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India, Israel and the Jewish People

The rise of the worldwide Indian diaspora

The rise of a global Indian diaspora in the 20th century has had unpredicted, often positive implications for the links between India, Israel, and the Jewish people and could have many more in the future if the right policies are pursued.

Today, India has the world’s second largest diaspora after China, estimated at about 30 million and spread across every region of the world. More or less precise figures exist for the West, but not for the many Asian countries, particularly India’s neighbors, where Indians form a considerable proportion of the total population. Hence, the figure of 30 million could turn out to be a substantial underestimation. While overseas, Indians do not form a homogenous community but represent different religions, languages, and regions, a reflection of the diversity and multiculturalism of India. This is why India and Israel relate differently to their respective diasporas. Indian states and their politicians maintain links primarily with oversea Indians from the same states, and who speak the same language. Israel relates to World Jewry as a single diaspora.

At least in the West, Indians are among the most educated, integrated, and successful minorities within their host countries. Their contributions in their countries of residence to innovation, knowledge-creation, and economic growth are also widely recognized and admired.

The contribution of Indian diaspora communities to India’s economic growth and development is also very significant. According to World Bank estimations, total remittances to India have grown from a little over $2 billion in 1990 to close to $70.4 billion as of 2014. Today, India is the top recipient of remittances among developing countries, receiving approximately 16 percent of all remittances to developing countries and has overtaken China ($64 billion). Remittances represent 4 percent of India’s total GDP, are an important supply of hard foreign currency, and offset India’s growing trade deficits, particularly with the Gulf countries. The Gulf Region is the greatest source of remittances to India (52 percent), followed by the North America (20 percent).46

Significantly, large Indian communities are present in several countries that are also home to substantial Jewish communities as Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4: Indian and Jewish diasporas in selected Western countries (estimations)47

Indian Diaspora Jewish Diaspora Total Population (2010)
United States ~ 3.2 million 5.7 million 321.7 million
Canada ~ 1 million 385,300 36 million
United Kingdom ~ 1.8 million 290,000 64.7 million
Netherlands ~ 225,000 30,000 17 million
France ~ 108,000 ~ 362,000 Indians in France’s overseas departments (Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana) 475,000 64 million
South Africa > 1.5 million 70,000 54.5 million
Australia ~ 486,000 112,500 24 million

Understanding that they could benefit from sharing their experiences as minorities, the Indian and Jewish diaspora communities in the United States and the United Kingdom, have forged links in recent decades, and often cooperate on issues of common interest.