The Indian Ambassador to Bahrain, Mr. Mohan Kumar, on the gratuitous advice of India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, has told the nearly 400,000 Indians living in Bahrain to transfer their money deposited in Bahrain banks to India, considering that many Indians have lost their money in strife-torn Libya.
Kumar, who arrived in Bahrain just a few months ago has not found time to do his homework by looking around at the ground situation in Bahrain for himself. His minister has never visited Bahrain in any meeting either.
This advisory sits rather oddly in light of the fact that the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and China are always more concerned about their citizens. They have not given any such advice to their nationals. For that matter, the countries with a large population in Bahrain such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal or Bangladesh have not advised their workers to send their money home.
I lived in Bahrain for 14 years. I can say there is no reason at present for Indians, or for that matter any expatriate, to transfer their funds out. Why should they? The developments so far in Bahrain have posed absolutely no threat to anyone. And there has been absolutely no violence on the part of the protesters. Indeed, they are avowedly following the strategy of non-violent protests devised by Mahatma Gandhi. Thus, any equation of the situation with Libya, where the government itself is attacking the populace from the air, is grossly exaggerated.
Moreover, a majority of Indians in Bahrain have their accounts with the local branches of two leading Indian banks, the ICICI Bank and State Bank of India. Which means that they are eventually able to withdraw their funds from those banks’ branches back home. The same holds true of those who have parked their funds in foreign banks such as Citibank or HSBC, since these banks too have branches in India with ATMs which accept Gulf account holders’ cards.
More than half the Indian workers in Bahrain, living in bachelor status, hardly have funds to spare to stash in a bank at the end of the month. The tiny amounts they save are eventually transmitted to their families back home through exchange houses.
So the question is, for whom is Mr. Kumar’s unsolicited advice meant when no Indian living in Bahrain could be bothered?