The government has decided to extend the offer of dual citizenship to almost all Indians living overseas.
"The government has decided to offer dual citizenship to all overseas Indians who have migrated from the country after January 26, 1950, as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship under their law," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his inaugural address on Friday at the 3rd Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet in Mumbai.
The government will simplify the procedure for registration of People of Indian Origin for granting dual citizenship, he added.
The facility was first announced at the inaugural edition of the PBD in 2003 by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But only Indians in select countries - mostly Western - were eligible, causing heartburn among others, especially those in West Asia.
The prime minister admitted that there had been delays in implementing the dual citizenship scheme but assured that the new ministry of overseas Indians' affairs would help speed up matters.
Singh invited young non-resident Indians to come and study in Indian institutions. He also asked NRIs to participate in the process of extending primary education.
In view of the tsunami disaster, Singh asked everyone to contribute generously to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
"I recall that when appealing for relief for victims of a natural disaster, Mahatma Gandhi once said: He gives twice who quickly gives. I am sure you share that sense of urgency and will be generous with your support," he said.
Earlier, the delegates observed a minute's silence in memory of those killed and affected by the December 26 disaster. Later, maestros Balamuralikrishna and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi regaled the audience will a splendid jugalbandi.
In his address, chief guest Suriname Vice-President Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia spoke about the role of the early Indian settlers in preserving democracy in his tiny country.
Welcoming the delegates to Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh listed out the state's social and industrial achievements.
India is celebrating its diaspora, numbering nearly 20 million, in the three-day event. The nearly 2,000 delegates represent the diaspora from around 61 countries.
The event is being jointly organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indians' Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
It coincides with the anniversary of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India, on January 9, 1915, after almost two decades in South Africa.