Since Fall 2013, Meridian International Center has had the pleasure of working with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi implementing the U.S. Speaker Program for India. Sponsored by the Public Affairs Section, the program is designed to connect U.S. experts with Indian audiences and institutions; to promote an understanding of U.S. strategic priorities, policies and institutions; and to discuss the political, economic, social, and cultural context from which they arise.
Over the past four years, Meridian has sent to India over 45 American experts through this program. These experts have engaged over the course of their visit with a wide array of audiences through lectures, workshops, and seminars, through round-tables and panel discussions, and through one-on-one meetings with their Indian counterparts. A key component of their visit has also been engagement with both local and national media as well as India social media representatives.
The American experts have addressed a multitude of topics from climate change and cyber security to clean energy and intellectual propriety rights, from immigration and counter terrorism to trade and regional economic relations, and from skills development to U.S. foreign policy. Previous participants include, among others, the Director of the International Intellectual Property Alliance; Director of the International Climate Action Signature Initiative at the World Resources Institute; a Senior Scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science at University of Colorado; the CEO of the Internet Security Alliance; Senior Fellows from local DC think-tanks; and Police Chiefs from Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; and Aurora, CO to name a few.
Here are some of the speakers, in their own words, talking about their participation in the U.S. Speaker Program for India, its impact on their own work, research, and their perspectives on U.S. – Indian bilateral relations. Many have seen the participation in the program as a first step in establishing long lasting relations with their Indian counterparts.
“The United States and India have established a very useful framework in the strategic dialogue it has had – and that this needs to continue and be replicated in other countries. I was struck by how important a forward looking bilateral set of discussions organized around key issues of mutual concern have helped inject a certain degree of stability in the bilateral relationship.” Brian Katulis; Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
“The program opened my eyes to important issues I hadn’t known about (such as the drug crisis in Punjab), as well as to the deeply nuanced nature of public opinion in India. […] The professional impact was great – I hope to connect further with Madras University about future collaborations; I have new excellent journalistic contacts; and I have many new insights gleaned from the ground that I can incorporate into my work.“ Michael Kugelman, Senior Program Associate for South and Southeast Asia, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
“Being able to get a sense of a diversity of Indian perspectives on climate issues – ranging from Delhi-based experts to local activists in Odisha to state-level government officials to businesses – was particularly helpful.” David Waskow, Director, International Climate Action Signature Initiative, World Resources Institute
“The three week trip reinforced my impression that trafficking in persons is a very complicated issue, full of nuance that presents tremendous opportunity and also suffers potential pitfalls. I learned that many of the issues facing India in this regard are quite similar to those we confront in the U.S. I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with my counterparts at NGOs in India, to exchange ideas, think about areas for international collaboration, and to generally support each other’s work.” Kate Mogulescu, Attorney, Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice, and Adjunct Professor, City College of New York
“As an atmospheric scientist, I found my interactions with Indian colleagues, as well as colleagues in the US State Department valuable and certainly worth my time. […] I would be happy to return to India to further develop relationships and promote cultural and scientific exchanges, should that ever be of value to the U.S. State Department. From my perspective, trips such as this one are best for developing relationships. I may also find reasons to work in a longer perspective with colleagues at the Medium Range Weather Forecasting Center outside of Delhi. Such work could be mutually beneficial; their scientists are working on issues of a similar nature to what is being addressed in the U.S.” Elizabeth Weatherhead, Professor and Senior Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado
“First and foremost, I was very pleased with the opportunity to participate in the U.S. Speaker program for India. I was exposed to a wide range of audiences, reflecting the diversity of the education and training landscape in India, and I was impressed with the high caliber of individuals I met with and the quality of the work that they and the organizations they represent were carrying out. This was a truly valuable professional and personal experience, and I would welcome the opportunity to do it again.” Louay Constant, Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation and Professor, RAND Pardee Graduate School
“I enjoyed the trip very much and India vastly exceeded my expectations. The people were very warm, welcoming, and engaged in discussions. Bangalore and Hyderabad show the “new India” that is emerging – much more than Delhi. In the business community, U.S.-India relations are very close and collaborative. Thank you for the opportunity to take this trip.” Susan Lund, Partner, McKinsey Global Institute
“The program was excellently organized with sufficient diversity of formats, audiences, and issues discussed. I think I was able to engage some important Indian audiences, especially in New Delhi, on the key contemporary issues in the bilateral relationship. All the major public events in every city received good press.” Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“The five days I spent traveling and speaking in Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad offered me new insights into India, its development path, and how people in the country perceive the United States and China. Although I had been to Delhi several times before for scholarly exchanges, this program was uniquely valuable in exposing me to a range of people and cities outside Delhi. I very much appreciated the invitation to participate in the program.” Elizabeth Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
“I was struck throughout my three weeks in India with how engaged audiences were! We almost always ran out of time before we ran out of questions. And Indian audiences were by no means nervous about asking tough questions.” Gary LaFree, Director, START Center, University of Maryland
“I had never had the chance to engage college students so extensively. I was surprised to hear their interest with America’s foreign policy positions in a few areas.” Richard M. Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in U.S. – India Policy Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies
“I was able to meet with several journalists, including from The Times of India and The New York Times, who have taken a great interest in the air quality situation in India. I anticipate that the recent flurry of media coverage about New Delhi’s air pollution will increase my own professional opportunities for working on this important issue in India.” Joshua Apte, ITRI-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
“At the end of the day, I have left a piece of my heart in India with the brave women in rural India who have so little, but accomplish so much. They taught me more about leadership than any professional development curriculum ever could. I went to India to mentor them; but I left being mentored by them. I look forward to any future opportunities to support State Department, and specifically the Embassy and Consulates in India, in the important work they are doing.” Michelle Bekkering, Director for Global Initiatives and Senior Gender Advisor, International Republican Institute
“The Embassy and Consulates were amazingly sharp in arranging great substantive meetings. I came into this knowing that we were packing a lot of meetings into two weeks so can’t complain about the long days, particularly because the meetings were all really interesting.” Jennifer Turner, Director, China Environment Forum, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
Our most recent speaker, Pamela Gavin, IPR Attorney and Managing Member of the Gavin Law Offices who traveled to India in April 2017 to talk about Intellectual Propriety Rights had to say this about her participation in the program:
“I cannot describe how influential and eye-opening this trip has been. I was fortunate to meet amazing people and foster meaningful discussions about the ever evolving field of intellectual property across the world. Our conversations with all the various segments of society, including industries, non-governmental organizations, artists, students, and even the general public, showed us how passionate individuals and businesses are in India about their IPR rights. This issue will continue to inspire heated debate for the foreseeable future. One thing all could agree on, however, was how such passion can change India’s IPR protection for the better, and how IPR can change the world. I have returned to the U.S. with a profound sense of gratitude for the perspective I gained, and for the hospitality of our Indian hosts.“