ABSTRACT

International migration is not a new phenomenon for globetrotting Indians who, today, constitute more than 25 million living in different countries around the world. After India’s independence, the first wave of migration saw Indians moving to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, and with a smaller number to Western Europe. This flow began in the early 1950s and continued until the mid-1970s. During these periods, Indians from other parts of the world – especially from former colonies – also migrated to these countries as ‘twice migrants’ (Bhachu 1985). The second wave of migration took place when Indians moved to oil-exporting countries in the Middle East spanning the Persian Gulf; the six countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. Although Indian migration to the Persian Gulf started as early as the 1930s after oil was discovered in the region (Khadria 2006; Pradhan 2010), large-scale migration only took place in the early 1970s as a result of the price-hike in oil and the consequent large revenues, which accelerated the process of industrialisation and social change in the GCC states. This period was characterised by massive investment in social and economic infrastructure, which necessitated the service of a large number of foreign workers. As Gardner rightly points out,

each of the states configured modernization and economic diversification plans to make use of this wealth, and those plans required heavy infrastructural development: cities would grow; highways would be constructed; electricity would be generated; new industries would prosper; universities, mosques, stadiums, hospitals, and federal buildings would be constructed and staffed.