Being good neighbors is an important value that we share with India. It is always an enjoyable day when I visit and interact with our “neighbors” down the street from our Embassy at the Sanjay Gandhi settlement. Our collaboration in the settlement with the residents, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, NGO partners, and others represents another way the U.S.-India strategic partnership is benefitting all levels of society, including the local level. I read to Grade 1 and 2 students who are learning English through an innovative program that uses technology to provide fun ways to learn in a classroom. I also met with a women’s health group in the settlement who are improving health care for families in their community. And I even got to do some cooking on a new technology cookstove that will reduce indoor pollution for families. All these programs are improving the social infrastructure at the Sanjay Gandhi Settlement and will be used throughout India to benefit similar communities.
I have had great “karma” (and more likely fantastic safari guides!) in seeing tigers throughout India including in my visits to the Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal and Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. On my last safari ride during a visit to Kaziranga National Park, fortune smiled on me again as I was able to see this majestic animal in the wild. But what really stood out during my visit was the pride I felt when I saw anti-poaching camps that were funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since 2004, USFWS has “invested” almost $1 million in these camps, to train volunteers to protect the forests and provide anti-poaching training. Along with the Indian government’s partnership, these camps and capacity building measures have been one of the keys to the increase in the one-horned rhino population in Kaziranga. The rhino population has increased from about 12 in 1905 to over 2000 today. I saw scores of rhinos during my safari ride, proof positive that the close collaboration between the Indian government, local NGOs, and U.S. Government support is working for the people of India.
As I have seen elsewhere during my travels throughout India, there is a vibrancy, energy, and thirst for growth and development in Assam, where I visited for the first time. I had the honor of meeting with Governor J. B. Patnaik, and we discussed three areas for potential cooperation between the United States and people of India: 1) education outreach, such as possible agriculture university exchange programs; 2) ways and methods to improve agriculture production and water usage in Assam, where approximately 70 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and related activities; and 3) creating a second green revolution with a focus on clean energy. I also toured the Numaligarh Refinery, where American-manufactured equipment has increased the capacity of the refinery by close to 50 percent; another example of the win-win benefits of the U.S.-India economic partnership that President Obama discussed on his visit.
Visiting the region and meeting as many people as possible has always been one of the best parts of being the U.S. Ambassador to India. I had a fantastic visit to Bhutan this week, seeing this beautiful country for the first time. It reminded me of the Colorado Rockies with its snow capped mountains and deep and lush forests. The beauty of Bhutan is only surpassed by the friendliness, graciousness, and hospitality of its people. We currently have a warm friendship with Bhutan and we would like to expand and deepen that friendship with this emerging democracy in areas such as education and parliamentary exchanges. In meetings with Chief Justice Tobgye, Prime Minister Thinley, members of Parliament, and the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, we discussed ways to further strengthen the ties between our two countries. As two democracies concerned with the environment, education and good governance, we have much in common and much to learn from each other. And we share a love for basketball too, making me feel even more at home in this magical place.
India has a long history of inspiring people. There is Gandhiji, who inspired a nation; there is Manmohan Singh, who from humble beginnings became Prime Minister; and there is India’s cricket team, who captured the hearts of a nation with their exciting run to the World Cup championship. I had the good fortune of spending time with another inspiring person, Sirajuddin Qureshi, President of the India Islamic Cultural Centre. Mr. Qureshi began as a street vendor, later to become a very successful businessman and entrepreneur. President Obama recognized this success when he invited him as one of six Indian delegates to the 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. What makes Mr. Qureshi a true inspiration is his dedication to helping those who were like him many years ago. I attended one of Mr. Qureshi’s skills development courses he is providing to young Muslims throughout the Delhi region. It was fascinating listening to everyone learn American English. After speaking with students learning vocational skills, it is obvious that with the help of Mr. Qureshi, they are headed in the right direction and on the path to achieving great things.
Congratulations to India’s cricket team for their fantastic and exciting cricket world cup championship!
Much like India itself, the team displayed great talent, balance, and resiliency in winning the cup for the first time since 1983. What a great day for the unbelievable and talented Sachin Tendulkar, and for the 1.2 billion Indian fans, who cheered them on and prayed for them.
Congratulations to India on their fantastic victory last night against Pakistan! For eight hours, millions of viewers sat on the edge of their seat watching the peaks and valleys of the match, and there were many of those. From Sehwag’s great start to the nine lives of Sachin Tendulkar to Raina’s late rally to the final wicket, the match was entertaining and tense as the outcome was uncertain. India looked sharp in the field and their fielding was superb as they rose to the occasion of the big match. Pakistan played extremely well throughout the tournament, exceeding most expectations. One more to go for India’s first world cup since 1983. Saturday’s match against Sri Lanka in Mumbai should be memorable and a great tribute to the high caliber of cricket played in South Asia. The pressure will only be exceeded by the anticipation and excitement of the match. Good luck to India. May they bring home the world cup!!
Sports are a big part of American culture. Baseball is our national pastime, football is the most popular these days, and in my home state of Indiana, wherever you look, on a farm or in a driveway, you see a basketball court. Yet with all the excitement of today’s World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan, approximately 1.5 billion people will be mesmerized by the match! I am confident that the great Sachin Tendulkar will have a great game. Will Yuvraj Singh continue his amazing batting? Will the Indian bowlers and defense rise to the occasion? Can Raina be clutch again in the big moments? All these questions and more will be decided today in what promises to be an exciting match. Walking around the Embassy, all everyone wanted to talk about was today’s match. The anticipation is so high that we will show the match live for all our employees at the Embassy auditorium and have arranged for it to be broadcast on our computers. India has never lost an international cricket world cup match to Pakistan.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, several volunteers, my wife Sally, and I took 32 children from a local settlement to the National Zoo. These students are enrolled in an English language program started by Sally so this was a great way for them to practice their English outside the classroom, learn new words, and see some really great stuff! We saw white tigers, one-horned rhinos, black bears, chimpanzees, and so much more. The staff at the zoo did a great job showing us around and letting us visit all the animals. I am not sure who had more fun – the children or the volunteers – but we all had a fantastic time. Tell me, what is your favorite animal to see?