Chennai, Jan 8 The announcement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here Thursday that overseas Indian professionals can practise in India was cautiously welcomed by Durban Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo.
"It opens up a window of opportunity for many South African Indians, but we must remember that we have been very reliant in recent years on Indian nationals assisting in the development of post-apartheid South Africa," Naidoo, who is also a speaker at the annual gathering of the diaspora, told IANS.
"As we continue attracting Indian professionals in a wide range of areas to come to South Africa, some of our professionals may then also be able to share their expertise with the Indian people," said Naidoo, who is a leader in an area which is home to more than half of the 1.2 million South African Indians descended largely from the first indentures labourers who landed in Durban in 1860.
Naidoo also welcomed the launch by the prime minister of a new initiative called The Global Indian Knowledge Network, or Global INK.
"There has already been cooperation between Indian and South African nationals for some time now at academic levels, especially at South African universities where special chairs and centres have been established, so this initiative will enhance this at a higher level," Naidoo said.
Somewhat ironically, the opportunities now being presented to overseas Indians is something that many would have wanted in the apartheid era, when job opportunities were very restricted to them.
Many South African Indians sent their children to India to become doctors and dentists because places at universities were also subject to a racial quota system that kept their numbers down. On their return they had to write further exams just to get their Indian qualifications recognised, and many at the time felt that they would have preferred to stay and practise in India.
But in South Africa today, doctors, dentists, engineers, architects and chartered accountants singled out by the prime minister in his address may not find it as lucrative to practise in India full time, as there are huge opportunities for them in their home country, now freed of the restrictive apartheid shackles.