About the Author: Atul Keshap serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
On July 21 at Embassy New Delhi, I had the privilege of participating in a roundtable with dedicated civil society leaders who combat trafficking in persons (TIP) across India, leading efforts across civil society, the judiciary, and state and federal government. Leaders from seven NGOs attended, with missions and services ranging from expanding TIP awareness through creative means like community theater, rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked women and children, as well as legal advocacy and mental health counseling. It was an impressive group, and we had a thoughtful dialogue.
Though varying civil society insights and perspectives emerged, consensus was clear. First, all levels from government to civil society to good business to regular folks have a common interest -- we all want to eradicate trafficking in persons forever. Second, despite the increasing seriousness and willingness of the Government of India to address the TIP problem, expanded and intensified civil society and government engagement and cooperation are essential ingredients in preventing and combating trafficking in persons. Third, government and civil society efforts must focus on eradicating supply and demand if we are to ensure lasting holistic solutions that can eradicate trafficking.
Partnerships are key in a country of over a billion people that is as culturally and linguistically diverse as all the nations in Europe put together. The good news is that coordination, partnership, and success are possible. India is a vibrant democracy with a fast growing economy and a clear desire to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. To that end, we are ready and willing to partner with India to provide insight and technical assistance. We view our role as partners with the government of India and with civil society in tackling this serious crime, which affects society's most vulnerable members.