About the Author: Robert O. Blake serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
I had the pleasure this week of meeting several alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK). They are planning an extraordinary celebration on July 9-10 in Washington commemorating IITK's 50th anniversary. IITK has distinguished itself for a half-century for its commitment to technology innovation, much of it the result of a close U.S.-India collaboration.
From 1961-1972, USAID supported the Kanpur Indo-American Program (KIAP), which helped to bring heralded faculty members from Berkeley, M.I.T., Princeton, and other U.S. consortium universities to IIT-Kanpur to serve as visiting professors. The results were transformative. The KIAP program helped IITK become one of the most prestigious universities in India. The ITT-Kanpur 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee will likely be an amazing event, where substantive policy discussions will take place amongst a celebratory atmosphere.
On the heels of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, my meeting with the IITK alumni underscored to me the valuable legacy of cooperation that our two countries share, especially in the area of education. During our conversation, Mr. Rakesh Pandey, an innovation and business consultant from the Boston area, recalled an extraordinary story from the KIAP-era, when a professor from M.I.T. arrived in Kanpur for his assignment. The professor's research focused on image processing systems -- including televisions (he later helped pioneer digital and HD television) -- and to the excitement of students and staff at IIT-Kanpur, he introduced broadcast television to Kanpur. Also, as the U.S. Ambassador to India from 1961-63, John Kenneth Galbraith passionately advocated for an innovation-focused curriculum by helping to introduce a Computer Science program to IITK, making it the first Indian Institute to offer such a course of study. And to demonstrate how effective these exchanges were in fostering higher educational cohesiveness between the United States and India, one need only look to Dr. Satish Kulkarni, one of IITK alumni committee members, who served as our Science Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and is now Associate Vice President of Georgetown University. Dr. Kulkarni is just one of more than 5,000 IITK alumni living and working in the United States!
As the ITT-Kanpur 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee fast approaches, I find myself reminded once again of the myriad ways our two great nations can collaborate to solve the most pressing challenges of the 21st century and the dynamic role the Indian-American community plays in our two great countries.