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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

A movement among Indonesians abroad to push for dual citizenship has started. Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal and the Indonesian consul in San Francisco, Asianto Sinambela, seem to support the idea as well.

Dino sent an e-mail to Indonesians in the United States mentioning that he supports the concept and would forward it to the government, legislators and political parties. Meanwhile, at a function in Wisma Indonesia in San Francisco on Jan. 27, Asianto said: "Dual citizenship would be beneficial for Indonesia."

I could not agree more. Citing Dino, I think citizenship is more a matter of "legal convenience" than nationalism. In this globalized era, it is preferable to think positively about dual or multiple citizenships, as they provide more advantages than disadvantages. Considering that the ASEAN Free Trade Area will be in full force in 2015, having dual citizenship will allow people to have more freedom to do business in other countries. Think about all the economic, information and technology exchanges that can take place without any barriers or boundaries.

By the middle of this year, the ASEAN Trading Link will connect the largest stock exchanges in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Costs will be reduced and a much larger base of investors will be made available. It is a good start for boosting the region's economy.

By 2015, a four-fold cooperation will take place, which will take the economic prosperity to another level. First, the single ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) market will include zero tariffs. This will increase the mobility of goods exchange exponentially. Second, ASEAN's Master Plan will connect ASEAN countries through various infrastructure and human capital exchanges requiring a $1 trillion in investment.

Third, various arrangements will be made with SMEs to create unprecedented bridges for fluid employment exchanges. Fourth, regional free-trade areas will be expanded with bilateral agreements with China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Dual citizenship would provide individuals with a legal basis to establish businesses and gain employment in two or more countries. On top of that, it would also protect the children of those with dual or multiple citizenships, as their parents would not be able to be deported due to legal problems. Those who would benefit the most, of course, are individuals with international exposure and multicultural education, as their services could be offered in two or more countries without having to endure immigration hurdles.

In the case of Indonesia as a member of ASEAN, we can consider either supra-national citizenship or overseas citizenship. Better yet, we can combine both types of dual citizenships, so coverage is universal and not limited to ASEAN countries.

Citizens of the European Union (EU), for instance, possess a flow-through citizenship, in which they can live and work freely in any country within the EU for an unlimited period of time, but can only vote and run for public office in their country of origin. A similar arrangement is available for citizens of UK Commonwealth countries and the nations of the former Soviet Union.

India has a limited type of dual citizenship, which is called a Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). It is not a full citizenship, as it doesn't allow for an individual holding OCI status to acquire land in India, vote or run for public office.

Residing in Silicon Valley, I see how Indian nationals are enjoying such dual citizenship. Here, one-third of the engineers are Indians with H1B work visas, yet the option of OCI provides them an advantage over those from other countries, as it would give them the option to establish a new life and resettle long-term in the United States. Approximately 15 percent of Silicon Valley startups in 1995-2005 were led by Indian CEOs and founders.

Today, we can safely assume that India's impressive economic status is partly due to this dual citizenship arrangement. With strong cultural and emotional ties between locally-based Indians and overseas Indians, fluid exchanges can take place seamlessly with the flourishing of Internet.

Of course, citizenship is a touchy subject. However, learning from the Chinese and Jewish diasporas, one's citizenship and geographic location don't necessarily discount love and admiration for ancestral countries. The longing to belong and give back remains strong and solid. Such overseas individuals are renowned for their networking and bridging skills, which bring positive impacts to both countries.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who holds Austrian and US citizenships, exemplifies the best of how a high-caliber individual can contribute to humanity.

Let's support the dual citizenship initiative. It's a logical step to bring us to the world and the whole world to us.[]

The Jakarta Post, February 6, 2012

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