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Rahul Gandhi’s US visit planned as part of ‘new conversation’ on India’s future

Gandhi is scheduled to meet several experts, policy wonks and political leaders during his US trip.

world Updated: Sep 13, 2017 16:47 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi at Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley, California on Monday. (PTI)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s US tour, that started Monday with a speech at a California university ,had been months in the making, if not more, and was planned as part of a “new conversation” that the party wants to start about the future of India and its position in the world.

The Congress leader will be engaging innovators, thought leaders in varied fields, policy mavens and young minds as he traverses across the country, with two days in DC packed with back-to-back discussions at leading think-tanks, with experts on both the right and the left and political leaders.

“This is a part of the beginning of a new conversation that had been in the works for a long time — about the future of India, and the ideas that could drive it, said Sam Pitroda, who has planned Gandhi’s US tour and who had ushered a telecommunications revolution in India decades ago while working with Gandhi’s father, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Pitroda told Hindustan Times he will be working with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a Silicon Valley non-profit co-founded by one of the first Indian IT success stories — Kanwal Rekhi — to support start-ups, to develop “white papers on four or five” key areas to focus on, that could include energy, small and medium enterprises and healthcare.

The central pitch, according to Pitroda, is that the “existing world order”, which came up around the United States, is on its way out and India can take a lead in shaping the new order, which, for instance, is inclusive to begin with — “you cannot ignore 200 million Muslims (in India)”.

The Congress vice-president, who touched upon some these themes in his prepared remarks at University of California, Berkeley, on Monday and may explore them in his deep-dives with experts and policy wonks he is scheduled to meet in DC later this week, starting with think tank Centre for American Progress (CAP).

The liberal-leaning CAP was founded by John Podesta, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and is run by Indian American Neera Tanden, a veteran of many Democratic administrations, including President Barack Obama’s. Former editor Gautam Adhikari is one of its experts.

Gandhi then visits another DC think-tank, the Atlantic Council, which has a strong focus on South Asia, and then the US-India Business Council, an advocacy group that works on promoting business ties between the two countries and which is now emerging from a specially bruising split.

Gandhi has an evening interaction with experts at an interaction organised and hosted by conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation and Republican strategist Puneet Ahluwalia. Experts invited include Ashley Tellis of Carnegie and Anish Goel, a former Obama White House India hand. Some Republican senators are expected “swing by” subject to them being in town, according to a source.

There has been some speculation that Gandhi may have a meeting at the White House, but organisers have strenuously denied it, saying there are no plans. Not yet.

The Congress leader then goes to Princeton University in nearby New Jersey, a state that has the country’s third highest concentration of Indian-descent Americans, for an interaction similar to the one in Berkeley, and ends his US trip in New York, with an outreach to Indian Americans at a hotel in Times Square.

First Published: Sep 13, 2017 10:01 IST

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