The Sri Lankan diaspora
(Based on a presentation by Chandra Jayaratne, Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, at the recent Asia-Pacific Marketers' Association Conference).

Three young, second generation non-resident Indians born in the United States made a value adding presentation at the India Economic Summit in Bangalore in November 2001. These three young professionals had attempted to develop a strategy to leverage the Indian diaspora overseas for economic value addition to India. Having been born, educated and now working as professionals in the United States, they had adopted behaviours and operating values of the United States. A survey conducted amongst persons in similar positions revealed that other than for regular contacts with relatives in India during annual visits to India for family functions, pilgrimages and holidays, there were no common strong links with India on a day-to-day basis by the second generation Indian diaspora overseas.

However, the survey had revealed that there were significantly strong, original bondage links with India and the Indian community in the country of residence, mainly associated with:
* being of Indian origin,
* being committed to and fundamentally aligned with Indian home country original value systems (although the operating value system was that of the United States), and
* the retained Indian identity
The survey also revealed that the second generation Indians living in the United States, especially professionals, were committed and were willing to be leveraged to add value to the national economy of India.

Developing strategies
In an attempt to develop a strategy, the three young professionals had reviewed case studies from other countries that had developed a commitment from their diaspora living overseas via an effective network with the diaspora. Their investigations revealed that the most effective networks were amongst the community of:
* Israelis
* Koreans
* French
The Israelis were very strong, supportive, well organised as an effective network and were committed to adding value to the mother nation, with the diaspora constantly providing trade, investment and technology transfer information of value to Israel.
The network was built around an effective and efficient web facility, operated with cost sharing one-third each by the Government of Israel, the Israeli private sector and by the diaspora associations throughout the world.

These associations had been promoted and effectively networked by the diaspora itself. Associations also possessed an effective information database of the diaspora.

The members of the associations took pride in being value adding partners to the State of Israel, by providing information that can add value in generating trade, investment or technology opportunity-related information (including information of a competitive nature, information on new ideas, information on research in progress and even progress on projects at incubation stage).

The criteria for the selection of such information was the potential of effective future value to the State of Israel in expanding its trade, investment and technology base.
The network participants did not receive any incentives or rewards other than recognition when value was leveraged.

The research also showed that the Korean diaspora overseas had a similar but a less organised though effective network amongst its community. Here again the driving force for the effectiveness of the network was the original homeland commitments. It was supported by the Korean government and overseas Korean associations.

The next most effective network was amongst the French diaspora who were effectively linked by the "Alliance Francaise" via original commitments to the French language and culture. This initiative was totally driven by a government agency-led institutional framework. The French experience was unique in terms of its spread, of coverage of nations and the depth and strength of the links, all leveraging the French language and culture. However, their links were not effectively leveraged to add economic value to France.

The young Indians recommended a potential model 'for the India diaspora linkage' as one that combines the strategies of the Israeli diaspora and the French diaspora links.

The strategy suggested was for a joint initiative amongst the Indian Government, Indian business and Indian associations overseas, to be effectively linked via a web portal enabled information exchange facility. This initiative was also to be closely linked to Indian culture and heritage value leveraging opportunity enhancements binding the community in the diaspora.

The Sri Lankan diaspora overseas is generally divided and effectively separated by self-interest, language, and religious and ethnic differences. There is no apparent strong Sri Lankan identity amongst the diaspora members.

Despite the absence of a strong common Sri Lankan identity, a national network option can yet link them together as a powerful tool to leverage enhanced economic value to the nation.

When the North-East conflict is resolved and the war comes to an end, there will be opportunities to effectively network and leverage economic value via:
* some of the powerful ethnic community links that previously supported the divided interests of the racial groups;
* returning Sri Lankan residents for employment in Sri Lanka or for retirement;
* family links being re-established by regular visits;
* the development of a long term national vision binding all communities with the goal of national economic value enhancement;
* effective communications and new links established to create a "Sri Lankan identity" amongst the people and especially amongst the diaspora overseas.

The challenge ahead must be met by a network partnership amongst the government, foreign diplomatic missions, local organisations with network information (e.g. Old Boys/Old Girls Associations) and the private sector.
Towards achieving the objective of national economic value enhancements:
* An effective information database must be established;
* An effective communications campaign must be launched to establish the network demonstrating the national economic benefits and showing the way forward action in identifying opportunities for value addition via trade, investments and technology transfer information;
* An incentive system must be developed that will encourage the required responses from the diaspora and foreign missions;
The strategy and action framework must encourage every Sri Lankan living overseas in any capacity i.e. professional or not, working or not, to commit to develop and maintain the network amongst the diaspora, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity.

They must be bonded by a common "Sri Lankan identity" and have the commitment to provide the network with value adding information to Sri Lanka in enhancing trade, investment and technology transfer capacity options.

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