The City of Austin, Texas, became the latest city to sign a friendship agreement with Pune. An agreement to this effect was signed by Pune Mayor Mukta Tilak and Alison Alter, Council Member, district 10, Austin, on September 26 in Pune.“This tie up will help us to look beyond technology and focus on universities, student exchange as well as stronger cultural exchange. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is also looking at infrastructure development exchange with Austin,” Tilak said. “This initiative will foster exchanges in the areas of sustainability, health, smart city, business, culture, and education,” said Alter, said. “Our focal point is looking at providing opportunities for business, organisations and individuals to share and grow and to promote international understanding. We look for cities that we can learn from and have business opportunities for growth especially with life sciences, technology and creative sector,” he added. A 10 member delegation led by Alter included Council Member Elect, David Colligan, Interim Assistant Director of Economic Development, Casey Smith, International Programme Manager (Economic Development), Marina Bhargava, CEO and President chamber of commerce, Carolyn Landel, Managing Director, The Charles A. Dana Center and Aashi Morales Committee Member Austin Pune sister city initiative (APSCI).Other members included Shubhada Saxena, President and Founder of APSCI, Saurabh Majumdar, Tellofy, Inc. Speaking on behalf of Aundh Vikas Mandal (AVM) who initiated the dialogue between the cities, Vaishali Patkar who is also the co-ordinator for the sister city initiatives said, “We began dialogue with city of Austin in July 2017 when we were introduced by one of our member Sharayu Sanghavi. We liked the fact that they were looking for a city which also had a strong cultural background and and also was young and open to innovative ideas, hence we began talking to the mayor and now we are finally reaching the goal of signing the friendship city agreement.” The delegates spent time at Natural Fabrics of India, Banjaras, an initiative by Neeta Deshpande to understand the cultural heritage of 15 states and 20 regions of India all under one roof. They also liked the concept of reaching out to the underprivileged girls and helping them train in soft skills and in fashion designing. “The idea is to respect the source (weavers, block print makers,etc) and also develop designs to cater to the needs of the urban market,” said Neeta Deshpande. Sister City Initiatives Pune already has sister city agreements with San Jose, Bremen, Okayama and Mauritius. Citizen-activists from Pune and Austin began exchanging mails and the idea flowered in 2017. An MOU was signed with Aundh Vikas Mandal in December 2017 to create a sister city initiative. The ‘sister cities’ initiative began shortly after World War II when affiliations between the United States and other countries began and became popularly known as Sister Cities.