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A full circle for Gautam Adhikari

April 09, 2010 14:37 IST
It's been full circle for Gautam Adhikari, erstwhile Washington bureau chief of the Times of India, who returns to the US capital and the think tank circuit as a visiting fellow at the East-West Center for a year-long residency co-sponsored by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, reports Aziz Haniffa.

Adhikari, a former executive editor of The Times of India, will conduct research on the deepening of United States-India relations for improved interaction with and understanding of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the possibilities for trilateral cooperation between the United States, India and the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Since 2003, the East-West Center in Washington Visiting Fellowship Program has supported scholars and analysts who wish to undertake policy-relevant research and writing in international relations of Asia, political change in Asia, and US-Asia relations.

In addition to writing and field research, fellows also give public lectures during their residency.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center was created to promote better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. And, in the past five decades, it has served as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

This is FICCI's first support of a fellowship in a reputed think tank and Adhikari told that 'they got the idea last year and had spoken to me about their desire to have someone in Washington, DC to project a wider understanding of India and South Asia, on economic matters as well as strategic, from the private sector's perspective.'

"They finalized arrangements when I was in Delhi in February to speak at one of their conferences," he said.

Adhikari, who is also feverishly trying to complete a book on India to be published by Harper Collins which focuses on ideological issues and the need for a more authentic liberalism to sustain India's democracy, said, "At the Center, I'll write essays on US-India-Asia matters and a paper on Indian political ideology based on the work I am doing on my book, apart from participating in various forums on India and South Asia."

He said his mandate also includes 'setting up a conference/seminar or two on Af-Pak and on US-India-ASEAN relations.'

Adhikari said, "Where my role, I hope, will be valuable here is in explaining Indian politics and their impact on economic and foreign policies from the perspective of a person who had spent most of his professional life in India journalism—in India and abroad."

He said part of his stint at the Center would also include speaking 'on the current Indian media scene and its impact on public debate as well as on policy-making.'

After his position as Washington Bureau Chief for TOI, nearly two decades ago, Adhikari decided to remain in the US and joined the World Bank as a consultant in its Public Affairs Office after a spell as senior fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy, visiting fellow and scholar at the George Washington University and a resident fellow and adjunct lecturer at the Shorenstein Center for Press/Politics at Harvard University.

When he was offered the job of executive editor of TOI, despite his lucrative, tax-free job at the World Bank, the tug to return to India to head up India's largest English language daily newspaper was far too great. But when that assignment ended, he returned to the US, where his wife, a teacher, and family had continued to live.

On his return, he joined the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute as a visiting fellow and started a India/South Asia Program under the Foreign Policy Studies Division headed by Danielle Pletka, former foreign policy aide to Senator Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

But then he returned to India again as the founding editor of Mumbai's Daily News & Analysis, but that avatar didn't last too long and he went back to Delhi as consulting editor with TOI.

When FICCI decided to set up its program at the EWC, and tapped Adhikari, he decided to take up the offer and complete the full circle again and rejoin his family in Washington, DC.]

Image: Gautam Adhikari

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC