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India has transformed, govt tells new US envoy

April 11, 2012 10:54 IST
The government of India in welcoming the new United StatesĀ  ambassador to India, erstwhile India and South Asia hand, Nancy J Powell, has said that while India would not be new to her, it would not be the same either, considering the transformational changes India has undergone.

Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh, deputy chief of mission at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, substituting for Ambassador Nirupama Rao (who was out of town delivering a speech at the University of Indiana) at the reception accorded Powell by the US-India Business Council, said, "Having served in India before, and no doubt having observed transformations taking place in India from her assignments in the neighbouring countries (Powell was earlier ambassador to Pakistan and Nepal), it will not be all new but certainly not all the same either."

He noted that "a tremendous transformation has taken place in India since her last assignment and what will no doubt impact her day-to-day experience, there has been path breaking change in the dynamics and substance of India-US relations."

Singh said, "Ambassador Powell follows in the trail of a distinguished set of predecessors who have made phenomenal and longstanding contributions to interpreting India for their home constituencies, and to participating in dealing with the challenges that India faced as a society and economy."

He recalled that John Kenneth Galbraith had said that "people are the common denominator of progress," and noted that "it is now widely recognised that education and health indicators are among the most reliable signals of development."

"And our two countries have made cooperation in higher education a focus area for activity, with a Higher Education Summit having been held last year and follow up activity planned for June this year," when the third US-India Strategic Dialogue will be held in Washington.

Singh also noted that another predecessor of Powell's, Chester Bowles in his book, A View from New Delhi, had "spoken of the incomplete impressions of the short-term visitor, as against a deeper and more empathetic understanding shown by those who stayed for longer durations."

"Similarly, he had spoken against yielding to the short term twists and turns, as against the long-term trend, a message that continues to have relevance today."

And Singh added, "Of course, Ambassador (Robert) Blackwill had said in 2003, that "Mother India," had changed his life forever.

Thus, he told Powell that "as you go back to India, you will find a welcoming people, public goodwill, a comprehensive architecture of engagement, comfort and confidence in the relationship, the experience of bold and ambitious undertakings and a proven capacity to work together through challenges."

Singh said that "in the midst of various issues and differences, the genuine warmth and friendship that people in India have towards the US, and the deep longstanding people-to-people ties have provided us a solid foundation."

He predicted that "with nearly three million Indian Americans in the US and more than 100,000 Indian students, this can only grow stronger," and recalled that Powell in her own testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, during her confirmation hearings, had referred "to the people-to-people links and commented that 'our relations are firmly grounded in a set of shared democratic values and an increasingly shared strategic vision.'"

Singh said that he would be "remiss if standing here at the USIBC, I do not refer to the business dimension of the partnership," and pointed out that bilateral trade was growing annually "in double digit figures, with the US being India's largest trading partner at $100 billion, and India being the second-fastest growing investor in the US economy."

He pointed out that the Indian IT sector had contributed $15 billion "to US taxes in the last five years and $1 billion a year as Social Security contributions, and Indian industry has generated hundreds of thousands of jobs here."

"US industry has been a long standing partner in the Indian growth and technology process," he added.

Singh, thus argued that "much has been achieved," but acknowledged, "A lot, however, remains to be done," and told Powell, "We hope to keep you busy in the coming months, including, in the run-up to the Strategic Dialogue here in June."

"We look forward to working with you to realize the vision of our leaders to make the India-US partnership a defining partnership of the 21st century," he added.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC