Meridian International Center, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi (NDPAS), has created the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program in India. The program, which started in November of 2013, has already sent eight representatives from the United States to different locations around India to speak on various policy-related topics. To ensure topics were discussed as competently and fully as possible, speakers chosen are U.S. citizens with the best expertise and qualifications in their respective fields. The program was organized by Meridian Program Officer Bogdan Banu and Program Associate Tai Ford, and will include two additional speakers in the next month.
Topics covered during the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program were chosen not only for their timeliness, but also their pertinence and significance for both countries. One major issue currently being discussed by the Director of the International Climate Action Signature Initiative at the World Resources Institute, David Waskow, is climate change. Because some of the cities included in the speakers tour — specifically Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai — are located on the Indian coast, discussing contingency plans for natural disasters is an especially important area of concern. The U.S. having recently experienced several major environmental disasters, Waskow spoke about the effectiveness of contingency planning in case of such emergencies, how the military can play a role during such events, and why multi-lateral action should be taken.
Other issues discussed during the Speakers tour include alternative energy, cyber security, energy security, counter-terrorism, trade and business, immigration and intellectual property rights. Speakers were able to stop in locations such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, and Hyderabad, a tour that truly crosses all over India. In order to reach as large an audience as possible, speaker venues included universities, educational institutions, NGOs, think tanks, industry bodies, government officials, and other exchange programs. Public diplomacy through seminars, workshops, and presentations was the overarching goal when creating this program, and the number of different Indian individuals able to be reached truly speaks to the planning of both Meridian and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. One speaker, Michael Schlesinger, commented on how the Indian people were “generous, giving, and willing to listen, learn, and debate”.
Given the recent diplomatic struggles between the U.S. and India, feedback such as this is extremely encouraging and speaks to the strength of the public diplomacy through exchange that Meridian International Center is always trying to promote. Given that all audiences were enthusiastic for these presentations — students, government officials, businesspeople, and educators alike — success is more than expected for the final two speakers who will be travelling to India in the coming month. For another blog detailing Michael Schlesinger’s experience in India, click here.