By Frank F. Islam
In 2010, during his first visit to India, President Barack Obama proclaimed: “I believe that India and America are indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of their times.”
I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment and feel strongly that Indian Americans can play a key role in strengthening that partnership and helping India achieve its full potential.
Because of their accomplishments in the United States and understanding of India, Indian Americans are uniquely positioned to step forward and provide assistance to address pressing issues in their mother country.
Consider the following remarkable statistics reported by Indiaspora, a non-profit organisation based in San Francisco with a mission of transforming the success of Indian-Americans into meaningful impact worldwide:
* Highest household income of any ethnic group in the US — $100,000 versus a national average of $51,000
* 32% have Bachelors degrees versus 18% for the US overall
* 38% have advanced degrees versus 10% for the US overall
These numbers reveal the potential that Indian-Americans have to help India achieve its full potential. They can make a substantial contribution in any number of areas.
To maximise their involvement, I recommend that Indian Americans align their investments of time, talent and money in the areas discussed as part of the India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.
The Dialogue was established by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama during the latter’s visit in 2015 as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. Simultaneously, a business roundtable comprising Modi, Obama, senior government officials and prominent CEOs from both countries was convened. I had the privilege to participate in that roundtable as one of the US representatives.
The roundtable provided initial inputs to the Dialogue, the first of which was held in September 2015 and the second in 2016.
The Dialogue develops position statements in a wide range of policy areas. Some of the promising areas are:
* Innovation and Entrepreneurship through the Start-up India initiative to further collaboration between Indian and US start-ups, venture capitalists and other stakeholders.
* Commerce, Economy and Growth: One focal point is helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to spur growth and create jobs across India. A priority here is to create a platform for sharing best practices and technology with SMEs and helping them access financing to participate in global supply chains.
* Smart Cities Cooperation: India has launched an ambitious smart cities initiative, which aims to develop more than a hundred smart cities. In the most recent dialogue, emphasis was placed on continuing reverse trade missions to look at smart solutions for these respective cities.
* Health: One of the heathcare priorities in this broad category is the control of infectious diseases and the initiation of programmes on vaccines for TB, dengue, and respiratory syncytial virus through public-private partnerships.
* Education: An education priority is “to increase cooperation in all higher education areas, including … vocational training, technical and professional education and philanthropy in higher education.” Because of the difference that education can make, higher education is one of my personal priorities for philanthropic investment.
Indian Americans have the character, capacity and competence to be leaders in addressing the pivotal areas identified and in many other areas as well. In fact, many are already doing so.
I know numerous Indian American groups and individuals who are extending a hand to help India achieve its full potential. I urge more Indian Americans to join them as allies in this most important joint venture between Indian Americans and their counterparts in India.
(Frank Islam is an Indian-American entrepreneur, thought leader and philanthropist. The views expressed are personal.)