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Indo American Friendship Association, New Delhi was formally launched at Kamal Mahal, ITC Maurya , New Delhi on March 15th with the then MOS(EA) Dr Shashi Tharoor as the Chief Guest. He delivered a comprehensive speech on India-US relations; it can be read on our website under Press Release section. Besides his speech, the highlight of the event was the rendition of songs by Christine Matovich Singh, a professional Opera singer from California with roots both in the US and India through matrimonial links who was featured in the Oscar winning Film Slum dog Millionaire .She was superb and enthralled guests especially with her rendition of Judy Garland's songs of 1930s.
With an aim to have  a professional analysis and projection of relations between India and the US in the next ten years, IAFA organised a  brainstorming session at Tagore Hall, Scope Convention Centre, Lodhi Rod on Friday April 30.The topic : Driving Engines of India-US relations in the Decade Ahead was not only relevant but also timely. The powerful Panel comprised of two Former foreign Secretaries namely Amb Lalit Mansingh & Amb Kanwal Sibal, renowned author Gurcharan Das, firebrand Journalist Seema Mustafa & Senior Minister Counsellor of Political Affairs at the American Embassy in New Delhi, Uzra Zeya.

The brainstorming session was a success; Tagore hall was full and Q&A session witnessed some candid and blunt questions which were answered with professional dexterity by the Panellists. A summary of deliberations is available in the Press Release Sec and some photos in the Photo Gallery.

IAFA New Delhi organised a special event: Ravi Shankar 90 not Out! at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road New Delhi on Friday July 2nd 2010 to celebrate the 90th birthday of the legendary Sitar Maestro .Dr Karan Singh, President ICCR & MP was the Chief Guest while Dr Abid Hussain Former Ambassador to USA chaired the programme . Pt Birju Maharaj, renowned Kathak Maestro, Dr Sonal Mansingh an exponent of Bharatanatyam & Odissi dance, Amb.Lalit Mansingh, Amb to USA, HE Jerome Bonnafont Amb.of France, HE Thomas Matussek, Amb of Germany, Gurcharan Das ,bestselling author, Ruth Gee Dir of the British Council for India & Sri Lanka, Suresh Goel Dir Gen ICCR, Michael Pelletier Minister for Public Affairs at the US, Saswati Sen ,popular Kathak dancer & Amb.Surendra Kumar, founding President of IAFA were other members of the distinguished Panel who paid glowing tributes to the Sitar Maestro and commented on his achievements, contribution,  and  legacy for the Next Gen. Saswati Sen , a senior disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj was the MC. The event attracted guests from different walks of Delhi's social life and included foreign Ambassadors, serving and retired civil servants/diplomats, scholars and academics, members of the IAFA and lovers and connoisseurs of Indian classical music.

The programe ended with a sitar recital by Shubhendrarao , Ravi Ji's talented disciple and a Bharatanatyam dance recital by Nehha Bhatnagar, a promising disciple of Dr Saroja Vaidynathan. Pt Ravi Shankar compensated for his absence by sending a special message on this occasion. It can be read in the Press Release Sec.

The IAFA organised its second brainstorming session on a provocative and thought provoking topic: Is the US India Strategic Partnership a Mere Pipe Dream? in the conference Hall at the India International Centre on Aug 24th 2010. In his introductory remarks, Amb. Surendra Kumar underlined that IAFA was striving to encourage DIALOGUE, DEBATE AND DISCOURSE between the opinion makers from different walks of life in India and the US to facilitate greater understanding and appreciation of each other's point of view. The idea was not to find fault or indulge in a blame game but to have an honest, objective and dispassionate debate on issues of interest to India and the US to generate greater understanding and appreciation of overriding reasons and compulsions behind major decisions which impinge on bilateral relations. IAFA firmly believes that understanding and appreciation of each other's views and sensitivity to each other's legitimate concerns is a prerequisite for building bridges of friendship and co-operation. 

While Amb.Maharajakrishna  Rasgotra, formerly Foreign Secretary & High Commisioner to UK chaired the animated discussion, Amb.Brajesh Mishra, formerly Principal Secretary to PM & National Security Advisor ,Amb.Lalit Mansingh formerly Foreign Secretary & Ambassador to USA, Amb. Kanwal Sibal formerly Foreign Secretary & Ambassador to Russia, Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of International Relations at the JNU & Mr Donal Lu Deputy Chief at the US Embassy in New Delhi were the distinguished Panellists.    

In spite of the down pour and the fact that the discussion fell on the day of significant Hindu festival, Rakshabandhan, many serving and retired Ambassadors, scholars , academics and members of the Media made it to the event.

On the eve of President Obama's visit, IAFA organised a panel discussion on: Indian Constitution and the US Bill of Rights on Oct 27th in Speaker Hall at the .The Law & Justice Minister Shri Veerappa Moily was the Chief Guest while former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee chaired the proceedings. The Panel included renowned Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap, former Ambassador of India to USA Dr Abid Hussain & the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, Donald Lu. The Stimulating discussion and the animated Q&A session which followed enlightened the audiences about the similarities and differences between the US Bill of Rights and the Indian Constitution.

Less than 10 days after the departure of the US President Barack Obama, IAFA organised an objective and dispassionate assessment of the outcome of the historic visit at a panel discussion at Conf hall 2 at the IIC on Nov 17th.Eight distinguished personalities which included the former Minister of Panchayati Raj Shri Mani Shanakr Aiyar, Shri HK Dua an MP who was Information Advisor to Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Shri KS Bajpai formerly Amb of India to China,Pakistaan & USA,Shri Salman Haidar Formerly Foreign Secretary & Amb to China & High Commissioner to UK,Shri Lalit Mansingh,Formerly Foreign secretary and High Commissioner to UK & Ambassador to USA, Shri Kiran Karnik formerly President of NASSCOM, Prof Radha Kumar Trustee/Dir Peace & Conflict Programme of Delhi Policy Group & Mr Michael P Macy of the US Embassy debated the topic: Obama Visit: a Leap Forward in India and US Relations? for two hours. Amb.Bajpai chaired the discussion.

While support for India's aspirations to be on the UNSC as a permanent Member, lifting restrictions on the Indian PSUs such as ISRO,DRDO & BDL ,access to high technology, assurances to facilitate India's entry in to exclusive Club of Nuclear Suppliers' Group and unambiguous appeal to Pakistan to dismantle terrorist havens from its soil and bring the perpetrator s 26/11 carnage in Mumbai to book were considered gains from the Indian point of view, lucrative business deals valued at around US $ 18 bn creating over 60000 jobs were viewed as tangible results for the US. Some Panellists cautioned against taking Obama's flattering compliments too literally and felt that true strategic partnership between India and the US will warrant much more sensitiveness to each other's concerns and harmonising differences on a number of key issues.

Having analysed, dissected and dispassionately considered all aspects of Indo-US Relations at three Panel Discussions in Six months with the participation of more than a dozen and half eminent academic, scholars, diplomats, analysts & columnists ,IAFA broadened its discourse as per it's stated objectives and organised an event : Connecting Cultures Through Lens & Words at IIC Annexe on Jan11th 2011. It had two parts; first a power point presentation by Michele Wambaugh, a well-known photographer from Houston, USA followed by Ek Chhoti Si Kavi Goshthi, a brief poetry session Chaired by Dr Ashok k Vajpeyi, Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi, Academy of Fine Arts. While Michele underlined connecting thread and similarities in various cultures through her photographs taken in different countries, the poets let their words convey what they see & feel in the world around us and beyond and within; their emotions, feelings, reactions, thoughts, ideas and critique. Prof Rukmini Bhaya Nair,Vivek Narayanan, Michael Creighton & John Ferr read their poems in English while Dr Ashok Vajpeyi, Chairman of the evening, read his poems in Hindi. Amb.Surendra Kumar, in his introductory remarks, emphasised how the imagination of poets can reach even the places where sun rays can't and how the poetry ,as the significant part of literature, holds a mirror to the society we live in.

"Globalization has been a buzz word for a decade now. But India has been practicing globalisation of ideas for ages. Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ and over 2500 years before the birth of the UN, Lord Buddha gave the clarion call of Non Violence is the best policy .Footprints of Buddhism can be traced in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and central Asia. Influence of Indian culture, philosophy & traditions is visible in South East Asian countries, especially in the temples of Borobudur in Indonesia & Angkor wat in Cambodia. Nalanda University (5th-6th Century) in Bihar used to attract students and scholars from China, Greece & Persia several centuries before the foundation of Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard & MIT! But it was the globalisation of learning and knowledge not a crusade for any religion or political domination.

Nothing exemplifies is better than the Indian concepts of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam, whole world is a family (El mundo es una gran familia) and Sarva Dharma Sambhavana(all religions can coexist).In today's highly interconnected and interdependent but strife ridden globalised word, there is need to reiterate these concepts. And there can't be a better way to do so than through music and dance, the oldest and most universal language of communication of human beings through ages. Music and dance know no national or geographical boundaries or religious differences or political ideologies. They appeal to heart and spread the message of International understanding, peace and harmony.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, IAFA organised a special concert of music and dance dedicated to the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam on Feb 11th at Instituto Cervantes with the co-operation of it's Director Dr Oscar Pujol & support from the Min of Culture & the ICCR. While Christine Matovich Singh, Opera singer from South California enthralled the jam packed auditorium with full throttled rendition of songs in English & Spanish, 8 beautiful Katahk dancers accompanied by 4 musicians, choreographed and directed by the renowned Kathak dancer, Saswati sen took them on a fascinating and memorable journey of evolution of Kathak. Pt. Birju Maharaj, pioneering exponent of Katahk dance presided over; Dr Sonal Mansingh Bharatanatyam & Odissi exponent was the Guest of Honour.

The fragrance of Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia has spread far & wide .But its impact in various countries of the Middle East is not the same though they are all ruled by the despotic totalitarian Regimes of different hues. It took a little over two weeks in Tunisia and three weeks in Egypt to bring the curtain down on 20 years of Ben Ali in Tunisia & 30 years of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.But the maverick and mercurial Col Qaddafi of Libya is still holding on, inspite of UN Sanctions, No Flying Zone and bombibg by American & NATO forces. Yemen, Bahrain, Syria are on the boil. Morocco, Jordan Saudi Arabia are shaken and promising some degree of People's participation but it might be too little too late.
These developments don't affect only the people of the region; their reverberations are being felt in many countries outside the region including in India ,USA & China .To comprehend this significant phenomenon which none could predict three months back, IAFA organised a panel discussion on : India, the US, China & the Jasmine Revolution at IIC, Conf hall II on March 29th.Besides,Amb.CR Gharekhan, Formerly PM's Spl Envoy on Middle East & West Asia , who chaired the discussion, Prof Brahma Chellaney well-known Strategic Analyst ,Commentator & Columnist ,Gurcharandas, renowned Author & Business Guru & Michael Pelletier ,Minister (Public affairs) at the US Embassy in Delhi were the other Panellists .They were asked to address the following questions:

1-What kind of Govts will emerge if the current ones collapse in various countries in the region?
2-Will it be the dawn of Democracy or consolidation of the Extremism?
3-How should the International community react; just be passive spectator and watch the brutal slaughter of civilians or be proactive and take drastic action on the lines taken against Libya against the rulers who might be trying to muzzle democratic aspirations of their people?
4-France has recognized the Rebels in Libya, should the rest of Europe/world follow suit?
5-How do these developments affect India, USA & China and how should they address them?
6-Will the world be a safer place in the aftermath of recent developments in the Middle-East?

Most of the Panelists felt that the much suppressed people getting a voice , at last, in despotic Regimes was a positive sign and might lead to some kind of democratic participation of the people .But long term picture wasn't clear as the democratic credentials of those who might assume the reins of power were unproven, if not outrighly suspect. Similarly, the US & NATO countries seem to have gone beyond the letter and the spirit of the UNSC Resolution on Libya and are openly demanding Regime change. While they have been bombing Libya their stand on developments in Yemen and Bahrain has been a total contrast. Most of the Panelists felt that the Indian Govt's calibrated approach was in India's national interests and Iran was the unlikely beneficiary on account of the expansion of it's influence in the region. Prof Brahma Chellaney was critical of the double standards of the US and NATO on the developments in the Middle-East and felt that China was facing hundreds of mini protests all over the country which are not reported openly. Michael Pelletier defended the American & NATO action which was mandated by the UNSC n requested by the Arab League .It was an expression of solidarity with the people of the countries facing turmoil, he argued. It was a full house in Conf Hall II at the IIC.
In spite of the national frenzy and hysteria for the World Cup Cricket match between India & Pakistan in Mohali on March 30th,after tense & anxious moments and some hiccups, we managed a reasonably decent attendance at Dr Sam Pitroda's lecture on : Unleashing India's Innovation Potential at Nehru Memorial Musum & Libray. Obviously, it was the appeal of Dr Pitroda's oratorial skill & inspirational views and the current relevance of the theme which drew the audience notwithstanding other strong distractions on that day. And Dr Pitroda didn't disappoint them; he was inspirational, persuasive, convincing and logical. He underlined how all aspects of life and all spheres of activities are going to be transformed thanks to new innovations hitherto unthinkable .And India possessed a huge potential in the field of Innovations which ,if harnessed, will transform her in a big way. The website: www.iii.gov.in contains salient points of his views on this subject.

What China is today is for everyone to see. The economic progress witnessed by her in the last 30 years is not only unprecedented but awe-inspiring. No other country has undergone such sweeping economic transformation in such a short time. At every major international forum, at every talk/discussion/seminar/symposium China's shadow looms large irrespective of the subject of the discussion, bet it climate change, global warming, energy security, international monetary and financial infrastructure, UN reforms, global trade, recession & currency crises, free sea trade lanes, developments in different parts of the world. The fact that China holds billions of dollar worth of US Treasury Bonds and more than a trillion dollars in reserves and huge trade surplus with US gives credence to the predictions that in the next 25 years or so China's economy might overtake the American economy and become the largest economy in the world.

This phenomenal Economic metamorphosis generates two apparently contradictory reactions. On the one hand, many countries feel greatly inspired by China's success story and wish to emulate her example. On the other hand, this very success creates a sense of nervousness, concern and anxiety in various quarters, especially among her neighbours.

To facilitate comprehension of this phenomenon of great significance to the world at large, IAFA organised a panel discussion on: China's Rise as a Super Power and its impact on India, the US & the world at Large on May 18th at the IIC. While the former Ambassador of India to China, Pakistan & the US Amb. KS Bajpai chaired the proceedings; the Panel included former Foreign Secretary & PM's Spl Envoy Amb. Shyam Saran, Blair Hall Min( Eco, Environmental, S & T Affairs) US Embassy, TK Arun Delhi Editor ,Economic Times, Prof Srikanth Kondalpalli, Dept of Chinese Studies ,JNU & Ashok Malik, Columnist & Strategic Analyst. The distinguished Panel addressed the following questions:

1-Is China's rise as a Super Power a cause to celebrate or a cause to be concerned about? 

2-How does it impact on the economies of the US, India and the world at large? 

3-Do China's increasing military muscle and assertiveness dismay its neighbours?

4-What influence/changes it might lead to in the functioning of Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank etc ?

5- Will China facilitate greater role for BRICS & G-20 and help ensure a more balanced, peaceful & harmonious world order?

6- What role China will play in addressing major challenges such as global warming & Climate change, poverty, hunger, international terrorism, HIV /AIDS etc?

              None can dispute the growing shift of the balance of economic power to Asia, if not yet the military power. Similarly, China's Rise as a major global power is unmistaken; her voice is increasingly heard even if it isn't heeded at times.

             Having emerged as the largest exporter of manufactured goods in the world overtaking Germany and become the second largest economy overtaking Japan ,her continuing economic progress is not only good for the Chinese people but also in the interest of the US ,India and the world at large. The US seems interested in continuing it's policy of constructive engagement with China: pursue and expand economic relations which are mutually beneficial, raise issues of human rights, keep a close watch on China's Defence & Military advances and ensure free access to trade routes through South China sea.

             There was a general feeling that, notwithstanding her increasing assertiveness  in dealing with neighbours such as Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and others Chinese Leadership which supposedly considers internal & external peace as indispensable for it's continuing progress won't like to rock the boat by precipitating a crises with her neighbour/s.

            It was also felt that greater involvement of China in Global/International/Regional organisations such the UN, IMF, World Bank etc was the biggest guarantee against her ie she would play by the rules. Discussions on Climate Change, Energy Security, Nuclear Disarmament, International Terrorism etc would warrant more active engagement with China if these were to be meaningful and productive.

        Above all, conscious of being tipped to take over the mantle of the next Super Power, China would want to project the image of a mature and responsible power .This would discourage her from taking actions which might tarnish her meticulously cultivated positive image.

           She has already begun taking her role in BRICS seriously. The same is true about G 20 to a lesser degree. But everything is not hunky- dory ; while China & India might be on the same page on the question of NATO action against Libya and discussion on Climate Change ,it's a different story about the expansion of UNSC and a permanent seat for India. Many countries might see China as a rival and a competitor in some areas and an ally and a partner in other; this is especially true about the current relationship of the US & India with China.

                      During Q&A session it was suggested that to counter China's approach on the issues of stapled visa for Indian nationals from J&K and objection to participation of representatives from Arunachal Pradesh, India could consider a review of her policy on Tibet &Taiwan. In response to another question, it was pointed out that China's budget for Internal Defence in 2010 was higher than her budget for external Defence.

              One got the feeling that China's eventual Rise as a Super Power will be hugely affected by her ability to address the rising aspirations including freedom for expression & political activity, of her masses, particularly the impatient youth, in today's highly internet/social network connected globalised world.  

"To commemorate 150th birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore Indo-American Friendship Association, New Delhi organized a special event: Remembering Gurudev Tagore on Tuesday, July 12th at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library with a multi-national Panel of eminent personalities from India and abroad. In their own ways, they addressed the questions: how does one pay a fitting tribute to a man larger than life itself ; a man Mahatma Gandhi had found a worthy opponent in to exchange intelligent arguments with; an adventurist man who travelled to 32 countries, mostly by steamboat to spread his love and wisdom. How does one capture the personality that was Tagore? What impact Tagore's poetry and persona had on the people of the countries he visited?

 While Dr Karan Singh, MP & President of the ICCR was the Chief guest, renowned Katahk Exponent Pt Birju Maharaj was the Chairman for the event.A dozen guest speakers which included Dr Nitish Sengupta,former MP & Chairman for the Board for the Reconstruction of PSEs, Jawahar Sircar, Secretary Culture, HE Ernesto Carlos Alavrez Ambassador of Argentina, HE Marco Brandao Ambassador of Brazil, HE Akitaka Saiki, Ambassador of Japan, HE Donald Lu,Cd'Affairs US Embassy,Ugo Astute,DCM ,Italian Embassy,Dr Ashok Vajpeyi,Keki Daruwalla,Saeed Naqvi, Dr Oscar Pujol Director Instituto Cervantes de Nueva Delhi.They paid their personal tributes to Tagore in their own ways; all the foreign participants read out Tgore poem/s in their native languages.

The second half of the programme witnessed an enchanting rendition of Tagore songs in Bengali by well-known Bengali singer Mrs Jayati Ghosh. Pt Birju Maharj too paid his tribute to Gurudev by singing two of his songs in Bengali. In the end, Saswati Sen the senior most disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj did Abhinaya on some Tagore couplets and joined Ms Mamata Bannerjee in presenting the inspiring Tagore song Ekla Chalo, Ekla Chalo Re !

Is the US a Super Power in Decline? 

Media has been buzzing for months with stories about decline in the US economy with over 7 million unemployed at a time when not only Greece but Spain, Portugal & Italy in Europe seem in dire need of financial bailout. To have a serious, objective and dispassionate analysis and assessment of decline in the US theIAFA organized a panel discussion on: Is the US a Super Power in Decline? If so, it's GlobalImpact? on Aug 30th at India International New Delhi at 18.00 hrs. While the former MOS (EA) & MP DrShashiTharoor presided, the Panel included Lord Meghnad Desai, Professor Emeritus LSE,Shri HK Dua, MP; Amb.KanwalSibal former Foreign Secretary,Dr Rajiv Kumar Secretary General FICCI;Prof Vijayalakshmi,Head American,Latin & Canadian Studies, JNU &GautamRanaCounsellor (POL) at the US Embassy in New Delhi.

In his introductory remarks Amb.Surendra Kumar stressed that with her infrastructure still intact, cutting edge technology, innovative spirit, an environment which encouraged competition & excellence, under inspiring leadership and with imaginative and realistic policies, the US was likely to bounce back and remain the leading Super Power of the world for years to come.

FICCI SG Rajiv Kumar felt that speaking of US's decline is premature; even if it were trueit will be relative and there wasn't any clarity on what will replace her; may be for a time, world might be under the influence of the US & China and it would be more bound bythe rules than dominated by a single Power.

According to Professor Vijayalakshmi, the US has an amazing ability to adapt to any situation which should not be underestimated. Referring to Prof. Joseph Nye's idea of power diffusion and not only power transmission, she thought world might be in for a period of power diffusion.

GautamRana Political Counsellor, USEmbassy in India presented the US perspective and maintained that his country is still the superpower and quoted the ranking of US Universities and record of innovations. Strongly defendingthe policies of President Obama, Ranafelt that from the political, military, economic and cultural perspective the US was still leading the world.

Former Information Advisor to Prime Minister AtalBihariVajpayee, HKDua was of the opinion that the confidence of an average American has been shaken on account of economic down turn. He felt that the US ought to re-invent her value system and get over an apparent psychological setback.

Lord Meghnad Desai in his characteristic tongue in cheek manner said that decline is enjoyable and advisedAmericans to learn from their British friends who have not only coped with their country's decline as a Super Power but have rather been enjoying the declined position! "The Americans have been brought up to believe that they are special so they should realize that with the affluence of others, decline is still a relative term" he maintained. According to him, Undersaving was the main problem in the Western world compounded by their declining demographics. He agreed that the center of economic power was shifting to the East.

Dr. Tharoor referredto FareedZakaria's Post-American World and felt that it wasn't so much the fall of the West, as the rise of the rest. He added that the US has a great capacity for renewal and innovation; Steve Jobs and Bill Gates could only be American- the DNA of the US system is such- the American dream, the Obama story- it's all still alive.

DrTharoor maintained that the US can still feel its supreme self and remain a serious contender for the title of a superpower, with the highest spending on Defense in the world, and its soft power symbols being global icons but in a much more multipolar world.