There are millions of non-resident Indians across the globe. The persons are either of Indian descent or born in India but migrated due to various reasons. The Republic of India approximates that over 31.2 million Indians reside in other countries. This figure means that India has the largest diaspora population in the world.
Countries with the Highest NRI Populations
The United States
The United States has the highest number of Indians outside India. An estimated 4,460,000 Indians live in the US where they are engaged in different economic activities. Immigration began as early as the 1890s when Indians went to America as subjects of the vast British Empire. Initially, they were discriminated against by being denied citizenship, voting rights, and the right to family reunification. Immigration policy was amended after the Second World War leading to more Indians moving to the US.
Saudi Arabia has the second highest NRI population at 4,000,000. The influx largely occurred after the 2014 agreement between the Saudi Arabian government and India on the recruitment of employees. Indians form the largest population of expatriates in Saudi Arabia.
Malaysia has over 2,400,000 Indians who initially migrated in large numbers to the country to work in plantations during the British rule. More Indians have continued moving to Malaysia in search of greener pastures.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE has over 2,803,751 Indians who constitute about 27% of the total population in UAE. The influx is a result of the friendly commercial and trade interactions between the two countries coupled with opportunities in the petroleum sector.
Pakistan is home to over 2,000,000 Indians largely due to the fact that the two are neighboring countries. Both legal and illegal immigrants have found their way into Pakistan either as workers, businesspeople, students, or spouses.
The United Kingdom
The UK has over 1,825,000 people of Indian descent. The first immigrants went to the UK during the era of the British Empire. Many British Indians belong to middle class registering the lowest poverty levels among immigrant ethnic groups in the UK.
Other Countries With an NRI Population
Canada and South Africa have 1,541,955 and 1,274,867 NRI populations respectively. The first settlers to Canada were soldiers in 1890s, but later years saw numerous immigrants especially after lifting of the quota system in 1967. Indians living in South Africa are mostly descendants of laborers in sugar plantations in KwaZulu Natal province. Myanmar has over 1,030,000 NRI population while at position ten is Mauritius with 994,500 NRI population.
Emigration From India
The earliest documented emigration from India was to Southeast Asia during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 1st millennium CE. Indians went there as traders. The migration led to the formation of the Indianized Kingdoms located in Southeast Asia. By 1610, numerous Indians had migrated to Arabia and Central Asia leading to the formation of a merchant colony in Astrakhan. Indians had already established small businesses in St Petersburg and Moscow, Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. Indian traders had immigrated to Persia, Kerman, Afghanistan, and Iran in the 18th century. Indians traded in precious metals, textiles, spices, and foodstuffs. The British Empire facilitated the immigration of Indians to various colonies to either serve in the army, build railway or work in plantations. Once the assigned duties were completed, most settled as traders. In the 1960s and 1970s, Indians migrated to the Middle East following the oil boom. Migration to the United States of America, Australia, and Europe was in large numbers from the 1960s in search of jobs, education and entrepreneurial opportunities. In recent years, Information technology has led to massive immigration. Indians in the diaspora have excelled in the field of entrepreneurship, law, finance, medicine, media, engineering, manufacturing, and even politics.