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Atlanta to select an Indian sister city

Indian cities will be nominated for the final selection at a public hearing facilitated by the Honorary Consul for India

india Updated: May 30, 2007 17:04 IST

Home to approximately 50,000 people of Indian origin, Atlanta, Georgia will begin the process of choosing an Indian sister city on Wednesday.

The sister city program was launched in 1956, when a citizen diplomacy initiative was proposed by the then president Dwight Eisenhower as part of the League of Nations.

Sister Cities International became a separate non-profit organisation in 1967. Atlanta has been a member since 1974 and now has 18 sister cities around the world.

Indian cities will be nominated for the final selection at a public hearing facilitated by the Honorary Consul for India, Kenneth Cutshaw. So far, the front-runner appears to be Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat. Both Ahmedabad and Atlanta are similar in size, the online edition of Atlanta Journal reported. There is also strong support for cities like Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Due to a large presence of Indians with South Indian, Gujarati and Pujabi roots, selecting a consensus city has become a difficult job.

"You cannot blame citizens of southern India vying for a city in the south as opposed to Punjabis wanting it in the north," said Viren Mayani, an Indian community activist.

Gouranga Banik, president of the India American Cultural Association, said about 40 per cent of the local Indian community claims Gujarati roots.

"I have never seen so much enthusiasm about generating business relationships between the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta and India," Cutshaw said.

"That confluence of opportunities and emotions and pure excitement about the relationship brings us to a consensus that this is good time to move forward," he added.

Indian-owned technology and manufacturing firms have been thriving in Georgia. The city's big companies see a huge investment opportunity in India, home to more than a billion people who make for one of the biggest consumer markets in the world.