Solar New Year celebrations unite religious groups across the South Asian diaspora

(RNS) — For the past week, between April 9 and 15, South Asians celebrated the beginning of a new year with friends and family. Although originating in the Hindu luni-solar calendar — the Vedic auspicious month of Chaitra marks the beginning of a joyous new spring season and harvest — New Year celebrations have been adopted and adapted by religions and cultures across the Indian subcontinent.

Indians from all backgrounds celebrate according to their community’s socio-religious customs and unique calendars, from Ugadi for Telegus and Kannadigas in the southern states to the Gudi Padwa festival of western Maharashtra to the northern Assamese New Year celebration of Bohag Bihu, just to name a few.

And for those who immigrated to the United States from India, Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka, these New Year celebrations emphasize an important aspect of South Asian diasporic identity: the cultural heritage they share, rather than religious differences.

“It’s not just about crops,” said Sahej Preet Singh, a Sikh man from the northwestern state of Punjab, who moved to the United States in his 20s. “It’s not just about religion. It’s a lot more than that. It’s the culture, it’s the food, it’s that sense of belonging in the rest of the community, and all the communities coming together. It’s really about brotherhood.”

Singh, who now works as a community engagement manager for the Sikh Coalition, said that when he first immigrated, the loss of community was palpable. It was common for doors in his small town to be unlocked so friends could come and go without asking, but in an apartment in Queens, New York, he didn’t even know his neighbors. Holiday celebrations, like Vaisakhi, the New Year holiday in his Punjabi culture, have helped build a new diaspora community that is much more diverse.

“Here, you might be able to see South Indians and Marathis and Punjabis and Gujaratis all celebrating Gudi Padwa or Vaisakhi,” said Singh, who fondly remembers his mother feeding him a dessert so the New Year would start off with some sweetness.

Vaisakhi, with its colorful processions, large langar meal at the gurdwara and melodious “kirtans,” or group devotional singing, marks the start of a plentiful harvest season for the farm-heavy land of Punjab and the establishment of the Sikh faith by Guru Gobind Singh, though it was a festival time for Punjabis of all faiths.

Moving here, said Singh, who is now in upstate New York, has allowed him to better understand the commonalities between Indians and South Asians as a whole, giving him a piece of home to hold onto. The new community he has formed in the United States, he says, is a reflection of the diversity that only a place like the U.S. can bring.

“I might see somebody on the street who might not be Punjabi but they might be South Indian or Marathi or Gujurati, and I will still probably make it a point to at least nod and say hi to them,” he said. “You know, even shared iftar dinners are becoming a big deal here now.”

Naznin Seamon, a Bengali poet who moved to Queens, New York, in 1997, wants to keep religion and culture separate.

“We have so many problems, so many issues, but these cultural events, these cultural things, they actually make us open our mind,” said Seamon, a Muslim from Bangladesh. “They help us flourish, help our creativity. And it is a source of joy.”

The New Year celebration of Pohela Boishakh, celebrated by ethnic Bengali people from India and Bangladesh, has its roots in the Mughal empire, when Muslim leadership decided to switch from the Arabic lunar calendar to the Hindu solar agricultural calendar to better reflect the harvesting of crops, thus marking a new tax cycle and accounting year.

Some of Seamon’s fondest memories from Bangladesh, she says, were made during her town’s Pohela Boishakh festivities. She would look forward every year to donning a typical white and red sari, with bindi and flowers in her hair, to attend a colorful fair where she got to ride a Ferris wheel and look at photographs in a ViewMaster. Bengali Muslims and Hindus would sell their goods, including homemade animal masks that would be worn at a parade.

Though some would pray to Hindu gods for a bountiful and prosperous harvest, Pohela Boishakh is for all, Seamon says, despite a growing charge by some Muslim religious fundamentalists to discourage the sharing of a holiday they say is rooted in Hinduism.

“To celebrate any culture. I don’t have to follow that religion,” said Seamon, who is also a high school teacher. In Queens, she says the Bengali population is ever-growing, so much that she now teaches Bangla and is in charge of the Bangla Student Association at her school. The idea of celebrating Pohela Boishakh with her students, she says, is not only for them to “get off their phones,” but to appreciate the diversity of their parents’ homelands.

“Just because we came to a different country and we have so many opportunities doesn’t mean that I have to forget my own roots,” she said. “Coming to a new country is adapting and accepting, not changing my own identity, because every culture is beautiful in its own way.”

Kathirvel Kumararaja, a Hindu from Tamil Nadu in the south of India, is also seeking to help diaspora children take pride in their origins. He is the president of the more than 50-year-old New York Tamil Sangam — the first community organization for the ethnic and linguistic group in North America. The platform is for the “global Tamil community,” which stretches from India to Southeast Asia, to “share pride in belonging.”

“Starting from Indra Nooyi, Sundar Pichai, to the vice president of America, Kamala Harris — they’re all Tamils and come from the same tradition,” said Kumararaja, who is also the chair for the International Tamil Entrepreneur Network. “Starbucks CEO, FedEx CEO, you name it, they’re all Tamils. These kids have so many role models in society.”

Puthandu, the New Year holiday marking the beginning of the Tamil calendar and month of Chitterai, is a time for family, according to Kumararaja, who is married to a Tamil Christian. Kids and parents arise at the same time, laying eyes on a mirror in which they can see an abundant tray of fruits, flowers and coins, as well as a dish of raw mango, tamarind, jaggery and neem leaf, which they eat “just to show that life is sweet and sour.” Everyone prays together, seeks blessing from their elders and eats typical Tamil delicacies to bring in a prosperous beginning.

And importantly, the holiday is a public observance back home for all Tamil people, whether they are of Hindu, Christian or Muslim background. Like other ethnic New Years, including Chinese New Year, he says, many people don’t necessarily look at the Scriptures to find a reason to celebrate. It is a joyous time for all, reflected in his New York organization’s celebration with musical performances from popular Tamil singers.

“Typically, acculturation happens in American society in the name of freedom,” he said. The community festivals, he said, are one way to “show our kids what our culture is about and what are the values that we as Tamils represent. We don’t have to be shy about our culture or identity.”

Appen Menon, a board of trustees member for the Kerala Center of New York, understands this multi-religiosity. Hailing from the southern state of Kerala, where Christianity and Islam are widely practiced, Menon’s organization is no stranger to hosting combined cultural and religious events, like Easter and Vishu celebration.

“It’s a great feeling that we have people from diverse backgrounds from Kerala here, and we all celebrate all the celebrations including religious holidays together,” said Menon. “Although we are away from home, we found a home here.”

Vishu, the New Year holiday of Malayali Hindus marking the defeat of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna, begins before dawn, when devotees make sure to lay their eyes on an idol of Krishna and a plate of abundance first thing after they wake up. Families then bathe, eat a sweet dish, go to the temple and finish the celebration with a sumptuous lunch feast.

While the scale of celebration cannot be the same in the U.S. as it is in Kerala, Menon, an attorney, says there are still benefits from forming new traditions. He and his family never celebrated Diwali, the well-known Hindu festival of light, in the same festive way of North Indians, but here, they are able to join in.

“While you’re in India, you know, you don’t see too many people from other states,” he said. “You see mostly people from Kerala and you are not exposed to those kinds of celebrations. Here, we are. And in a big way or small way, we also participate.”

After a delicious feast made by his wife, which he says he “can claim he helped with,” Menon says it’s time for a nap and a reflection on the new year.

“Back in India, when I was growing up, I didn’t know too much Hindi,” he said. “But I heard this phrase: ‘Alag bhasha, alag vesh, phir bhi apna ek desh.’”

Different language, different dress, still a country of our own.

Indian American Women’s Inspiring Leadership

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s tenacious battle for the presidency of the US is a symbol of Indian American women’s emergence as a powerhouse in politics and society even though she dropped her Sisyphean quest two days before International Women’s Day.

On the other side of the political divide, US Vice President Kamala Harris is set for another run for the vice presidency alongside President Joe Biden, having notched the record of the first woman elected to the position that is just a heartbeat away from the world’s most powerful job.

While the two women have the highest profiles in politics, many Indian American women shine across the spectrum of politics, government, business and beyond.

They have soared into space, headed multinational corporations, led universities, and showing their versatility, served undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and even took the Miss America crown.

Although overrun by former President Donald Trump, Nikki Haley made her mark by standing up to him while other competitors folded and she struck out a line of Republican politics that could have a wider appeal.

She put her stamp on politics by getting a significant chunk of votes – estimated at about 25 per cent of those cast in the Republican primaries till she quit – winning in one state, Vermont, and in Washington, the federal District of Columbia.

She also has the distinction of being elected twice as the governor of South Carolina, the first woman and the first non-White person to head the state, and the first Indian American to be a member of the US cabinet when she was the permanent representative to the United Nations, a post with cabinet rank.

Kamala Harris made her mark as California’s attorney general lofting her to the Senate where her work got her national recognition, paving the way to the second most powerful job in the US, the vice president.

She is the first woman to become vice president and she was also the first person of Indian descent elected to the US Senate.

Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, is the other politically powerful Indian American woman.

What helps them shatter glass ceilings despite their being women and, on top of that, women of color with immigrant backgrounds is a society that values merit as it steadily tries to bring down barriers to women’s advancement.

And they are not dynasts or nepobabies, either, and they got to where they are through their own merit.

As Nikki Haley said on Wednesday while announcing she was ending her race, “Just last week, my mother, a first-generation immigrant, got to vote for her daughter for president – only in America”.

In business, Indra Nooyi created a legend of her own as the CEO of Pepsico, a multinational corporation with over 300,000 employees operating in over 200 countries having a revenue of $62 billion in her final year heading it.

By the time she left in 2018 after 12 years as CEO, she boosted its annual profits from $2.5 billion to $6.7 billion as she chartered a new, more diversified course for the company.

Revathi Advaithi is the CEO of Flex, a global diversified company that is the third-largest globally in electronics manufacturing services.

She also serves on the US government’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Padmasree Warrior, who blazed a trail as chief technology officer for marquee technology companies Motorola and Cisco and as the US CEO of the Chinese electric vehicle company Nio, is now the CEO of a startup Fable.

In academia, there are scores of Indian American Women heading departments and schools.

Among them are heads of large universities, Neeli Bendapudi, the president of Pennsylvania State University and Renu Khator, the chancellor of the University of Houston System.

Asha Rangappa, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent-turned-academic, has served as an associate dean of Yale University Law School.

Indian American women have soared into space as astronauts.

Kalpana Chawla, a mission specialist and robotic arms operator, was killed on her second mission when the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it reentered the earth’s atmosphere in 2003.

Sunita Williams has done a stint as the commander of the International Space Station (ISS), on one of her four missions at the multinational orbiting research facility.

The Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishad went to space with Williams, who said that for inspiration she took them along to the ISS, from where she conducted spacewalks.

On Earth as a Navy officer, Sunita Williams was deployed during the first Gulf War and later she became a test pilot.

While the other two were on NASA space missions, aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla went up on a spacecraft of the private venture by Virgin Galactic, where she is a vice president.

Geeta Gopinath is the first managing director of the International Monetary Fund, having made her mark as an economist in the Ivy League and as the organization’s chief economist.

In the US judiciary, there are several Indian American women, among them Neomi Rao, a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considered the most influential court below the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration has deployed Indian American Women in senior positions across government.

The most visible of them on media after Kamala Harris is Defense Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh who often conducts the Pentagon’s media briefings laying out the administration’s strategic positions.

Also at that department, Radha Iyengar Plumb is the deputy under-secretary of defense.

At the White House, Neera Tanden, a veteran of Democratic Party campaigns, is an assistant to the president and domestic policy advisor.

Arati Prabhakar is the assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Science Advisor while heading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to the President.

Shanthi Kalathil is a deputy assistant to the President and the National Security Council’s coordinator for democracy and human rights.

At the State Department, Uzra Zeya is the under-secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, and Rao Gupta is the ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

And, in the other party, Harmeet Dhillon is a member Republican National Committee who ran an unsuccessful insurgent campaign to replace the chair, Ronna McDaniel. She is a co-chair of Women for Trump and Lawyers for Trump, groups that advocate for Trump.

In an unusual occupation was Sabrina De Souza who had served in a senior role as an undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent.

Unfortunately, her cover was blown while she was on an anti-terrorism mission in Italy and that country has tried to prosecute her for capturing a terrorist who was taken to the US.

On the other side, showing the diversity of political views, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez worked as a lawyer defending an alleged terrorist held by the US detention center on Guantanamo Bay.

On the trade unions front, Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the Taxi Drivers’ Alliance, and Saru Jayaraman has organized restaurant workers in New York City.

In entertainment, Vera Mindy Chokalingam, better known as Mindy Kaling, made her mark with the sitcom, The Mindy Kaling Project, which she created, produced and starred in.

Biden awarded her the National Medal of the Arts in 2022. And, further into the unexpected venues, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in 2014. (IANS)

Growing Doubts Over Biden’s Mental Fitness Set Stage for State of the Union Showdown

A recent poll indicates a growing skepticism among U.S. adults regarding President Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities, with many considering his upcoming State of the Union address to be a live evaluation for a potential second term. The survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals that approximately 6 out of 10 individuals express little to no confidence in Biden’s mental aptitude to effectively fulfill his presidential duties, marking a slight uptick from January 2022 when roughly half of the respondents shared similar concerns. Concurrently, nearly 60% also harbor doubts about the mental capacity of former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate at 77 years old.

The looming 2024 election presents a scenario where voters perceive a contest for the demanding role of the presidency between two individuals well beyond conventional retirement age. The next president will confront the daunting tasks of navigating global conflicts, resolving domestic crises, and managing a gridlocked Congress.

Biden is anticipated to address these challenges and more in his forthcoming State of the Union speech on Thursday, aiming to persuade Americans of his suitability for another term. However, the president enters this critical juncture with only 38% of U.S. adults approving of his performance, while a majority of 61% disapprove. Notably, Democrats exhibit a significantly higher approval rate at 74%, in stark contrast to independents at 20% and Republicans at a mere 6%. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction spans across various domains including the economy, immigration, and foreign policy.

While approximately 40% of Americans endorse Biden’s handling of healthcare, climate change, abortion policy, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, fewer express satisfaction with his management of immigration (29%), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (31%), and the economy (34%). These issues are poised to feature prominently in his address before Congress.

A prevailing sentiment among 57% of Americans is that the national economy has worsened under Biden’s tenure compared to before he assumed office in 2021. Merely 30% believe the economy has improved under his leadership, although 54% express optimism regarding their personal finances.

The survey respondents evince deep-seated pessimism about their electoral choices in November, citing concerns over age and the potential for cognitive decline. One respondent, 84-year-old Paul Miller, asserts that both Biden and Trump are too old for the presidency, expressing disillusionment with his previous vote for Trump and an aversion to supporting either candidate in the upcoming election.

The president’s age becomes a focal point of scrutiny following unflattering portrayals of his mental state in a special counsel’s report. Despite Biden’s attempts to alleviate concerns through humor and deflecting attention to Trump’s own verbal missteps, his age remains a liability that overshadows his policy achievements.

A notable shift is observed within the Democratic camp, with one-third of Democrats expressing doubts about Biden’s mental acuity, compared to just 14% in January 2022. Independents pose a significant risk for Biden, with 80% expressing lack of confidence in his mental abilities, surpassing the 56% who doubt Trump’s capabilities.

Republicans generally exhibit greater confidence in Trump’s mental fitness, with 59% expressing high confidence in his abilities, while a notable portion, 20%, harbor doubts. Notably, irrespective of party affiliation, a consensus emerges regarding the perceived inadequacy of the opposing party’s nominee.

Biden’s policy agenda struggles to resonate with everyday Americans amidst the cacophony of daily life. For instance, Sharon Gallagher, a 66-year-old from Sarasota, Florida, who voted for Biden in 2020, voices concerns about inflation and perceives insufficient action from the administration to address economic challenges. Similarly, Justin Tjernlund, a 40-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, expresses lukewarm confidence in Biden’s mental state but is drawn to Trump’s personality, finding him “interesting” and “refreshing.”

In light of the candidates’ advanced ages, some voters like 62-year-old Greg Olivo from Valley City, Ohio, prioritize scrutinizing Vice President Kamala Harris and Trump’s potential running mate, acknowledging the possibility of their ascension to the presidency within the next term.

Ultimately, the upcoming State of the Union address serves as a pivotal moment for Biden to confront doubts regarding his mental capabilities and rally support for a potential second term. However, with widespread skepticism persisting across party lines, the road ahead remains fraught with uncertainty.

Debate Ignites Over Biden’s Fitness for Office Amid Handling of Classified Documents and Age Concerns

Last Thursday, President Joe Biden faced a challenging day, starting with the release of a report by special counsel Robert Hur regarding Biden’s handling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. While the report did not recommend criminal charges, it highlighted Biden’s retention of classified materials in his garage and unlocked drawers. Additionally, the report emphasized concerns about Biden’s advanced age, noting instances where he appeared forgetful in interviews.

Biden responded to the report at a press conference, vehemently denying any memory issues and defending his fitness for office. However, he also made errors during the press conference, including misidentifying Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the president of Mexico. These events sparked debate about Biden’s suitability for a second term as president and raised questions about his handling of classified documents.

Political analysts weighed in on the potential impact of the report on Biden’s political future. Some suggested that while Biden’s mishandling of documents could be damaging, it might not outweigh other concerns voters have. Others argued that Biden’s age and memory lapses could be significant factors in the 2024 campaign, especially considering existing public perceptions of his capabilities.

Discussions also revolved around comparisons between Biden’s case and former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents. While Trump faced similar accusations, his approach to the issue differed, leading to speculation about how each case might influence public opinion.

The report’s characterization of Biden as an elderly man with memory issues resonated with existing concerns about his age and fitness for office. Surveys indicated that a majority of Americans had significant doubts about Biden’s ability to serve a second term as president, with many citing concerns about his age and competence.

Analysts debated the potential consequences of Biden dropping out of the presidential race, with some suggesting Vice President Kamala Harris as a potential replacement. However, others expressed skepticism about the party’s ability to navigate such a significant change, given existing divisions and concerns within the Democratic Party.

Biden’s handling of classified documents and concerns about his age and memory have ignited debates about his fitness for office and his prospects in the 2024 presidential race. While the report’s findings have raised questions about Biden’s leadership, the ultimate impact on his political future remains uncertain, with analysts offering differing perspectives on the potential outcomes.

The Coming-of-Age of Indian Americans

“Despite constituting less than 1% of the U.S. population, Indian Americans are 3% of the nation’s engineers, 7% of its IT workers and 8% of its physicians and surgeons,” wrote the popular Forbes magazine in 2008. “The overrepresentation of Indians in these fields is striking–in practical terms, your doctor is nine times more likely to be an Indian American than is a random passerby on the street.”

Sixteen years later, in 2024, the Indian American community has grown even stronger; their successes encompassing almost all areas of American life – living  the American Dream.  The less than four million Indian Americans appear to be gaining prominence and have come to be recognized as a model community, and a force to reckon with in this land of opportunities that they have come to call as their adopted homeland.

In 1960, there were only 12,000 Indian immigrants living in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Today, the number of Indian Americans or Indian immigrants has climbed to more than 4 million, census data shows. Historically, Indians in the US worked in medicine, science & technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs. Some, like the Patel community from Gujarat, took to the hotel industry and grew to dominate it. Others were entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley after the digital revolution of the 1980s.

In 1997, Ramani Ayer became the CEO of the Fortune 500 financial firm The Hartford, becoming the first in the list of Indian leaders heading American businesses. At present, 2% of the Fortune 500 companies of American origin — including Microsoft, Alphabet, Adobe, IBM, and Micron Technologies — are led by Indian American CEOs. One in every seven doctors in America is of Indian descent.

Among all these fields, if there is one area, where the influential Indian Americans have come to be recognized more than any other is the political arena, where they are seeking to win elections at the national, state and local levels, vying to occupy top jobs across the nation.

The Coming of Age of Indian Americans 3Ever since Gov. Bobby Jindal the first ever major Indian American presidential candidate who had sought to occupy the White House, there have been many others who have followed in his footsteps. Indian Americans have expressed keen interest in carving out their political space at the national table for decades, and now, the fruits of their labor are paying off, with more successes now than ever before.

Four years ago, it was then-California Sen. Kamala Harris, who made headlines and then elected as the vice president, becoming the highest-ranking person of Indian descent in the US government. The rise of Kamala Harris, daughter of an Indian mother, as the Vice President represented a coming-of-age of the Indian American community in the United States. Harris was born to civil rights activist parents a year before the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed; this Act relaxed the quota regime that restricted foreigners. At that time, there was one Indian American lawmaker in the US House of Representatives — the Punjab-born Dalip Singh Saund, also from California.

It’s still a relatively small number, compared with the country’s total population of more than 333 million. But Devesh Kapur, co-author of “The Other One Percent: Indians in America,” said he was not surprised to see three Indian Americans in the political spotlight in the 2024 race. “Indian Americans have been selected to be the outliers — they have been selected for success,” Kapur wrote in his book with Sanjoy Chakravorty and Nirvikar Singh.

The 2024 election season in the United States (US) kicked off and now with less than 10 months to go until Election Day and a week before the next Republican primary, one group that has emerged on the national political stage in a way they never have before in U.S. history: Indian Americans.

The current election cycle is shaping up to be historic for the Indian American community at every level, from local to the presidential. After months of campaigning, only a handful of GOP hopefuls were qualified for the last Republican Party Presdetial Debate; two of them were former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and commentator whose White House bid has skyrocketed his profile.

While insurgent candidate Vivek Ramaswamy bowed out after finishing fourth in the Iowa Caucus, former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, emerged with a strong showing and is now poised to give former President Donald Trump a run for his money in South Carolina primary on Tuesday, February 13.

“You have to sit and wonder, we have these two folks who are showing these all-star abilities — will we end up with an Indian American on this ticket?” said Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College and co-author of the Indian American Election Survey.

Harris, Haley, and Ramaswamy have many notable political differences. In a way, each is competing against the other in the 2024 election. But together, they represent a remarkable moment in American politics, experts say: Indian Americans account for about 1.3% of the country’s population, according to census data — and three Indian American politicians have risen close to the top of both major parties. “Mathematically, you would not have expected this,” said University of California, Riverside, public policy professor Karthick Ramakrishnan.

Haley had made history as the first female governor of South Carolina and the first Indian American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position, serving as the US ambassador to the United Nations in 2016. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country,” said Haley, as she announced her presidential campaign last February.

In addition to the leading Presidential aspirants, there are five Indian American members in the current US Congress —Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Shri Thanedar (D-MI) who are seeking re-elections this year. Each of them is expected to be reelected in 2024 due to the advantages of incumbency and their substantial campaign funding.

According to Indian American Impact, an organization dedicated to strengthening the political influence of the community, there are already more than 200 Indian Americans who are elected to positions ranging from school boards and city councils to state assemblies and senates across the country.

However, what is promising as the nation goes into another round of elections is the prospect of several candidates from a wide range of congressional districts across the country from New York to California, and from Illinois to Alabama, are aiming to join the ranks of the “Samosa Caucus.”

Kevin Thomas, a New York state senator vying to win the fourth congressional district, is a prominent Democratic contender to become the sixth Indian American member of the 119th Congress. The district, currently represented by first-term GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, has historically leaned towards the Democratic party, consistently supporting their presidential nominees in the past eight elections. This favorable trend significantly boosts Thomas’ prospects of winning the primary and securing a seat in Congress.

Ohio state senator Niraj Antani is seeking the GOP nomination from the state’s second congressional district. The 32-year-old, who has been in the state legislature since 2014, is expected to get elected to Congress if he wins the Republican primary, as the district is heavily Republican. “In Congress, I will have a steel-spine in standing for life, our 2nd Amendment rights, and for pro-growth economic policies. As a fiercely pro-Trump Republican, I will work hard every day for our community in Congress to ensure every Ohioan has an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Arizona State Rep. Amish Shah, the first Indian American elected to the Arizona legislature, is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Arizona’s first congressional district. Shah, an emergency physician, has raised more than $1 million for his campaign and will have a fair shot in November if he wins the primary in this seat, currently represented by Republican David Schweikert and leans slightly Republican.

Ashwani Jain, a former Gubernatorial candidate of Maryland, is running for Congress from Maryland’s 6th District. He says, “I am running for Congress in the district I live in and call home – not just to be Maryland’s first Millennial, first Asian-American and first Indian-American ever elected – but because I have specific policy solutions that will open the doors of opportunity for our community.” Jain, a cancer survivor, is focused on issues including immigrant rights, climate change, labor rights and raising teachers’ pay, reproductive justice, and gun violence.

Hoboken Mayor in the state of New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla is running for Congress from the 8th District. At Congress, Bhalla says, he “will be an advocate for New Jersey’s working families as he fights to make healthcare a right for everyone, tackle climate change, protect a woman’s right to choose, and build an economy that works for all New Jerseyans.”

Suhas Subramanyam and Krystle Kaul: Two Indian Americans are vying for the Democratic Party nomination in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. Krystle Kaul Kaul, much like Subramanyam, is focusing on issues such as national security, women’s rights, economy & jobs, healthcare, education, and energy & the environment. Subramanyam, a Virginia state senator has been serving in the state legislature for the past four years. Kaul, a veteran of the defence and intelligence community, is running on her national security experience. If either of them wins the primary, they would be formidable candidates to represent this Democratic-leaning district.

Susheela Jayapal, a candidate for Oregon’s third congressional district, and Rishi Kumar, who is running for California’s 16th congressional district are other Indian Americans, who are “strong candidates who have run for office before and have name recognition.” Jayapal had served as the commissioner of Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah County. In 2020, Kumar secured nearly 37% of the votes against the incumbent and fellow Democrat Anna Eshoo, who is now retiring, boosting his chances of victory in 2024.

Vimal Patel from Alabama’s 2nd district abd Nikhil Bhatia from Illinois’ 7th District are others who are in the fray to enter the Congress this Fall. Another Republican seeking to win on a Republican ticket is Dr. Prashanth Reddy from Kansas’ 3rd district is a physician, who is focused on defending the nation and standing up for parents and students in addition to securing the border, supporting law enforcement, standing up to China, and protecting taxpayers.

In addition, dozens of highly qualified and experienced Indian American candidates are also vying for statewide offices in this election cycle. Among those who have announced their candidacies for statewide offices, include: Minita Sanghvi, a Democrat currently serving as the Saratoga Springs finance commissioner, vying for the 44th state senate district in New York; Tara Sreekrishnan, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, running for the California state assembly from district 26; Ashwin Ramaswami seeking election to the Georgia state senate from senate district 48; and Seema Singh, a member of the Knoxville City Council, running for district 90 of the Tennessee house of representatives.

Irrespective of political differences, the Indian American community is happy about the sharp increase in their political participation, especially over the last three election cycles, and is proud of the rise of another of their own. As Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and United States Ambassador to China, had said: “In the last half-century, Americans of Indian descent epitomize how new waves of immigrants have been renewing our communities and our economy. ”

Shekar Narasimhan, founder and chairman of the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Victory Fund, sums it all, saying that while he is happy to see more Asian-Americans gain prominence in politics,  “A beautiful thing is happening: Indian-Americans are coming to the forefront. If our children see Americans with a name like Ramaswamy run, and a Khanna or Krishnamoorthi can win, that’s a good thing.”

Biden’s Critical Speech at Valley Forge: Defending Democracy Against the Threat of Trump’s Return

In his inaugural major campaign event of 2024, President Joe Biden is set to deliver a significant speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on the eve of the third anniversary of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The president, deeply involved in crafting the speech, aims to convey that democracy and essential freedoms face a perilous threat if former President Donald Trump were to return to the White House. This assertion follows a series of consultations with historians and scholars at the White House, echoing themes from the 2020 campaign, which Biden characterized as “a battle for the soul of the nation.”

Biden’s speech, scheduled at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, will feature attendees motivated by the Jan. 6 attack, including young individuals inspired to engage in politics, “voter protection volunteers” from the 2020 election, and elected officials directly affected by the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The campaign strategically positions the location in the election battleground state as a “stone’s throw” from where Gen. George Washington transformed colonial militias into a unified force during the Revolutionary War nearly 250 years ago.

Campaign manager Julie-Chavez Rodriguez emphasized the historical significance, stating, “This Saturday will mark the three-year anniversary of when, with encouragement from Donald Trump, a violent mob breached our nation’s Capitol.” She added, “It was the first time in our nation’s history that a president tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”

As the Iowa Republican primary approaches and Biden faces persistent polling challenges, there is an anticipation that he will adopt a more assertive stance against Trump. However, some Democratic strategists question the effectiveness of the “threat to democracy” message, considering the passage of three years since Jan. 6 and Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Democratic strategist James Carville emphasized the impact of daily life on public perception, stating, “People live in the economy and experience it many times a day. They don’t live on January 6th.” Meanwhile, Tim Hogan, who worked on presidential campaigns for Democratic figures, urged the Biden campaign to highlight the contrast with Trump, emphasizing the various threats posed by the former president.

Hogan referred to a recent poll indicating that 55% of Americans view Jan. 6, 2021, as an “attack on democracy that should never be forgotten,” with a majority believing Trump is likely guilty of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election. However, he noted the growing partisan divide in views about the attack, with misinformation influencing opinions.

The poll highlighted that 25% of Americans falsely believe the FBI was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack, and partisan differences emerge regarding the nature of the pro-Trump mob’s actions. Despite these challenges, Hogan emphasized the importance of addressing the multifaceted threats posed by Trump during the campaign.

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from this week revealed that while Americans agree on the risk to democracy in 2024, they differ in their reasons. Democrats and independents express concern about a second Trump term, while Republicans believe democracy would weaken under another Biden term.

The speech, initially scheduled for Saturday, was rescheduled to Friday due to anticipated bad weather in Valley Forge. The campaign strategically leverages the symbolic setting to underscore Biden’s commitment to voluntarily leaving office, contrasting with Trump’s tenure. Deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks emphasized George Washington’s relinquishing of power as a crucial precedent for American democracy.

In closed-door campaign fundraisers, Biden has often referred to Trump as his “predecessor,” but Friday’s speech could see more public and robust condemnations. Biden may specifically address Trump’s anti-immigrant comments, which he characterizes as “Nazi rhetoric,” and criticize Trump’s vision of leadership involving “revenge and retribution.”

Trump, a consistent frontrunner for the Republican nomination, faces 91 criminal charges in four felony cases, one of which relates to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election loss to Biden. Despite the legal challenges, Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing.

The campaign’s choice of locations, including the speech near Valley Forge and a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, emphasizes the stakes of the upcoming election. The campaign aims to highlight the ideals of freedom and democracy on which the nation was founded 250 years ago, showcasing a commitment to stand against political violence and extremism.

The Biden campaign, in its first television ad of 2024, frames the preservation of democracy as the central issue of his presidency. Although not mentioning Trump by name, the ad warns against an “extremist movement” that contradicts the basic beliefs in democracy, showcasing images of the Capitol attack and the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

To prepare for the speech, the White House disclosed that Biden had lunch with historians and scholars to discuss “ongoing threats to democracy and democratic institutions both here in America and around the world.” Concurrently, Vice President Kamala Harris is embarking on a series of visits to South Carolina, where she will launch a “reproductive freedoms tour” on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

As Trump conducts “commit to caucus” rallies in Iowa, the Biden campaign positions itself to address the overarching theme of preserving democracy, emphasizing the critical choice faced by Americans in the upcoming election.

Kamala Harris, Bela Bajaria On Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women In The World List

Two Indian Americans have been named to Forbes’ 100 most powerful women in the world 2023 list namely US Vice President Kamala Harris and Netflix’s chief content officer Bela Bajaria. This year’s honorees represented a wide range of industries, including technology, banking, media, entertainment, politics, and philanthropy.

The Vice President of the United States has maintained her position at number three for the second year in a row. She had received recognition in the category of politics and policy. The 59-year-old created history as the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian-American to become US Vice President in January 20, 2021.

Harris was also the first Indian American woman to be elected to the US Senate in 2016 and the first woman to serve as California’s Attorney General in 2010. Born to a biologist and civil rights activist from Chennai, India, Harris grew up in Oakland, California and graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Bajaria was ranked at the 67th position under the media and entertainment category on the Forbes list. Born in London, she had spent her earliest years in Britain and Zambia, and then moved to Los Angeles when she was 8.

Having held the role of head of Global TV since 2020, Bajaria was appointed as Netflix’s chief content officer in January 2023. She oversees all of the streaming service’s globally distributed scripted and unscripted series, including Lupin, Bridgerton, The Queen’s Gambit, and Cobra Kai.

Before joining Netflix in 2016, Bajaria was president of Universal Television, where she was the first woman of color to oversee a studio. The 52-year-old has also featured in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2022.

Kamala Harris Bela Bajaria On Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women In The World List 2Forbes also included four Indian women in their list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. The country’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, came in at number 32 in the politics and policy category. HCL Technologies chairperson and industrialist Roshni Nadar Malhotra ranked number 60 in the technology category. Soma Mondal, CEO of the Steel Authority of India, was number 70 in the business category. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, an entrepreneur, was number 76 in the business category.

The Indian American activist Reshma Saujani was included in Forbes’ list of women who are rising to prominence but are not quite among the 100 most powerful people in the world. The Forbes Women To Watch In 2024 list also includes Mira Murati, Fei-Fei Li, Michele Bullock and Hafize Gaye Erkan.

Founder and CEO of the non- profit Girls Who Code, Saujani’s work focuses on female empowerment.

The organization works to empower women in the field of computer science, and end gender discrimination in the field. Forbes observed that over the last 11 years, the organization has educated more than 500,000 girls, women and non-binary participants.

Post Covid, Saujani has shifted her energy towards advocating for better family leave and childcare policies in the US. She founded the Marshall Plan for Moms, which has become Moms First. In an interview with Forbes Women editor Maggie McGrath, Saujani emphasized that “childcare is an economic issue, not a social issue.” Her movement has ignited a national conversation about how to support moms and is backed by A-list celebrities, activists, and business leaders. In September 2015, Saujani was named in the Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list. She has authored books including: Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013, and Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, published by Viking in August 2017, and Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder in 2018.

Illinois-born Saujani hails from a Gujarati Indian family settled in Chicago. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and speech communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997, a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1999, and a juris doctorate from Yale Law School in 2002.

Critical Decisions Await as COP28 Gathers Momentum in Dubai

Tens of thousands are converging on Dubai this December for COP28, the annual United Nations-led international climate summit. With the urgency to avert irreversible damage from fossil fuel pollution, global leaders, negotiators, climate advocates, and industry representatives are focusing on adapting to increasingly lethal heatwaves, more powerful storms, and catastrophic sea-level rise.

In a bid to understand the nuances of the world’s most crucial climate change conference, it’s imperative to delve into the roots of COP. Over 30 years ago, a UN treaty was signed by over 150 nations to curb the alarming rise of planet-warming pollution. The inaugural Conference of the Parties (COP) convened in Berlin in 1995. In 2015, COP21 saw over 190 countries endorsing the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees. Despite its landmark status, the agreement lacked specificity on implementation strategies.

As COP28 unfolds, controversy surrounds its host, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major oil-producing nation. Critics argue that appointing Sultan Al Jaber, head of the UAE’s national oil company, as COP president, creates a conflict of interest. Responding to concerns, the UAE initiated a campaign to enhance its green credentials ahead of the summit. The controversy led over 100 US Congress and European Parliament members to call for Al Jaber’s resignation, citing potential undermining of negotiations. However, some, including US climate envoy John Kerry, praised Al Jaber’s appointment, emphasizing the UAE’s commitment to emissions reduction targets.

The roster of attendees at COP28 is illustrious, with over 160 nations, including major players like the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Notably, King Charles III will address the opening ceremony, and while Pope Francis had planned to attend, his cancellation due to health reasons has been a setback. Notably absent from the speaker list are US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s top polluting countries. In their stead, US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend, marking a response to criticism over Biden’s absence.

A notable presence at COP28 is expected from major oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, and Iran. Despite concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict could overshadow climate action, representatives from both Israel and the Palestinian territories are slated to speak. Additionally, the UAE has extended invitations to fossil fuel executives, anticipating new commitments to decarbonize. Wall Street heavyweights, led by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, are also expected, bringing financial perspectives to the climate talks.

Eight years post-Paris Agreement, the global stocktake at COP28 reveals minimal progress in slashing climate pollution. The first scorecard, published in September, highlights the urgent need for action. Melanie Robinson, the global climate program director for the World Resources Institute, acknowledges the wake-up call provided by the stocktake, urging a roadmap for effective climate goal achievement.

Central to COP28 are carryovers from COP27, namely finalizing a “loss and damage” fund and navigating the transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels. A crucial debate centers on whether to “phase out” or “phase down” fossil fuels. At COP27, nations like China and Saudi Arabia obstructed a proposal to phase out all fossil fuels, emphasizing the importance of unequivocal language covering all fossil fuels.

The loss and damage fund, a pivotal issue from the previous agreement, aims to channel funds from wealthy countries responsible for the majority of climate crisis impacts to poorer nations. The goal is to operationalize the fund by 2024, with a special committee recommending the World Bank as its temporary trustee. Nate Warszawski, a research associate with WRI’s International Climate Action team, underscores the delicate nature of the loss and damage fund, identifying it as a key determinant of COP28’s success or failure.

As COP28 unfolds, the world watches with anticipation, hoping for resolutions that propel global efforts toward mitigating climate change. The dynamics of this conference underscore the urgency and complexity of addressing the climate crisis on a global scale.

Nikki Haley Dismisses Donald Trump’s Lead In Presidential Polls: Says, GOP Has To “Pay The Price” For The Former President’s Presence In The Party

Indian American presidential primary candidate Nikki Haley attached little importance to her opponent Donald Trump’s lead among voters in the upcoming elections. In an interview with Fox News on November 12, Haley admitted that Trump has “strong support” but he is followed by “drama and negativity” and that Republicans will fail to win if he wins the GOP nomination.

Former President Trump has emerged as the GOP frontrunner, and polls have found him to be ahead of reigning President Joe Biden, but Haley believes the party will not benefit from his victory in the primary. “I think certainly Trump has some strong support. I’ve always said he was the right president at the right time and I agree with a lot of his policies,” she told Fox News. “The problem is, drama and chaos follow him, whether fairly or not, it is constantly following him and Americans feel it,” she added.

Haley further blamed Trump for the losses faced by GOP candidates recently and the party’s negatively impacted performance. Haley said the GOP has to “pay the price” for the former president’s presence in the party, as per a report. Haley said the Republican party should brace itself for more losses on the ballot races if Trump becomes the nominee for the Presidential elections, and endorsed herself as the better candidate.

“We need to make sure we have a new conservative leader. Republicans have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. The way you do that is you send someone in there that doesn’t just beat Biden by two or three points like Trump does, you get somebody that beats Biden between nine and 13 points,” she said. Haley’s campaign had received a significant boost after the initial debates and polls suggested she could defeat President Biden by a wider margin than her primary rivals.

Haley also said she could be the candidate to lead the GOP to “win up and down the ticket, governor’s races, congressional seats, all of those seats.” She added, “It’s not just the presidential. We’re trying to win across the board. I can do that.”

Lack of Support Among South Asian Americans

Despite being prominently known as Indian American candidates in the race to the Oval Office in 2024, Republicans Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley are not as popular among or known to Asian Americans, a new poll conducted by AAPI Data and the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago revealed.

According to the results, while more AAPI adults have unfavorable views than favorable views of Haley and Ramaswamy, a large proportion of them said they did not know enough about the two candidates to form an opinion.

The study found that only 18 percent and 23 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander adults had favorable views of Ramaswamy and Haley, respectively, and 36 percent viewed both candidates as unfavorable. 40 percent of the respondents said they were not familiar with Haley, while Ramaswamy is unfamiliar to 46 percent of them.

“This is the first nationally representative survey that includes the views of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders about the major presidential candidates,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data. “Rather than speculate about where AAPIs stand on candidates like Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, we have timely and reliable data that we will continue to follow through the rest of the presidential primary season.

The survey also dug into the political inclination of AAPI communities, with about half identifying as Democrats, over a quarter identifying as Republican, and about one in five identifying as independent or having no attachment to any party.

The current President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are viewed more favorably among the AAPI communities, while former President and current contender for the Republican nomination for the upcoming presidential elections, Donald Trump, is viewed unfavorably, as is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Ten Indians in TIME’s AI 2023 List

From 18-year-old Sneha Revanaur- Founder of Encode Justice working towards AI regulation in the US to veteran business leaders like Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani- co founders of non-profit Wadhwani AI– ten stellar Indian and Indian American men and women, social and business entrepreneurs, researchers and academics are in Time’s AI (artificial intelligence) 2023 list.

From running an ethical business using AI to uplift underserved communities to use of AI in medicine and bioscience and from the need for involvement of the younger demographics in AI regulation to an AI non-profit working towards solving persistent global developmental challenges-the spectrum of initiatives being run by these men and women are vast and varied in impact and scale.

Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani

Indiaspora members and billionaire brother duo Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani joined hands to channel AI towards solving global development challenges, especially in nations where people live on less than $5 a day.

They have set up Wadhwani AI-  an independent nonprofit institute developing AI-based solutions for underserved communities in developing countries. A total sum of $60 million has been committed to date towards the varied initiatives of the Mumbai-based non-profit.

Wadhwani AI devotes its AI development efforts to pioneering an ecosystem of scalable solutions in health care, education, and agriculture sectors for underserved communities by partnering with governments and nonprofits across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The initiative also includes a new $5 million program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“We thought that in the U.S., China, and Europe, AI is being leveraged to help people who are already well-off,” says Sunil Wadhwani in the Time interview, “but maybe we can make India the global leader in applying AI for social good.”

The institute partners with Indian State and Central governments to identify use cases, collect data, conduct pilots and deploy solutions. Some of the strategic programs of the institute include enabling frontline healthcare workers to feel digitally confident to engage with AI-based technology solutions, irrespective of their education, skills, and environment and developing multiple interventions across the TB care cascade and helping India’s National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) become AI-ready.

The Wadhwani brothers said in the Time interview that India, with a diverse population of 1.4 billion, perfectly suits the Wadhwani Institute’s mission of altruistic research. “Other countries simply don’t have the combination of capabilities or opportunities that India has,” says Romesh Wadhwani.

Sneha Revanaur

Encode Justice is a youth-led, AI-focused civil-society group. It was founded by Revanaur (from San Jose, California) in 2020 to mobilize younger generations in the golden state against Proposition 25, a ballot measure that aimed to replace cash bail with a risk-based algorithm.

After the initiative was defeated, the group focused on educating and galvanizing peers around AI policy advocacy. The group now has 800 young members in 30 countries around the world and is compared to the preceding youth-led climate and gun-control movements.

At the urging of many in the AI industry, Washington appears to be moving fast on AI regulation.

This summer, Revanur helped organize an open letter urging congressional leaders and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to include more young people on AI oversight and advisory boards. Soon after, she was invited to attend a roundtable discussion on AI hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Manu Chopra

Friend of Indiaspora, Manu Chopra, co-founded Karya with Vivek Seshadri with an ambitious vision of setting up a network of ethical data usage where data can both financially and technologically empower traditionally underserved communities.

The USD $100 billion data generation industry offers the opportunity to create this ecosystem and impact the lives of millions of people.

Currently, most dataset generation work goes to urban communities or are outsourced to Kenya or the Philippines- where workers are often exploited; offered sub-minimum wages and are often overworked. Median hourly wages are estimated at $0.1-0.5 per hour, while datasets sell for over 200x this price. “With AI, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move millions of rural Indians out of poverty, sustainably.  At Karya, we are reimagining how AI models are trained. In an industry where for-profit companies pay data workers an average of 10 – 20 cents per hour, we pay our workers 50 times the industry standard, a minimum wage of USD 5/ hour,” tells Chopra.

Karya strives to be an ethical and high-quality AI/ML data company in the world, creating a win-win solution for both technology companies and data workers. Their ambitious goal is to use digital work to economically impact 100 million rural Indians by 2030. Currently Karya employs 30,000 workers.

“We work with over 200 of India’s top non-profits, self help groups and FPOs (farmer collectives) across 22 states in India to identify worker communities who would benefit the most from Karya’s work opportunities, tells Chopra. Karya has multiple on-going and up-coming projects across several states in rural India.

Tushita Gupta

Tushita Gupta co-founded Refiberd with Sarika Bajaj in 2020 with the goal of bringing the cutting-edge of AI research to the fashion industry to help solve the global textile waste crisis.

From their deep research backgrounds in artificial intelligence and textile engineering, the founders believe in the power of technology to unlock a 100% circular economy.

Gupta is the CTO at Refibred and  is a patent-pending AI scientist. She previously worked on drug discovery. She has a Bachelors and Masters from Carnegie Mellon.

The amount of textiles trashed in the U.S. has almost doubled in recent years, going from nearly 9,500 tons in 2000 to just over 17,000 tons in 2018, according to the latest government data. And the vast majority of this—about 85%—goes to landfill or is incinerated rather than being recycled or donated.

The California-based company aims to provide the most accurate summary of what types of materials are in any given textile item. Successful recycling depends on knowing what something is made of, so that items can be precisely sorted into like materials. This is particularly true for chemical recycling—which breaks down synthetic materials like nylon and polyester that were once impossible to recycle. Once the materials are recycled, they can be remade into fabric for new textiles—cutting waste and encouraging circularity in the fashion industry.

In January, Refiberd raised over $3.4 million in seed funding, and it’s now running a series of pilot projects in the U.S. and Europe. Four companies are sending Refiberd a couple hundred pounds of textile waste to sort.

Neal Khosla

Another Indian American with a checkered legacy working to utilize AI in the healthcare space is Neal Khosla-CEO and co-founder of Curai Health, the AI-assisted telehealth startup that the 30-year-old Khosla co-founded in 2017.

Curai is beyond your standard subscription-based virtual care service.

The company charges $15 a month (if the cost isn’t covered by their employer) for users to text 24/7 with health care professionals who can answer questions, create care plans, write prescriptions, and, if necessary, refer users to specialists.

Curai’s AI essentially functions as an assistant for doctors, handling straightforward tasks to free up their time for more complex work. For example, collecting the information patients provide during their intake questionnaires or sending a follow-up message after the conversation to see how a patient is doing.

Utilizing the power of AI in this way allows the  clinicians working with Curai to see many more patients.

So far, the startup has received more than $50 million in funding from General Catalyst, Morningside Ventures, and Khosla Ventures, the firm founded by Khosla’s father, the billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Pushmeet Kohli

Pushmeet Kohli is the Vice President of Research at Google DeepMind. He leads both Google DeepMind’s AI for Science project that uses AI to solve scientific grand challenges, and its Responsible and Reliable AI team, which monitors and regulates  DeepMind’s AI systems.

Kohli joined DeepMind in 2017 and soon set up the Safe and Reliable AI team, which later changed its name. (DeepMind merged with a division of Google in April to become Google DeepMind.)

Some of the projects of the two teams he leads, includes AlphaFold, used by over 1 million researchers. It can predict the structures of proteins from their amino-acid structure in seconds- a previously time intensive task that took months or years. Better understanding of protein structures will accelerate drug discovery and may pave the way for further scientific breakthroughs.

Recently, Kohli’s AI for Science team also announced AlphaTensor, an AI system that builds on AlphaZero, which shows extraordinary performance across a range of games including Go, and can discover new algorithms.

He thinks that AI, by improving our understanding of the world, will ultimately solve more problems than it creates. He views the complex challenges he hopes AI will help address, such as climate change and pandemics.

Kalika Bali

Kalika Bali is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research in Bangalore working in the areas of Machine Learning, Natural Language Systems and Applications, and Technology for Emerging Markets. Her research interests are Speech and Language Technology  especially in the use of linguistic models for building technology that offers a more natural Human-Computer and Computer-Mediated interactions.

She is currently working on Project Mélange  to understand, process and generate Code-mixed language data for both text and speech. Code-mixing or use of multiple languages in a single conversation  is a phenomenon that is observed in all multilingual societies. Though Code-mixing has been studied in the past as a feature of conversational speech, the rapid rise of social-media and other online forums has made it a common phenomenon for text as well. Conversational speech applications, like personal assistants and speech-to-speech translations, make it vital to model this in speech also.

“Recently, I have become interested in how social and pragmatic functions affect language use, in code-mixed as well as monolingual conversations, and how to build effective computational models of sociolinguistics and pragmatics that can lead to more aware Artificial Intelligence,” reads Bali’s bio on the Microsoft site.

“I am also very passionate about NLP and Speech technology for Indian Languages. I believe that local language technology, especially with speech interfaces, can help millions of people gain entry into a world that is till now almost inaccessible to them. I have served, and continue to serve, on several government and other committees that work on Indian Language Technologies and Linguistic Resources and Standards for NLP/Speech.”

Arvind Narayanan and Sayash Kapoor

Arvind Narayanan is a professor of computer science at Princeton University and the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy.

He co-authored a textbook on fairness and machine learning and is currently co-authoring a book on AI Snake Oil with Sayash Kapoor, one of his Ph.D. students.

The book that will be published next year was inspired after a talk that he gave in 2019 titled “How to recognize AI snake oil” went viral and the slides were downloaded tens of thousands of times and his tweets were viewed by millions.

Narayanan has led the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project to uncover how companies collect and use our personal information. His work was among the first to show how machine learning reflects cultural stereotypes, and his doctoral research showed the fundamental limits of de-identification. Narayanan is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), twice a recipient of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award, and thrice a recipient of the Privacy Papers for Policy Makers Award.
Narayanan and Kapoor have been sharing their ideas as they develop and comment on recent developments in AI on their Substack, AI Snake Oil. (Courtesy: Indiaspora.com)

ZEE5 Global announces the much-awaited sequel of the successful romantic thriller series Duranga

~ Directed by Rohan Sippy, the second season will witness a face-off between Amit Sadh and Gulshan Devaiah’s characters ~

Global, 21st September 2023: ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian content, announces the second season of the much-awaited series, ‘Duranga’. The official adaptation of the Korean show, ‘Flower of Evil’, Duranga S1 went on to become a much-loved romantic thriller series. It kept the audiences hooked to their screens with the constant twists and turns. Now the second season will see the return of Gulshan Devaiah, Drashti Dhami, Barkha Sen Gupta, Rajesh Khattar reprising their respective roles and it will see Amit Sadh play a critical lead role.

Produced by Goldie Behl’s Rose Audio Visuals and directed by Rohan Sippy, Duranga S2 will witness the real Sammit Patel [Played by Amit Sadh] wake up from coma and go after Abhishek Banne [played by Gulshan Devaiah] who has been living as Sammit Patel. Amit Sadh will be seen portraying a critical role, challenging Gulshan Devaiah to put everything at stake to protect his family. These three central characters’ aims will collide during this season and keep the viewers on the edge of their seats.

Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global said, “The success of the first season of Duranga served as a testament to the increasing appetite for thrillers on the platform. We are happy to now announce the much-awaited second season of the series for our viewers. We are confident that this season will raise the bar for romantic thrillers for viewers across the globe.”

Producer Goldie Behlsaid, “I am grateful for the overwhelming reaction to season 1 of Duranga. I am even more excited for season 2 which is sharper, stronger and has far more twists and turns. Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger where we saw the character of Amit Sadh coming out of a coma. Season 2 takes off from there but in a far more complex and entertaining manner. It’s been a pleasure collaborating with Rohan Sippy, Drashti Dhami, Gulshan Devaiah and Amit Sadh; all brilliant at their craft. A heartfelt thank you to ZEE5 Global and Nimisha Pandey who have been excellent to work with. I cannot wait for the audience to savour this season”.

Director Rohan Sippysaid, “I’m very thankful that I got an opportunity to work once again with Rose & ZEE5 Global, this time to take a successful franchise like Duranga forward. The cast and crew have worked very hard in all departments to add even more excitement and emotional engagement this time around, and we can’t wait to share it with the audience very soon!”.

Watch the romantic thriller series ‘Duranga 2 coming soon on ZEE5 Global

Viewers can catch ZEE5 Global’s unmissable slate and stock up on their yearlong entertainment by subscribing to the Annual pack and grabbing the limited-time special offer price.

Users can download the ZEE5 Global app from Google Play Store / iOS App Store. It is available on Roku devices, Apple TVs, Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs and on www.ZEE5.com

About ZEE5 Global

ZEE5 Global is the digital entertainment destination launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), a global Media and Entertainment powerhouse. The platform launched across 190+ countries in October 2018 and has content across 18 languages: Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, including six international languages Malay, Thai, Bahasa, Urdu, Bangla and Arabic. ZEE5 Global is home to 200,000+ hours of on-demand content. The platform brings together the best of Originals, Movies and TV Shows, Music, Health and Lifestyle content in one destination. In addition, ZEE5 Global offers features like 15 navigational languages, content download options, seamless video playback and Voice Search.

ZEE5 Global Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZEE5GlobalCorp

ZEE5 Global LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ZEE5 Global/

ZEE5 Global announces the World Digital Premiere of hit Kannada campus comedy ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’

Medical bills

The Biden administration has unveiled new proposals to remove medical bills from credit reports. White House officials on Thursday said they are pursuing the effort to lessen Americans’
medical debt burden as millions of people contend with the higher cost of living and historic inflation. Medical debt has lowered people’s credit scores, which affects their ability to buy a
home, get a mortgage or own a small business, Vice President Kamala Harris said in a call with reporters announcing the initiative. If the rule is finalized, consumer credit companies would be
barred from including medical debt and collection information on reports that creditors use to make underwriting decisions.

How China Influenced US-India Ties In The Last 76 Years

As the US tries to break the stranglehold of China on its supply chains, especially in hi-tech, India is emerging as a venue for what is now called ‘friendshoring’ – developing manufacturing in friendly countries that can be reliable partners. From being a recipient of food aid from the US seven decades ago, India has emerged as a partner in defence, space, health and technology.

China, intriguingly, has been a constant factor in the trajectory of India-United States relations, putting them at odds in the first years after Independence but now propelling them to the apex.

In the years after Independence, India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru backed Beijing while the US supported Taiwan laying the foundation for the many differences between them that would continue in many forms. Now it is China with its aggressive postures from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and beyond that helping strengthen bonds between India and US that share worries about it.

Eurasia Review

Yet, even as the two largest democracies draw closer, a shadow of ambiguity persists in their ties.

India still will not back the US unambiguously, is still dangerously reliant on Russia for defence, and is wary of going too far in provoking China while appearing with them on international forums. And it is the China factor that makes Washington so forgiving of India’s neutrality ignoring calls, especially in the US media tinged with hostility to India, especially under the BJP.

Those in the administration with an unblinkered view of geopolitics know that were India to break with Russia, its defences would be degraded making it vulnerable to China and thus reduce its value as a strategic partner.

Leaving geopolitics aside, perhaps the most momentous development is a person of Indian heritage, Kamala Harris, holding the second highest office in the US – something Franklin D Roosevelt, the US president who laid the groundwork for India becoming free of the colonial yoke, might not have dreamt of.

How initial warmth turned to fissures

Modern India’s ties to the US can be traced to Roosevelt forcing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the archetypical racist colonialist, into signing the 1941 Atlantic Charter promising independence for colonies with a clause about self-determination.

“America won’t help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples”, Roosevelt is said to have warned the imperialist.

Roosevelt, who tried unsuccessfully to have an emissary mediate between the British and India’s Independence movement leaders, could not force Churchill to implement it as long as World War II was raging. But ultimately, Roosevelt’s idea prevailed and India became free under both their successors, US President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Clement Atlee.

Truman had high expectations of a democratic India and sent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru his own plane to bring him from London and went out of his way to greet him on arrival and feted him in 1949.

But China intervened. With Cold War both leaders were hung up on China – Truman was backing Taiwan, then officially recognised as China at the UN and was set against a Communist Beijing, and wanted Nehru, who was behind Mao Zedong, to switch sides.

That was the first overt sign of the fissures between the two countries, yet about three-quarters of a century later, it is China that is drawing them closer.

Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared Nehru “one of the most difficult persons”. Shortly after the visit, Nehru declared more firmly the policy of not aligning with blocs, which would later become the concept of non-alignment.

In the Korean War that broke out a year later when the US and Beijing’s forces clashed, India stood neutral, much to the chagrin of Washington.

But the US continued with economic assistance for India and in 1951 Truman pushed through the India Emergency Food Assistance Act when India faced severe food shortage.

The 1962 China war and aftermatch

Engulfed in an ideological fog, Nehru ramped up his rhetoric of nonalignment,  which in effect was perceived as critical of the West. The tenuous relationship with Washington continued with a slight warming of ties between Nehru and the wartime general President Dwight Eisenhower, who expressed respect for Nehru in his memoir. In 1959, Eisenhower became the first US president to visit India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan had grown closer to the US, joining the two now-defunct defence collectives, SEATO and CENTO, and benefitted militarily from the US.

India Today

The China war in 1962 shocked Nehru into reality and temporarily abandoning his veneer of nonalignment sought US military aid from President John F Kennedy, which he received.

The Soviet Union, which had broken up with China, began supplying arms to India, notably the MIG21 fighter jets, although the supply began after the war.

The Kennedy administration initially supported Nehru’s request for setting up a massive state-owned steel plant at Bokaro, viewed as a socialist project it faced political opposition. Moscow stepped in to help India set up the steel plant further deepening ties between the two countries.

That was further strengthened at the cost of Washington during the 1965 Pakistan War when Islamabad flung advanced US weaponry at India, which was using mostly British and Soviet arms.

Yet, when the danger of famine loomed over India, President Lyndon Johnson rushed food aid to India in 1966, while also extracting promises to reform agriculture and to tone down criticism of the US internationally. India and the US had already been collaborating in agriculture development and what was probably the greatest achievement in India-US cooperation followed, helping India achieve food self-sufficiency through the Green Revolution in a few short years and making it one of the nations that can extend food aid to others.

The 1971 Bangladesh and dip in ties

The 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence is the nadir in New Delhi-Washington relations. A month before the War, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Washington and met with President Richard Nixon, asking for help to temper the Pakistani military crackdown on what was then East Pakistan and to deal with the crisis of refugees fleeing army terror.

His vulgar personal comments about Indira Gandhi and about Indians emerged from White House tapes that were made public decades later.

Given the deep ties with Pakistan and Islamabad acting as the broker for the US to establish relations with China, Nixon made the infamous “tilt” to Pakistan and tried to intimidate India by sending the Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal.

Under Presidents Jimmy Carter, who visited India, Ronald Reagan, who warmly received both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv who succeeded her, and George Bush, the senior, the two countries plodded on with no breakthroughs in their relations.

India’s nuclear test brought sanctions against it from President Bill Clinton, marking another diplomacy dip between the two nations.

Although relations with India had had a rocky start at the start of his administration due to Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s perceived hostility, Clinton came through when Pakistan sent its forces into Kargil in Kashmir in 1999.

A war seeming likely when India began to root out Islamabad’s forces, Clinton called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington and read him the riot act, forcing him and then-military chief Pervez Musharraf to withdraw their troops.

The beginning of the embrace

With the emergence of the Indian American community and the onset of India’s economic liberalisation, Clinton started the steps that have led to the embrace of the two countries now.

His visit to India the next year, was the first visit by a US president in 22 years, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went to Washington the same year.

A bipartisan consensus on cooperation with India was becoming entrenched and President George W Bush in 2001 ended all the sanctions against India, that were already beginning to be relaxed.

The 2001 terrorist attack on the US that was orchestrated by Pakistan’s allies in Afghanistan brought a sense of urgency to New Delhi’s and Washington’s war on terror, even as Islamabad took advantage of its geography in the US invasion of Afghanistan.

India and the US began joint military exercises in 2002 and in 2005 signed an agreement on the framework for defence cooperation.

That year the two countries also signed the landmark Civil Nuclear Agreement that allowed them to resume cooperation in the area, while having an impact beyond their borders facilitating trade in nuclear equipment and materials.

The agreement became the centre-piece of the era of Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh visited Washington in 2005 to discuss it, and in 2008 after it was ok’d by Congress, while Bush went to India in 2006 to finalise it, and during that trip the two countries agreed to increase trade and loosen restrictions.

Singh returned to Washington the next year on a state visit at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and made another visit in 2013. The cerebral Indian leader bonded with the intellectual American and the relations in economy and defence took off.

China has again taken the centre in the relations between the US and India, but this time with a convergence – India jolted from the Nehruvian illusion and the US waking up to the looming threats in the economy, trade and, more importantly, security.

The Quad, the group of India, the US, Australia and Japan, that was to play a greater role later on was launched in 2007, but collapsed quickly when Canberra cooled towards Washington.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without ideological baggage and with a fresh outlook on the world, opened up the avenues for ties that bind closer. Once shunned by the US, his election made Washington realise the new realities of India and Obama quickly invited him to visit in 2014.

He arrived like a rock star feted by tens of thousands of Indian Americans. Besides vowing to boost trade, the two leaders turned their focus to climate change and agree on programmes on green energy.

Obama was the guest at India’s Republic  Day celebration the next year.

In 2016, Modi addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time and the US gave India the status of Major Defence Partner, which led to an agreement on an agreement to deepen military cooperation

At President Donald Trump’s invitation, Modi visited Washington in 2017 and in 2019 the two of them went together to Houston and paraded at an event billed as “Howdy Modi” that drew about 50,000 people.

Trump went to India in 2020 for his last foreign trip as president and was greeted by a roaring crowd of about 100,000 in Ahmedabad.

During the Covid pandemic, India sent some medicines at the request of Trump, as well as some medical supplies, while the US sent medical equipment.

While New Delhi was already sending vaccines to many countries, the Quad which was revived in 2017 devised a joint programme to provide developing countries with vaccines made by India.

On the trade front, Modi’s “Make in India” clashed with Trump’s “America First” resulting in a mini-trade-war. Trump ended preferential trade status for some Indian products under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences programme asserting that New Delhi does not give “equitable” access to Indian markets for some US products – among them whisky and motorcycles.

India retaliated by hiking tariffs on 28 products, among them almonds, and the US hit back with more duties on Indian aluminium and steel imports.

But they went ahead on the defence and security front, signing a slew of pacts including the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that gives New Delhi access to advanced technologies and realtime military data and the  Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for intelligence-sharing.

What Next for U.S.-India Military Ties?

A new agreement between top U.S. and Indian officials will deepen military cooperation and bolster strategic tie…

The unthinkable happens

When President Joe Biden came into office and the full impact of China on security, trade and the economy hit him, he revved up cooperation with India.

The Quad meetings were raised to summit status and Modi attended it in Washington in 2021.

Ignoring opposition from the vociferous left in the Democratic Party and the ideologically liberal mainstream media, Biden invited Modi for a state visit last month.

Not only was the US selling India advanced military equipment worth several billions of dollars, but it was also authorising the production of military jet engines jointly in India while promoting cooperation in defence production, something unthinkable some years ago.

(The writer is Nonresident Fellow, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi, Views are personal)   Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/how-china-factor-influenced-us-india-ties-last-76-years

US Congressional Delegation Meets PM Modi, Strengthening Indo-US Ties

A Bipartisan US Congressional delegation in India for the nation’s 77th Independence Day met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, August 16, 2023 in New Delhi. During the meeting, Modi praised the bipartisan support as key to strengthening the bilateral strategic relationship between the two democracies.

The delegation included US Representative Ro Khanna of California, Democratic co-chair of the India Caucus, Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, Republican co-chair of the India Caucus, as well as Representatives Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Kat Cammack, R-Florida, Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, Rich McCormick, R-Georgia, and Shri Thanedar, D-Michigan.

Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, PM Modi said, “Glad to receive a Congressional delegation from US, including co-chairs of India Caucus in the House of Representatives, Rep. @RoKhanna and Rep. @michaelgwaltz. Strong bipartisan support from the US Congress is instrumental in further elevating India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.”

Picture : New India Abroad

Welcoming the delegation to India, PM Modi conveyed his appreciation for the “consistent and bipartisan support” of the US Congress and highlighted his recent visit. “Prime Minister fondly recalled his historic State Visit to the US in June at the invitation of President Biden during which he had an opportunity to address a Joint Session of the US Congress for a second time,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a press release on Wednesday.

“Prime Minister and the US delegation highlighted that the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is based on shared democratic values, respect for rule of law and strong people-to-people ties,” the PMO said.

During his June visit to US, PM Modi also attended various events, apart from the address to Congress. He was hosted by Biden as well as First Lady Jill Biden for a state dinner at the White House as well as a State Luncheon by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also met US Congressional delegation on August 16, and discussed the transformation underway in India. The two sides exchanged views on advancing the bilateral partnership between India and US. They discussed the global situation and collaboration between India and US on multilateral, regional and global issues.

“A good interaction with US Congressional delegation today. Glad they could join as we celebrated #IndependenceDay. Discussed the transformation underway in India, especially its outcomes of better governance. Shared our aspirations and expectations for Amritkaal. Also exchanged views on our advancing bilateral partnership. Shared perspectives on the global situation and our collaboration on multilateral, regional and global issues,” Minister Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

“Representatives Khanna, Thanedar, Waltz and others are doing a great service to the bilateral relationship in undertaking this visit. The Indian Embassy in Washington, DC and several other stakeholders have been working closely with them to create an impactful itinerary,” says Sanjeev Joshipura, the Washington DC based executive director of Indiaspora.

This historic visit holds symbolic significance, marking the first time Indian American lawmakers are part of a US House delegation to India, highlighting the growing influence of Indian Americans in US politics and their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations.

For Rep. Khanna, this is history coming full circle. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was an Indian freedom fighter who spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and later was part of India’s first parliament.

“As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we are proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to India. We will be there to discuss how to strengthen economic and defense ties between our two counties, the oldest and largest democracies,” Khanna said prior ro his visit to India.

“Both of us believe that the U.S. India relationship will be a defining one of the 21st century. India is a key partner in ensuring multipolarity in Asia and the denial of China as a hegemon. We must continue to strive to make progress and build our partnership based on our shared founding values of democracy, freedom of the press and assembly, and human rights. This delegation is a historic opportunity to drive further collaboration and advance shared aims,” Khanna said

Earlier this year, Khanna and Waltz hosted a historic US-India Summit on the Hill featuring panels and remarks from government leaders, experts, and Indian American leaders from across the country.

“His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was an Indian freedom fighter who spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and later was part of India’s first parliament,” the US government said in its press release referring to the history Ro Khanna and his family share with respect to the Indian Freedom struggle.

On his visit to India, Khanna said, “As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, we are proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to India. We will be there to discuss how to strengthen economic and defense ties between our two counties, the oldest and largest democracies.”

Rise of Indian Americans

The rapid rise of Indian Americans from politics to administration, entrepreneurship to technology, medicine to hospitality, science to academia has put the global spotlight like never before on the high-achieving four million-plus strong diaspora.

The community happens to be the most educated with the highest median income in the US, with an average household earning of $123,700 — making them the top earners in the US among other Asians in the country.

As the profile of the Indian American community — now the second-largest immigrant group in the US — has grown, so too has its economic, political, and social influence, according to a recent Carnegie Endowment study.

In 2010, only 18 per cent of Americans saw India as “very important” to the United States, according to The Chicago Council survey.

Now, India is perceived by Americans as their seventh favourite nation in the world, with 70 per cent of people viewing India favourably in 2023, says a Gallup survey.

Picture : TheUNN

Much of how America views India today can be attributed to the success of this community, which according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has played a significant role in the all-round development of the nation they live in and also strengthened the India-US relationship.

The fifth largest economy of the world, India today is seen in the US as a strong bilateral partner sharing common democratic values with broad-based and multi-sectoral cooperation in sectors like trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, etc.

American businesses heavily rely on highly-skilled workers from India to fill the gaps in IT and engineering sectors via the H-1B visa programme. These visa holders create prospects for US citizens, by enabling companies to invest in domestic operations instead of sending jobs abroad.

As US Ambassador Eric Garcetti recently said: “India is a place where dreams become reality every day. Our counties have so much in common. Indian dreams and American dreams are two sides of the same coin.”

Addressing the 2019 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, then Foreign Minister late Sushma Swaraj had noted that while the Indian diaspora started migrating centuries ago, it was the migration of the educated, highly-skilled and dynamic young Indians that brought laurels to India.

The dominance of Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and Parag Agarwal in the IT sector has strengthened the image of India in the US as a technology powerhouse and a source of quality human resources.

With US Vice President Kamala Harris sitting atop the political ladder, the US House of Representatives has five Indian Americans — Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal and Shri Thanedar.

There are close to 60 Indian-American CEOs in Fortune 500. Even though Indians are just 1 per cent of the American population, they are more than 10 per cent of the Fortune 500 CEOs with the likes of Laxman Narasimhan (Starbucks) and Raj Subramaniam (FedEx).

The US now has 20,000 Indian-American professors and at least a third of companies in the Silicon Valley that come for funding, and have an Indian American co-founder, according to Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami.

According to foreign policy experts, it is the success of this community, which has dramatically changed the US perception of Indians and India, with its ability to spread Indian soft power, lobby for India’s national interests, and contribute economically to their mother country’s rise.

As part of “soft diplomacy”, Indian-Americans played a pivotal role in the fructification of the historic Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005.

The community also urged the political establishment — right from the Oval Office down to statehouses — to send aid worth at least half-a-billion dollars to India during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kamala Harris Swears in Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

Vice President Kamala Harris officiated at a July 10, 2023, swearing-in ceremony for Geeta Rao Gupta, PhD, the Biden Administration’s choice for Global Women’s Issues Ambassador.

The ceremony was held at the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., where Gupta was accompanied by her husband, Arvind and daughter Nayna, sister-in-law Manjuli Maheshwari, and friend Carolina Rojas.

Following the brief oath-taking, Vice President Harris tweeted, “Congratulations to Geeta Rao Gupta, our next Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department. A lifelong advocate, Ambassador Gupta will continue the fight to lift up women and girls everywhere and to secure their basic freedoms and rights.”

The Bombay-born Gupta was cleared by the US Senate on May 12, and soon after her swearing-in, she was off on a diplomatic mission to several countries.

A graduate of Delhi University with a PhD from Bangalore University, Gupta has been a well-known women’s issues leader, and is the fourth Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department, and the first woman of color to hold that position.

Among those credited for pushing her candidature are Senators Charles Schumer, D-NY, Democratic Majority Leader; Jeanne Shaheen, Tim Kaine, and Robert Menendez.

Gupta was most recently at the United Nations Foundation as Executive Director of the 3D Program for Girls and Women .

Prior to that she was Deputy Executive Director at UN International Chiildren’s Education Fund for five years; was a Senior Fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

She served her longest at the International Center for Research on Women, ICRW, where she rose to become President of the organization, starting as a Project Manager in 1989.

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