It’s the triumph of wire-transfer nationalism. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses 20,000 Persons of Indian Origin at New York’s Madison Square Gardens on Sunday, he will reiterate the now-prevalent notion that we’re only here for the money, honey. Send us your tired, crumpled dollar bills, he’s saying ‒ you don’t need to demonstrate genuine commitment in the country you claim to love so much by actually wielding the ultimate weapon of democracy: participating in the electoral process.

Modi’s enthusiastic supporters of Indian origin have a few paradoxes to grapple with.

They’re proud of the strides their compatriots have made in US politics, notably Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, and Nikki Haley, governor of neighbouring South Carolina, even though both these eminences have taken pains to distance themselves from their Indian roots. They have even converted to Christianity.

At the same time, Modi’s supporters insist on emphasising Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origins. This is ironic, since Sonia Gandhi holds an Indian passport but a great many PIOs do not.

Over the years, progressives in the diaspora have attempted to construct a more inclusive and politically useful “South Asian” identity that brings together immigrants from across the subcontinent as well as strands of the diaspora from the Caribbean and South Africa. But Modi’s supporters in the US have replicated the sub-nationalist divisions of the homeland. It was these organisations ‒ the Punjabi societies, the Gujarati samajs, the Kannada sanghas ‒ that distributed tickets to the Madison Square jamboree.

In India, cultural assertions by residents of one state living in another part of the country are often viewed with suspicion and sometimes greeted by violence. In Mumbai, for instance, the Shiv Sena routinely intimidates Bihar residents who gather on Juhu beach to celebrate chhat puja. Yet the Marathi mandals in the US seem to see no contradiction when they gather in large numbers to celebrate the multiculturalist ethic of their adopted country.

Of course, the idea of India owes a great deal to the diaspora (as does the idea of Pakistan). Several freedom-era leaders honed their approach to independence and their strategies to achieve it during their years abroad as students and professionals ‒ most notably, Mahatma Gandhi. But as the historian Ramachandra Guha emphasised in a column on Sunday, the thrust of the diaspora’s political organising has changed since the Independence movement.

“The NRI nationalists of the colonial era sought to represent all Indians regardless of religion or ethnicity,” he wrote. “The current Overseas Friends of the BJP have, inevitably but regrettably, diminished the meaning of ‘Indians’ to make it ‘Hindus’.”

It’s time to re-examine the notion of remittance patriotism.