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'No fascination for dual citizenship'

Celebrated economist of Indian origin, Lord Meghnad Desai, talks about citizenship and identity to Ami Dalal.
By Ami Dalal (HindustanTimes.com) | None, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 06, 2006 03:00 PM IST

The recent offer of dual citizenship by the Indian government doesn't seem to amuse Lord Meghnad Desai, renowned economics scholar of Indian origin.

"I have no plans to apply for the Overseas Citizen of India card," he said when asked about his interest in holding a dual citizenship.

"I have no schizophrenia about my identity…but I believe that people should be allowed to have multiple identities," he opined after launching the fifth edition of the Global Civil Society Yearbook in New Delhi on Thursday.

Though born in India, Lord Desai is a naturalised citizen of the United Kingdom and Member of Parliament.

When asked whether his allegiance was torn between India and the UK, Lord Desai replied that it is his duty to serve the UK to the best of his ability. He believes that it is an honour to be conferred citizenship and a parliamentary seat by the British government.

Lord Desai pointed out that he has lived almost most of his life in the UK and thinks of himself as a British citizen of Indian origin. He continued, "I will contribute towards India not because it is expected of me as a former Indian citizen but because I want to do so."

Lord Desai is the director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance in the London School of Economics. He received his MA from the University of Bombay and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

"Civil society has grown in reaction to globalisation," declared Lord Desai at the book release, "and it is an exercise in being a global civil society by producing this book."

Lord Desai acknowledged that diaspora is an important part of global civil society. "We have to strike a balance between migration, is it a good thing or a bad thing," asked Lord Desai, "but if capital can go anywhere in globalisation, why can't labour?"

Lord Meghnad Desai (C) at the book launch conference in New Delhi

When asked how the events of 9/11 have undermined global civil society, Lord Desai replied that it made civil movements more cohesive rather than shatter them.

"Global civil society has to diffuse this battle," he announced, "because the victim is the private citizen, so the citizens have to be at the centre of this."

When Lord Desai asserted that "states can fight terrorists but cannot fight terrorism," fellow panelists Dr Hakan Seckinelgin of LSE and Dr RK Pachauri of The Energy Research Institute nodded in agreement.

In recognition of the active role Lord Desai has played in the formation and publication of the Yearbook, Dr Pachauri announced: "Lord Desai is erudite and very perceptive, and this in itself defines the publication."

The Yearbook was conceived by the London School of Economics and the University of California, Los Angeles. It attempts to chart and analyse how civil society and their values, identities, communities, and modes of political expression not only shape but are also shaped by globalisation. 

The impetus behind the publication, according to Dr Pachauri, is in view of global civil society becoming the "most dominant institutional innovation in the 21st century and what has really characterised development and social activities."

Globalisation is seen as a "primarily economic phenomenon," explained Dr Seckinelgin, "but the reality of globalisation is more complex."

The Yearbook attempts to fill the knowledge gap by trying to understand the movements of civil society. It also aims to bring together a broad segment of actors, including policymakers, students, and journalists, to stimulate debate.  

At the close of the launch, Lord Desai announced that the Yearbook is also being translated into Arabic. It will expand its distribution to several more countries with next year's publication, which will have a specialised report on terrorism by a team of experts from Egypt.

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