Indian American Council, an organisation setup by the Confederation of Indian Industry presented a talk between Shashi Tharoor and Sam Pitroda (on the Phone from Chicago) at the India Community Center in Milpitas, California on Sunday, November 4.
In his usual loquacious and vivacious manner, Shashi Tharoor commenced the session with an engaging monologue about India's current political, social and economic clime.
After appreciating the new ICC facility, Shashi said, "India, especially urban Indian youth are palpably bubbling with excitement of progress. A sense of purpose and dynamism is very apparent in the nation."
In appreciation of the mood and personal stake of participants like Kamil and Talat Hasan in the audience, the bulk of Shashi's talk revolved around the Indo US nuclear deal. He applauded the negotiators in promoting India's unique stand in Washington as a responsible democracy, but expressed serious regret at the status of the deal due to the leftist coalition government.
He added, "Left front is a prisoner of history failing to recognize that US of today is not the US of 1971 under Nixon and similarly India today is not the India in the 70s under Indira Gandhi. Disappointingly, out of date paradigms still rule India's politics and political compulsions of coalition politics in India are out of date with the dreams and desires of the nation on the move." Later while answering a query, he said, "Delay on India's side could seriously harm the nuclear accord."
Speaking about his choice of title for his new book, The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone, Shashi said, "Cell phone is emblematic of transformation in India. The country suffered for 45 years due to economics of nationalism and is now showing signs of transformation. The presence of a cell phone as a fast and easy means of communication with members on the bottom of the economic and social pyramid, speaks volumes about its impact and reach."
On a realistic plane, Shashi lamented the state of infrastructure beginning with airports and roads in India and besides such and similar issues with hardware of development, he also pointed immediate and urgent need for action on widespread software or people issues like chronic hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy and ill health.
On the issue of Land reforms, he opined, "Land reforms in many parts of India are still a farce. Effective system of agriculture and non-agricultural forms of employment for rural youth is a huge need. We need to scale up our manufacturing and tourism industries."
In line with the Indian American Council's goal of connecting Indian Americans to opportunities in India and enhancing their engagement with India via a formal mechanism of avenue identification for participation in India's developmental process, Shahsi accentuated need for the contribution of non- resident Indians participation in India via ways including money, interest, time and experience sharing.
On the cultural side, ex UN official opined, "Indian experience is becoming a major asset in both corporate and non profit sectors. Bollywood, Indian cuisine and triumph of the IT sector have created an interest in the nation like never before and are equally significant contributors like nuclear, industrial and manufacturing might in promoting and perpetuating a nation's global image."
Sam Pitroda, who could not be present due to his wife's sudden surgery, spoke about the National Knowledge Commission over the phone from Chicago. He said that there is a provision for inception of 30 new national universities in the next plan.
A deluge of questions by the audience followed the 90- minute talk. Shashi mentioned Dr. Mammohan Singh's recognition of the vast contribution of the Indo American community in promotion of the nuclear accord and their feeling of having been "Let down." He said that the Indian Americans will continue to make a vital impact in the Indo US relations in the future too, but due to political compulsions in India, he sees the role of the Diaspora as more significant in US politics than in Indian politics.
On the industrial and cultural aspects, Dr Tharoor opined, "Lot of innovation is going on at the grassroots level in India. In answering a query about loss of cultural values in India, he said, "No culture in the world is static. All cultures evolve by sharing aspects and in a globalized world, sharing is faster and easier."