argued that NRW also had the highest percentage of visitors from Germany to India

When the Indian embassy in Bonn closed down after the relocation of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin, the consular jurisdiction of North Rhine Westfalia was transferred to the Indian consulate general in Frankfurt which, however, lies in the state of Hesse.

The large Indian community in NRW has bitterly complained about the "severe inconvenience" caused to it because of the enormous geographical distance to Frankfurt.

Although India has appointed a German businessman as an honorary consul in Essen, the latter maintains a mere symbolic presence in the state of NRW. Twice a month, officials from the Indian consulate in Frankfurt come to Essen to provide consular and visa service.

However, Indians and Germans in NRW complain that this is not enough. Tytler said that he will look into this problem upon his return to India.

Another hearburn caused to many NRIs in Germany was the announcement by the Indian government that it would impose taxes on interest earned on NRI deposits in Indian banks. The Indian government deferred until April 2005 its decision to impose taxes, following an outcry from NRIs in a number of countries. However, Tytler felt that the Indian government would, eventually, withdraw its decision to impose taxes on NRI deposits in Indian banks.

Asked when NRIs and PIOs in the 16 approved countries could expect to get their passports, Tytler pointed out that the Indian president had already signed the bill to this effect.

"Our embassies and consular representations in these 16 countries will soon get instructions to start the processing of the applications for such passports. We are very keen to start with the issue as soon as possible," Tytler replied to a question from this correspondent.

He also tried to allay the fears of many NRIs that the new so-called "overseas Indian passport" would be "inferior" to the regular Indian passport. "The new passport will come with almost all the privileges and rights for NRIs and PIOs in India," Tytler assured. The term "overseas" is causing some disconcert amongst NRIs and PIOs.

"I have myself asked that the title of my portfolio be changed from the Minister for NRIs to the Minister for Overseas Indians. The term has a wider and more positive appeal, and applies to all Indians - whether NRIs or PIOs," he explained.