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'Indian American community indispensable for Indo-US Strategic Dialogue'

July 18, 2011 12:04 IST

The Obama administration has declared that the Indian American community has always been and will continue to be indispensable to the United States-India Strategic Dialogue.

In an exclusive interview with rediff.com on the eve of the Second US-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi, the administration's point man for South Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, who will be by Secretary Hillary Clinton's side as she co-chairs the talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, explained how integral the Indian American community has been to this dialogue.

Blake said, "The Indian American community has been really an indispensable part of the progress that the United States and India have made over the last 10 years."

"If there's anything that's really unique about our relations, it's the people-to-people ties, and particularly the incredibly important role that Indian Americans have played, which is really a central driver of our relationship," he said.

Blake noted, "You'll see that so much of what we do is informed by the private sector, and many of the people in the private sector are Indian Americans. But then, all of these other important people to people initiatives that I spoke of are also driven by our friends in the Indian American community."

He added, "I have hired a dynamic Indian American for my staff -- a young man by the name of Mitul Desai -- and I hired him basically to help me to ensure that we are fully integrating our efforts with the Indian American community here in particular, but also other diaspora communities."

Blake said Desai and he "are hard at work on efforts to help to provide new opportunities for the Indian American community, not only to participate in this huge enterprise that we have now between the United States and India, but also to help them find new ways in which they can help."

The senior diplomat said, "Many of them want to give back to their origin and we are looking at ways to identify these opportunities for them."

"So, they are already doing a lot, but I think there is scope for more and that's something that is a very high priority for me and for Secretary Clinton," he added.

Last week, Clinton recorded a special message for a conference organised by the East-West Center and the US-India World Affairs Institute, titled The United States & India: Promoting Shared Prosperity and Global Security.

Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Bob Hormats said the message was 'to personally acknowledge" the Indian American community's importance to the US-India Strategic Dialogue.

Hormats, who was one of the speakers at the conference along with Blake, said that she wanted to point out the "uniquely important role" of the Indian American community in advancing the US-India Strategic Dialogue and promoting the significance of the bilateral relationship.

In her message, Clinton said, "Indian-Americans have contributed so much to the fabric of our society. We know that you are scholars and business leaders, politicians and artists, musicians, academics, physicians, lawyers, and so much more. And you have helped to cement the bonds between India and the United States."

Clinton said that even as the two governments in Washington and New Delhi are "working together to create economic opportunity for people, to fight terrorism and violent extremism, to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and addressing climate change and giving more people and nations a pathway out of poverty," there was the undeniable cognizance that "governments alone cannot solve all of today's problems."

She said, "That's why we need your ideas and we need your energy and your commitment to help us meet some of the most complicated and pressing challenges of our times," and predicted, "You and our Diaspora community will help write the next chapter of the US-India partnership."

Hormats said, "Indeed, engaging with India's very highly accomplished Diaspora is a key priority of the Department of State."

He said, "Secretary Clinton's vision for the 21st Century, one of the things that is critically important to the statecraft that she has been leading, is connecting with communities and she believes this is essential to developing and sustaining long term partnerships."

Thus, Hormats said the event co-sponsored by the East-West Centre and the US-India World Affairs Institute, which fosters mutual cooperation "is very much a part of a person-to-person, community-to-community, business-to-business 21st Century diplomacy and statecraft."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC