Neera Tanden Highlights Indian Diaspora’s Crucial Role in Strengthening India-US Relations at Leadership Summit

Feature and Cover Neera Tanden Highlights Indian Diaspora's Crucial Role in Strengthening India US Relations at Leadership Summit

Neera Tanden, an Indian-American and the domestic policy advisor to President Joe Biden, emphasized the significant role the Indian diaspora has played in strengthening the India-US relationship. Speaking at the 7th Annual Leadership Summit in Washington, hosted by the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), she highlighted how personal connections between the two countries have been crucial, even during times of tension. “Even in past moments where there have been fraught tensions between the United States and India, or suspicion or concern, it’s the people — the people of both countries who have helped build the relationship,” Tanden stated. She noted that many Indians have family in the US, shaping their perception of America and fostering a deep connection. “Many Indians I know have family and relatives in the United States that have helped shape the vision that they have of the US. There’s just a deep connection to how India perceives the US, through how the US treats Indians. That is fundamentally important as we make progress,” she added.

The summit, held on June 17, featured prominent figures including USISPF chairman John Chambers, USISPF president Mukesh Aghi, and senators Steve Dains and Dan Sullivan. Chambers shared a personal story about his 85-year-old father’s life being saved by an Indian doctor, expressing profound gratitude for the significant contributions of Indian doctors in the US. “I’m very, very thankful for that, to have more doctors coming from India than any other country, grateful for what they do, not only their incredible expertise, but also their compassion,” he said.

Senator Dan Sullivan emphasized the vital role of the Indian-American community in bolstering the strategic partnership between India and the US. “The Indian-American community is going to be a key source of continuing to drive the strategic relationship between the United States and India even closer,” Sullivan said. Senator Steve Dains highlighted the unique human capital in both nations, which underpins their success and innovation. “The human capital is the most important capital of any nation. The fact is there’s incredible human talent in India and the United States,” Dains remarked. He praised the shared values of democracy and rule of law that foster a robust innovation ecosystem, stating, “We have the rule of law. We share the common values of democracy. That is what allows the innovation ecosystem to long-term win and allows us to succeed.”

Henry R. Kravis, the founder and co-executive chairman of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co., was honored with the 2024 Global Leadership Award at the summit. Mukesh Aghi praised Kravis’s contributions, noting that his firm has evolved significantly, impacting economic diplomacy. “I think that all of these have had a massive impact on economic diplomacy as it goes around,” Aghi said. Under Kravis’s leadership, the firm has become one of the largest investors in India, investing over $11 billion in the past two decades across various sectors, creating numerous jobs and contributing to the Indian economy’s growth.

Kravis described the India-US relationship as “multidimensional,” highlighting shared values of democracy and significant Indian presence in the US. “If you think about our values and India’s values, we believe very strongly in democracy,” he said. He noted the large number of Indian Americans and students in the US, stating, “There are five million plus Indian Americans today. There are 270,000 students with visas in the United States. Last year alone, I think, was a record number of Indians looking for visas to come to the US.” Kravis pointed to the numerous opportunities in India, praising the country’s educated workforce, young population, and significant internet usage. He also commended the entrepreneurial talent in India. “There have been so many good things that PM Modi has been able to do, that have been absolutely fantastic for the average person,” Kravis said.

During the summit, Mukesh Aghi recalled President Biden’s remarks on the importance of the US-India relationship, calling it the most consequential of the 21st century. Aghi highlighted the extensive agreements made during the state visit last year, mentioning the ongoing discussions by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his team in India about the iCET principles. “And what we are seeing in the state visit we had last year, over 170-plus different agreements were initiated,” Aghi said. He stressed that the US-India relationship extends beyond technology to encompass geopolitics, economic opportunities, and people-to-people connections. “I think it’s important that this [US-India] relationship is defined not just purely on technology, it’s defined on geopolitics, it’s defined on economic opportunity, but more importantly, defined on people to people,” he concluded.

The 7th Annual Leadership Summit underscored the deep-rooted and multifaceted ties between India and the US, driven significantly by the Indian diaspora. The summit highlighted the contributions of Indian professionals in the US, the shared democratic values, and the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship, which extends beyond economic and technological collaboration to include significant human and cultural connections.

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