About 100 University students, faculty and invited guests gathered in the Dana Building on Wednesday evening to hear from Arun K. Singh, India’s ambassador to the United States.
Organized by the Center for South Asian Studies, Singh’s address focused on the growth of Indian and United States relations and his thoughts on the two countries’ future.
With 36 years of foreign service experience under his belt, Singh has served in consulates worldwide. Before his current assignment, he held postings in Israel, Addis Ababa, Tokyo and Moscow, and was also involved in policy work with the United Nations.
During his speech, Singh referred to a statement made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which hailed the U.S.-India relationship as a natural alliance. President Barack Obama has also affirmed the strategic importance and mutually beneficial nature of the dynamic.
Singh was similarly emphatic about the partnership, citing shared institutions, aspirations and values.
“Together, we have characterized the motive of our partnership as, I quote, ‘Shared effort, progress for all,’ ” he said. “What does that mean? It implies that as the world’s largest and oldest democracies, and as pluralist and multiculturalist societies, India and the U.S. possess a natural synergy between our governments.”
Since India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, the country has slowly developed, grappling with the large size, diversity and complexity of the Indian nation. Singh said only a quarter of the Indian population can be classified as middle-income, while about 200 million people live in poverty and 400 million lack access to commercial sources of energy.
Moving forward, Singh said it is critical that India embraces globalization and partners with the United States, one of the world’s largest economies. He also said the rest of the world must acknowledge India’s complexity to effectively engage with the country.
Singh was quick to stress that the relationship has not been only beneficial to India. He said the United States has also benefited from Indian friendship by taking advantage of the country’s advancements in the science and technology fields.
“The high-level attention that the two governments are now giving each other is not one-sided,” he said.
He also spoke of how an Indian space vehicle reached Mars just a week after the U.S. vehicle landed there, adding that the cost of India’s vehicle stood relatively low at about $74 million U.S. dollars. He jokingly said this was less than the budget needed to produce a Hollywood movie about space.
The ambassador also championed the achievements of the United States’ Indian-origin community and its contributions to the country. He said 15 percent of all startups in Silicon Valley are owned by Indians and that one out of seven patients receive treatment by an Indian doctor.
In regards to international relations, Singh emphasized that India’s proximity to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East renders it a key strategic player in combating terrorism.
He also discussed his nation’s efforts to combat the global problem of climate change. He said the Indian government hopes to employ more renewable energy in the country’s future development.
“We should not just see what India and the U.S. can do for each other,” he said. “But what we can do for the world.”
LSA sophomore Hannah Lynn said she appreciated the contextual knowledge that Singh provided into Indian society, especially given her Indian heritage.
“I came to hear more about the politics between India and the U.S., which he definitely covered, and just a little more insight on what his position is,” she said. “I definitely learned more about the Indian population.”