The India BlogThe India Blog is about the socio-political-economic landscape of the country, its cultural moorings and the challenges it faces – whatever affects the lives and future of the people living within its boundaries and beyond.
In November 2009, President Obama announced the 1,00,000 student initiative by the US to send students to China to learn the language and get familiar with the culture. This comes in the backdrop of the US saying that the US-China relationship is critical and Americans need to understand their culture and language. I applaud this effort and the goals of getting Americans to move past being Euro-centric; and being more familiar with the rising powers in Asia.
China is the dominant and rising power in Asia and the rest of the world. However, India with its growing economy, population and demographics, is rising too. Though US-India trade is probably less than 20 per cent of US-China trade; it would still seem good reasoning to have Americans catch up on India and 'Indianness'. I frequently hear from American businessmen that they have a hard time conducting business in India. I attribute this partly to a tough business environment in India and the lack of understanding on part of Americans about India and its business practices.
How can we bridge this gap which exists due to a lack of serious understanding of India and its local culture and ways? I wonder if the US can escalate the drive and start by filling the educational gap with a strong initiative in India. I would recommend to President Obama and the State Department (which administers this programme) to launch a similar programme of sending 100,000 American students to India.
In light of the US-India relationship, I see the recent Fulbright Nehru scholar orientation programmes in India as a great channel for educational and cultural exchange. On the strategic role of India and the US, I feel that there is no key international issue whether geopolitical, global economic recovery, alternate energy resource or nuclear non-proliferation that can be resolved without the collective effort of the US and India. An India-inspired educational programme is bound to enhance US students' ability to pursue quality education in this country and excel in academics while gaining an understanding of the Indian culture.
India has for a long time been either the number 1 or the number 2 in sending its students to the US but the Americans somehow do not return this favour. While some organic growth like Fulbright is encouraging, present day trends are not enough to meet the challenges of a significant relationship between the two countries.
The US can push educational exchange with some serious initiatives:
Encourage the private sector to invest funds in US-India educational exchange programmes and generate scholarships
Diversify the types of US students who have access to Indian educational programmes
Promote Indian Educational programmes to lower-income school students, minority students and other communities in the US
Create a campaign to promote Indian educational institutions
Initiate knowledge and language programmes for better cultural understanding of India encouraging operational diplomacy in language skills
With 343 universities and 17,000 colleges, India has a rich spectrum of global programmes which are recognised globally. If the US-India relationship is going to be the defining relationship of the 21st century, then the US needs to make sure that coming generations of Americans understand India with all of its complexities.
More about Sanjay Puri
Sanjay Puri is the Chairman of the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a national, bipartisan political action committee representing over 2 million Indian-Americans. USINPAC works with members of the Congress and the US administration to ensure that the community's concerns are addressed. He is also a recognised authority on US-India relations and a frequent public speaker on US-India relations.
Sanjay Puri is also the founder and CEO of the Alliance for US India Business (AUSIB). AUSIB is dedicated to strengthening economic ties between the US and India. He regularly leads delegations of business and political leaders to India. He is the Founder and CEO of Optimos Incorporated, an information technology company located in Reston, Virginia. He received his MBA in Finance from the George Washington University's School of Business.
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