About the Author: Mitul Desai serves as Senior Advisor for Outreach in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and served as the co-chair for the U.S.-India People to People Conference.
As President Obama prepares for a much anticipated trip to India, we recently held a productive session highlighting U.S.-India partnership. A truly unique event, the U.S.-India People to People (P2P) Conference brought together over 200 Indian Americans from around the country at the Department of State. People traveled from Florida, Indiana, Iowa, and the mid-Atlantic region to celebrate the crucial role of the diaspora in U.S.-India relations. Participants also engaged with prominent thought leaders and practitioners on four key global issues: renewable energy; global health; education; and economic empowerment. The idea was to facilitate a dynamic exchange of ideas around novel ways for the diaspora to contribute in these four areas. The audience and panelists did not disappoint.
The P2P conference featured vibrant and enlightening exchanges between the attendees and panelists, who represented various aspects of the public and private sectors. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats opened the conference by offering his insights on the strong business ties between the United States and India. Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar closed the event with a speech highlighting the important contributions Indian Americans have made across numerous fields. Though she was unable to attend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton provided taped remarks, in which she noted to the Indian American community present: "Your leadership in classrooms, board rooms, and governments across the United States -- along with your connection to communities in India -- gives you invaluable insights that can benefit all of us."
Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of USAID, delivered the keynote address and discussed the wide-range of USAID projects around the world, including some from the 1960s that laid the foundation for the broad and long-standing U.S.-India academic relationships.
One consistent theme highlighted in the panels was the need for governments to continue to work to stay abreast of all the exciting private and civil sector activity happening outside the public sector. The energy panel discussed how India's energy needs offer opportunities for the diaspora to contribute in areas like advocacy and interesting new developments such as open-source innovation. The global health panel discussion centered on finding more ways to translate the diaspora's success in medicine and in the Silicon Valley, to innovations aimed at India's "bottom of the pyramid." The Education panel featured our very own Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock as moderator, who led the panel in discussions around the role the State Department can play in conjunction with non-profits, community colleges, and diaspora-led foundations. Economic empowerment, particularly that of India's poorest, was the focus of the final panel, and featured insights from world-class economics and business-school professors.
We will stay connected with participants in the weeks and months ahead, as well as continue our collaborative efforts via the P2P website, professional networking groups, and by hosting a series of issue specific conference calls. The goal is to help build common solution-seeking networks dedicated to areas like global health and education.
Attendees and panelists alike said they felt energized by the conference. We feel the same way. I think it's safe to say that our goal of mutually informing and inspiring one another was more than met as the Secretary stated, "Governments alone cannot solve any of these problems. We need ideas, and help, from people like you." And we encourage you to continue to participate in this dialogue.
Related Entry: U.S.-India People to People Conference: Building the Foundation for a Strong PartnershipView photos of the event on Flickr. You can follow the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on Facebook and Twitter.