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India In The Spotlight At The WAC

Brian Santhumayor

India In The Spotlight At The World Affairs Council of America National Conference


I recently had the opportunity to participate in the World Affairs Council of America National Conference in January26th to 29th, 2005 at the Omni Shorham, Washington DC. The WAC is the largest International Affairs Non-Profit in the United States and has 484,000 participants and 28 affiliated organizations. It reaches over 20 million people each year through its 2,500 events, radio, TV, and school programs.

The theme of the conference was about tackling the world's toughest issues and what challenges the administration faces. As an Indo-American, my interest was kindled by the talk of an historic transformation-taking place in the world with the emergence of India and China as upcoming economic powers and, issues related to Immigration, AIDS, Outsourcing etc. Given the formidable challenges for U.S. foreign policy over the next four years, it was an eye opener to hear from an outstanding group of foreign policy leaders, practitioners and intellectuals. These included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rep. Lee Hamilton, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, EU Ambassador John Bruton, Pulitzer Prize Winner Laurie Garrett, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria, Senator Chuck Hagel and a number of Foreign and US Ambassadors.

The Conference kicked off with a speech by Senator Chuck Hagel that was telecasted live by C-SPAN. He presented a dozen of the most difficult issues that America will face in the coming decade. He said that America's relationship with Russia, India and China would shape international politics, commerce and security in the coming decades.


The global AIDS crisis staggers our imagination and this was evident as Pulitzer Prize Winner Laurie Garrett described the threat in terms of spontaneous natural dangers, in particular the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  In order to meet this threat head on, she argued the need for us to organize in new ways for transnational governance, which would require leadership and financial resources.  She cited a report by the National Intelligence Council to the CIA that the 2nd Wave of AIDS would hit countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, China, Russia and India. A chilling statistic is that prevalence rate of AIDS in India would increase from its 2002 level of 1.4% to 4% by 2010! Of the 14,000 persons infected each day, 85% live in the developing world.


At the luncheon with Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Jehangir Karmat, he affirmed that Pakistan and India's bilateral relations have attained new heights in the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11. He talked about commonality of perceptions and interests on a broad-range of issues. In addition to close cooperation in the global war on terror, he emphasized that bilateral relationship was growing in almost every field


The highlight of the event was the Distinguished International Journalist Award presented to leading political journalist Fareed Zakaria who hails from India. Fareed Zakaria was named by Esquire as one of the 21 most important people of the 21st Century. He pointed out that though the US envisioned globalization, the one that is emerging has not turned out to be quite what the US imagined. It is not being remade in our image but has retained its own image by adapting to the new realities of economic integration by restructuring and realigning itself. It is preserving traditional values of language and culture and creating hybrid models for governance.

As the conference drew to a close, I felt a major sense of pride to see India being portrayed in a very positive light and engage in a dialogue about India's status as a technology superpower and emergence as a future economic powerhouse. A testimony to this is the theme of the next year's conference "New Emerging Powers."


(Brian Santhumayor has a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and MBA in Marketing and works as an Account Manager for an Enterprise Software Company. He volunteers by fundraising for numerous non-profit associations including The Boston Junior Chamber of Commerce, American India Foundation, Burlington Public Library and many others. He can be reached at brian_mayor@yahoo.com).



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