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B.K. Agnihotri, Advisor and Ambassador at large visits Boston

A report by Nirmala Garimella

Developing a scenario of ‘building bridges of communication’ B.K. Agnihotri, Advisor and Ambassador at large for NRI’s and PIO delivered a talk at a function organized by Sangam, FISI, IAGB and IMANE on 9th February at the MIT campus. Among those present at the meeting was the Mayor of Cambridge, Mr. Sullivan, Steel Magnate, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal, and members of various regional organizations in the New England Area.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Agnihotri stressed the need of developing a powerful voice to educate and influence public opinion in the US on the various issues facing India today , be it a political issue like the Kashmir turmoil or a natural calamity like the Gujarat Earthquake. In this effort he called on all local organizations to pool in their time, money and energy to rally for common issues such as these, while maintaining their regional identity for other interests. He also urged Indian parents living here to open the lines of communication with their children and involve them in such a manner that they are proud of their Indian heritage while respecting the opinions and the choices that they will make in their future.

Mr. Agnihotri also called upon all Indians to assimilate and enter into the mainstream of America, participate in the social and cultural process of this nation, volunteer in community programs, provide support, service and aid to the aged and the elderly. He also hoped that they could build an effective PR that would invite investment from companies abroad and help in boosting India’s economy. Lastly he hoped that in his role as Ambassador at large he will be able to build a Global Indian family of NRI’s all over the world and bring everybody together in a manner that it would be like an “India away from India”

During a question and answer session, Mr. Agnihotri spoke on the recommendations made by the Committee on Dual citizenship offered to some nations wherein you can have an Indian citizenship as well as the citizenship of the country you are residing in. He also elaborated on the creation of a single window method by the Indian Government by which the red tape and bureaucratic hurdles will be eased out for foreign investors. An MIT faculty member noted on the 8 weeks detention faced by a student studying at the campus as a result of the inquiries made by law enforcement after the Sept 11 incident and the treatment meted out to him as a cause for concern. Another participant requested for an exchange program for Indian students here to be able to travel to India for studies. Mr. Agnihotri invited the people to send in their ideas and email him at ambaagnihotri@aol.com.

Ambassador and his wife visit Shishu Bharati in Burlington and speak exclusively to Lokvani

On a bright Sunday morning, eager kids and their parents assembled at the Burlington middle school for their regular Indian school schedule. On this day, however the atmosphere was different as they were anticipating to meet a prominent Indian couple who had lived in this country and believed as they did in the importance of teaching values and traditions of the Indian way of life. This couple were no other than Mr. B.K. Agnihotri and his wife Krishna who had come to share their experiences with the children., The children listened attentively as the Ambassador at large spoke simply about who he was and why he was here and appreciated the work done by Shishu Bharati. Many children were curious to know the meaning of what the definition of an ambassador was and Mr. Agnihotri patiently answered all their questions.

Excerpts of his interview with the Lokvani team

You talked a lot of having a common voice to influence the US policymakers. Could you tell us how we can improve that communication ?

There are so many regional organizations in all the states that sometime the major issues concerning everybody are not properly attended to. Since we are so fragmented. We should have a common council of 5 or 6 people approved by all these organizations that will take up these common interest so that when they do come up, everybody will pool their resources. One powerful voice will have a major impact with the people whom you are interacting with. As an example, tons of money was collected for the WTC victims but no one knows how much the Indians have contributed. So no impact. Soon after the Dec 13th incident, I asked the Tri state area Indians to speak out in one voice and they did.Once that process begins,division will not occur and there will be more unity.

Would you tell us about the strides you have achieved personally in your role as an ambassador at large?

I have been an ambassador for a little more than 4 months now. After the Sept 11 incident and the attack on the Indian parliament I have not been able to travel all that much. Many Indian political leaders have visited the US since then and I needed to be here. This is the first time this post has been created. I represent all countries that have a diplomatic relationship with India. Recently I traveled to Guyana and met the leaders of that nation. My interests are talking to PIO’s and how can we help them. Lot of Indian kids growing up abroad have never been to India. I hope that they will someday take the chance and visit it.

Did you have a chance to meet Islamic leaders?

I have met leaders of all faiths. We invited many of them in Guyana. Here soon after the WTC incident I went and met the Sikh and Christian family in the US. During the backlash we made a list of 640 incidents of bias against non Europeans including Indians. These include not only racial bias but other forms like dress code etc. Al these have been well documented by a study done by us.

As neighbors, don’t you think that Pakistan and India must open a dialogue of communication ? What have been your efforts in this area?

That is not my job, but of course the Prime Minister of India went to Lahore by bus. That was a big step and shows his desire to have friendship. I am from Punjab. It is so close to Pakistan . They are of the same stock, we share similar things culture, music. etc. Take the poison out of the people’ mind and they will be cleansed. Same thing happened in the Punjab issue, it is not the people who are bad , but it is the terrorists.

How different is the Dual citizenship from the PIO.

Well, PIO is offered to NRI's in places that have no facility for Dual citizenship. For example in the US, PIO will be totally useless once Dual citizenship is offered. This will give a chance to Indians here to participate in the electoral process of this country as they reside here, but can enjoy other benefits of the country of their birth.

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