Ensuring safety and support for Indian diaspora in the United States - Hindustan Times
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Ensuring safety and support for Indian diaspora in the United States

ByAparajitha Nair
Feb 23, 2024 04:01 PM IST

This article is authored by Aparajitha Nair, journalist, Hindustan Times.

In recent years, the United States (US) has witnessed a troubling surge in the number of deaths among Indian students pursuing higher education in its universities. These incidents have not only sparked grave concerns within the Indian community but have also raised questions about the safety and well-being of Indian students studying abroad. As the tragedies unfold, it is imperative to gauge the root causes, examine the challenges faced by the Indian diaspora in the US, and explore viable solutions to mitigate these distressing trends.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during a meeting in the East Room of the White House, June 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during a meeting in the East Room of the White House, June 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Between January to February 2024, the deaths of Sameer Kamath (Purdue University), Shreyas Reddy Benigeri (University of Cincinnati), Neel Acharya (Purdue University), Akul Dhawan (University of Illinois), Vivek Saini (Alabama University), amongst others, have been reported. The growing number of Indian student deaths in the US has sent shockwaves across both nations. Each loss represents a shattered dream, leaving families and communities devastated. While some of these deaths are attributed to accidents or medical emergencies, others have been marred by instances of violence, racism, and discrimination.

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One of the primary factors contributing to these tragedies is the cultural and social adjustment challenges faced by international students. Moving abroad entails adapting to a new academic system, cultural norms, and social dynamics, which can be overwhelming for many individuals. The pressure to excel academically, coupled with feelings of isolation and homesickness, exacerbates the vulnerability of students, making them more susceptible to mental health issues.

Moreover, instances of racial profiling and discrimination further compound the challenges encountered by Indian students in the US. The rise in xenophobic sentiments and hate crimes targeting minority communities has instilled fear and insecurity among Indian students, undermining their sense of belonging and safety in their host country.

Beyond the realm of academia, the Indian diaspora in the US grapples with multifaceted challenges ranging from employment disparities to cultural assimilation. Despite their significant contributions to various sectors of the US economy and society, Indian expatriates often find themselves navigating complex immigration policies, workplace biases, and social prejudices.

To address the pressing issue of Indian student deaths in the US and enhance the well-being of the Indian diaspora, concerted efforts are needed at various levels:

  • Strengthening support services: Universities and educational institutions must prioritise the mental health and well-being of international students by providing comprehensive support services, including counselling, peer support groups, and cultural integration programmes. Enhanced orientation sessions and cross-cultural training can empower students to navigate the challenges of studying abroad more effectively.
  • Combatting discrimination and xenophobia: Governments, civil society organisations, and advocacy groups should collaborate to combat discrimination, hate crimes, and racial profiling targeting minority communities, including individuals of Indian descent. Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at educational institutions and workplaces can foster a more inclusive and tolerant society.
  • Enhancing bilateral cooperation: The governments of India and the US should strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fields of education, research, and cultural exchange to facilitate smoother transitions for Indian students studying in the US. Establishing robust mechanisms for consular assistance and emergency support can ensure timely intervention in crisis situations and safeguard the rights of Indian nationals abroad.
  • Promoting mutual understanding: Fostering mutual understanding and dialogue between Indian and American communities is essential to bridging cultural divides and fostering greater empathy and solidarity. Engaging in intercultural exchanges, collaborative projects, and public diplomacy initiatives can foster stronger people-to-people ties and promote cross-cultural appreciation.

In today's rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape, the relationship between India and the US has emerged as a cornerstone of stability, prosperity, and shared values. As the world's largest democracies, India and the US share a common commitment to upholding democratic principles, promoting economic growth, and advancing global security.

Over the years, bilateral ties between India and the US have witnessed significant expansion across diverse domains, including defence cooperation, trade and investment, energy security, and scientific research. The strategic partnership between the two nations has deepened through regular high-level engagements, joint military exercises, and collaborative initiatives aimed at addressing common challenges and harnessing shared opportunities.

Moreover, the growing people-to-people ties between India and the US, fuelled by a vibrant Indian diaspora, have catalysed strengthening bilateral relations and fostering greater understanding and goodwill between the two countries.

As India and the US navigate the complexities of the 21st century, the need for closer cooperation and partnership has never been more crucial. By leveraging their respective strengths, promoting mutual interests, and upholding shared values, India and the US can chart a path towards a more prosperous, secure, and inclusive future for their citizens and the global community.

This article is authored by Aparajitha Nair, journalist, Hindustan Times.

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