American Friendship Association, New Delhi was formally launched
at Kamal Mahal, ITC Maurya , New Delhi on March 15th with the then
MOS(EA) Dr Shashi Tharoor as the Chief Guest. He delivered a comprehensive
speech on India-US relations; it can be read on our website under
Press Release section. Besides his speech, the highlight of the
event was the rendition of songs by Christine Matovich Singh, a
professional Opera singer from California with roots both in the
US and India through matrimonial links who was featured in the Oscar
winning Film Slum dog Millionaire .She was superb and enthralled
guests especially with her rendition of Judy Garland's
songs of 1930s.
With an aim to have a professional analysis and projection
of relations between India and the US in the next ten years, IAFA
organised a brainstorming session at Tagore Hall, Scope
Convention Centre, Lodhi Rod on Friday April 30.The topic : Driving
Engines of India-US relations in the Decade Ahead was not only relevant
but also timely. The powerful Panel comprised of two Former foreign
Secretaries namely Amb Lalit Mansingh & Amb Kanwal Sibal, renowned author
Gurcharan Das, firebrand Journalist Seema Mustafa & Senior Minister
Counsellor of Political Affairs at the American Embassy in New Delhi,
brainstorming session was a success; Tagore hall was full and
Q&A session witnessed some candid and blunt questions which
were answered with professional dexterity by the Panellists. A
summary of deliberations is available in the Press Release Sec
and some photos in the Photo Gallery.
New Delhi organised a special event: Ravi Shankar 90 not Out!
at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road New Delhi on Friday
July 2nd 2010 to celebrate the 90th birthday of the legendary
Sitar Maestro .Dr Karan Singh, President ICCR & MP was the
Chief Guest while Dr Abid Hussain Former Ambassador to USA chaired
the programme . Pt Birju Maharaj, renowned Kathak Maestro, Dr
Sonal Mansingh an exponent of Bharatanatyam & Odissi dance,
Amb.Lalit Mansingh, Amb to USA, HE Jerome Bonnafont Amb.of France,
HE Thomas Matussek, Amb of Germany, Gurcharan Das ,bestselling
author, Ruth Gee Dir of the British Council for India & Sri
Lanka, Suresh Goel Dir Gen ICCR, Michael Pelletier Minister for
Public Affairs at the US, Saswati Sen ,popular Kathak dancer &
Amb.Surendra Kumar, founding President of IAFA were other members
of the distinguished Panel who paid glowing tributes to
the Sitar Maestro and commented on his achievements,
contribution, and legacy for the Next
Gen. Saswati Sen , a senior disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj was the
MC. The event attracted guests from different walks of Delhi's
social life and included foreign Ambassadors, serving and retired
civil servants/diplomats, scholars and academics, members of the
IAFA and lovers and connoisseurs of Indian classical music.
programe ended with a sitar recital by Shubhendrarao , Ravi Ji's
talented disciple and a Bharatanatyam dance recital by Nehha Bhatnagar,
a promising disciple of Dr Saroja Vaidynathan. Pt Ravi Shankar
compensated for his absence by sending a special message on this
occasion. It can be read in the Press Release Sec.
IAFA organised its second brainstorming session on a provocative
and thought provoking topic: Is the US India Strategic Partnership
a Mere Pipe Dream? in the conference Hall at the India International
Centre on Aug 24th 2010. In his introductory remarks, Amb. Surendra
Kumar underlined that IAFA was striving to encourage DIALOGUE,
DEBATE AND DISCOURSE between the opinion makers from different
walks of life in India and the US to facilitate greater understanding
and appreciation of each other's point of view.
The idea was not to find fault or indulge in a blame game but
to have an honest, objective and dispassionate debate on issues
of interest to India and the US to generate greater understanding
and appreciation of overriding reasons and compulsions behind
major decisions which impinge on bilateral relations. IAFA firmly
believes that understanding and appreciation of each other's
views and sensitivity to each other's legitimate
concerns is a prerequisite for building bridges of friendship
Amb.Maharajakrishna Rasgotra, formerly Foreign Secretary
& High Commisioner to UK chaired the animated discussion,
Amb.Brajesh Mishra, formerly Principal Secretary to PM & National
Security Advisor ,Amb.Lalit Mansingh formerly Foreign Secretary
& Ambassador to USA, Amb. Kanwal Sibal formerly Foreign Secretary
& Ambassador to Russia, Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of
International Relations at the JNU & Mr Donal Lu Deputy Chief
at the US Embassy in New Delhi were the distinguished Panellists.
spite of the down pour and the fact that the discussion fell on
the day of significant Hindu festival, Rakshabandhan, many serving
and retired Ambassadors, scholars , academics and members of the
Media made it to the event.
the eve of President Obama's visit, IAFA organised
a panel discussion on: Indian Constitution and the US Bill of
Rights on Oct 27th in Speaker Hall at the .The Law & Justice
Minister Shri Veerappa Moily was the Chief Guest while former
Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee chaired the proceedings.
The Panel included renowned Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap,
former Ambassador of India to USA Dr Abid Hussain & the Deputy
Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, Donald Lu. The Stimulating
discussion and the animated Q&A session which followed enlightened
the audiences about the similarities and differences between the
US Bill of Rights and the Indian Constitution.
than 10 days after the departure of the US President Barack Obama,
IAFA organised an objective and dispassionate assessment of the
outcome of the historic visit at a panel discussion at Conf hall
2 at the IIC on Nov 17th.Eight distinguished personalities which
included the former Minister of Panchayati Raj Shri Mani Shanakr
Aiyar, Shri HK Dua an MP who was Information Advisor to Atal Bihari
Vajpayee,Shri KS Bajpai formerly Amb of India to China,Pakistaan
& USA,Shri Salman Haidar Formerly Foreign Secretary &
Amb to China & High Commissioner to UK,Shri Lalit Mansingh,Formerly
Foreign secretary and High Commissioner to UK & Ambassador
to USA, Shri Kiran Karnik formerly President of NASSCOM, Prof
Radha Kumar Trustee/Dir Peace & Conflict Programme of Delhi
Policy Group & Mr Michael P Macy of the US Embassy debated
the topic: Obama Visit: a Leap Forward in India and US Relations?
for two hours. Amb.Bajpai chaired the discussion.
support for India's aspirations to be on the
UNSC as a permanent Member, lifting restrictions on the Indian
PSUs such as ISRO,DRDO & BDL ,access to high technology, assurances
to facilitate India's entry in to exclusive
Club of Nuclear Suppliers' Group and unambiguous
appeal to Pakistan to dismantle terrorist havens from its soil
and bring the perpetrator s 26/11 carnage in Mumbai to book were
considered gains from the Indian point of view, lucrative business
deals valued at around US $ 18 bn creating over 60000 jobs were
viewed as tangible results for the US. Some Panellists cautioned
against taking Obama's flattering compliments
too literally and felt that true strategic partnership between
India and the US will warrant much more sensitiveness to each
other's concerns and harmonising differences
on a number of key issues.
analysed, dissected and dispassionately considered all aspects
of Indo-US Relations at three Panel Discussions in Six months
with the participation of more than a dozen and half eminent academic,
scholars, diplomats, analysts & columnists ,IAFA broadened
its discourse as per it's stated objectives
and organised an event : Connecting Cultures Through Lens &
Words at IIC Annexe on Jan11th 2011. It had two parts; first a
power point presentation by Michele Wambaugh, a well-known photographer
from Houston, USA followed by Ek Chhoti Si Kavi Goshthi, a brief
poetry session Chaired by Dr Ashok k Vajpeyi, Chairman, Lalit
Kala Akademi, Academy of Fine Arts. While Michele underlined
connecting thread and similarities in various cultures through
her photographs taken in different countries, the poets let their
words convey what they see & feel in the world around us and
beyond and within; their emotions, feelings, reactions, thoughts,
ideas and critique. Prof Rukmini Bhaya Nair,Vivek Narayanan, Michael
Creighton & John Ferr read their poems in English while Dr
Ashok Vajpeyi, Chairman of the evening, read his poems in Hindi.
Amb.Surendra Kumar, in his introductory remarks, emphasised how
the imagination of poets can reach even the places where sun rays
can't and how the poetry ,as the significant
part of literature, holds a mirror to the society we live in.
has been a buzz word for a decade now. But India has been practicing
globalisation of ideas for ages. Six hundred years before the
birth of Jesus Christ and over 2500 years before the birth of
the UN, Lord Buddha gave the clarion call of Non Violence is the
best policy .Footprints of Buddhism can be traced in China, Japan,
Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and central Asia. Influence of Indian
culture, philosophy & traditions is visible in South East
Asian countries, especially in the temples of Borobudur in Indonesia
& Angkor wat in Cambodia. Nalanda University (5th-6th Century)
in Bihar used to attract students and scholars from China, Greece
& Persia several centuries before the foundation of Oxford,
Cambridge, and Harvard & MIT! But it was the globalisation
of learning and knowledge not a crusade for any religion or political
Nothing exemplifies is better than the Indian concepts of Vasudhaiva
Kutumbkam, whole world is a family (El mundo es una gran familia)
and Sarva Dharma Sambhavana(all religions can coexist).In today's
highly interconnected and interdependent but strife ridden globalised
word, there is need to reiterate these concepts. And there can't
be a better way to do so than through music and dance, the oldest
and most universal language of communication of human beings through
ages. Music and dance know no national or geographical boundaries
or religious differences or political ideologies. They appeal
to heart and spread the message of International understanding,
peace and harmony.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, IAFA organised a special concert
of music and dance dedicated to the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam
on Feb 11th at Instituto Cervantes with the co-operation of it's
Director Dr Oscar Pujol & support from the Min of Culture
& the ICCR. While Christine Matovich Singh, Opera singer from
South California enthralled the jam packed auditorium with full
throttled rendition of songs in English & Spanish, 8 beautiful
Katahk dancers accompanied by 4 musicians, choreographed and directed
by the renowned Kathak dancer, Saswati sen took them on a fascinating
and memorable journey of evolution of Kathak. Pt. Birju Maharaj,
pioneering exponent of Katahk dance presided over; Dr Sonal Mansingh
Bharatanatyam & Odissi exponent was the Guest of Honour.
fragrance of Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia has spread far &
wide .But its impact in various countries of the Middle East is
not the same though they are all ruled by the despotic totalitarian
Regimes of different hues. It took a little over two weeks in
Tunisia and three weeks in Egypt to bring the curtain down on
20 years of Ben Ali in Tunisia & 30 years of Hosni Mubarak
in Egypt.But the maverick and mercurial Col Qaddafi of Libya is
still holding on, inspite of UN Sanctions, No Flying Zone and
bombibg by American & NATO forces. Yemen, Bahrain, Syria are
on the boil. Morocco, Jordan Saudi Arabia are shaken and promising
some degree of People's participation but it might be too little
These developments don't affect only the people of the region;
their reverberations are being felt in many countries outside
the region including in India ,USA & China .To comprehend
this significant phenomenon which none could predict three months
back, IAFA organised a panel discussion on : India, the US, China
& the Jasmine Revolution at IIC, Conf hall II on March 29th.Besides,Amb.CR
Gharekhan, Formerly PM's Spl Envoy on Middle East & West Asia
, who chaired the discussion, Prof Brahma Chellaney well-known
Strategic Analyst ,Commentator & Columnist ,Gurcharandas,
renowned Author & Business Guru & Michael Pelletier ,Minister
(Public affairs) at the US Embassy in Delhi were the other Panellists
.They were asked to address the following questions:
kind of Govts will emerge if the current ones collapse in various
countries in the region?
2-Will it be the dawn of Democracy or consolidation of the Extremism?
3-How should the International community react; just be passive
spectator and watch the brutal slaughter of civilians or be proactive
and take drastic action on the lines taken against Libya against
the rulers who might be trying to muzzle democratic aspirations
of their people?
4-France has recognized the Rebels in Libya, should the rest of
Europe/world follow suit?
5-How do these developments affect India, USA & China and
how should they address them?
6-Will the world be a safer place in the aftermath of recent developments
in the Middle-East?
of the Panelists felt that the much suppressed people getting
a voice , at last, in despotic Regimes was a positive sign and
might lead to some kind of democratic participation of the people
.But long term picture wasn't clear as the democratic credentials
of those who might assume the reins of power were unproven, if
not outrighly suspect. Similarly, the US & NATO countries
seem to have gone beyond the letter and the spirit of the UNSC
Resolution on Libya and are openly demanding Regime change. While
they have been bombing Libya their stand on developments in Yemen
and Bahrain has been a total contrast. Most of the Panelists felt
that the Indian Govt's calibrated approach was in India's national
interests and Iran was the unlikely beneficiary on account of
the expansion of it's influence in the region. Prof Brahma Chellaney
was critical of the double standards of the US and NATO on the
developments in the Middle-East and felt that China was facing
hundreds of mini protests all over the country which are not reported
openly. Michael Pelletier defended the American & NATO action
which was mandated by the UNSC n requested by the Arab League
.It was an expression of solidarity with the people of the countries
facing turmoil, he argued. It was a full house in Conf Hall II
at the IIC.
In spite of the national frenzy and hysteria for the World Cup
Cricket match between India & Pakistan in Mohali on March
30th,after tense & anxious moments and some hiccups, we managed
a reasonably decent attendance at Dr Sam Pitroda's lecture on
: Unleashing India's Innovation Potential at Nehru Memorial Musum
& Libray. Obviously, it was the appeal of Dr Pitroda's oratorial
skill & inspirational views and the current relevance of the
theme which drew the audience notwithstanding other strong distractions
on that day. And Dr Pitroda didn't disappoint them; he was inspirational,
persuasive, convincing and logical. He underlined how all aspects
of life and all spheres of activities are going to be transformed
thanks to new innovations hitherto unthinkable .And India possessed
a huge potential in the field of Innovations which ,if harnessed,
will transform her in a big way. The website: www.iii.gov.in contains
salient points of his views on this subject.
China is today is for everyone to see. The economic progress witnessed
by her in the last 30 years is not only unprecedented but awe-inspiring.
No other country has undergone such sweeping economic transformation
in such a short time. At every major international forum, at every
talk/discussion/seminar/symposium China's shadow
looms large irrespective of the subject of the discussion, bet
it climate change, global warming, energy security, international
monetary and financial infrastructure, UN reforms, global trade,
recession & currency crises, free sea trade lanes, developments
in different parts of the world. The fact that China holds billions
of dollar worth of US Treasury Bonds and more than a trillion
dollars in reserves and huge trade surplus with US gives credence
to the predictions that in the next 25 years or so China's
economy might overtake the American economy and become the largest
economy in the world.
phenomenal Economic metamorphosis generates two apparently contradictory
reactions. On the one hand, many countries feel greatly inspired
by China's success story and wish to emulate
her example. On the other hand, this very success creates a sense
of nervousness, concern and anxiety in various quarters, especially
among her neighbours.
facilitate comprehension of this phenomenon of great significance
to the world at large, IAFA organised a panel discussion on: China's
Rise as a Super Power and its impact on India, the US & the
world at Large on May 18th at the IIC. While the former Ambassador
of India to China, Pakistan & the US Amb. KS Bajpai chaired
the proceedings; the Panel included former Foreign Secretary &
PM's Spl Envoy Amb. Shyam Saran, Blair Hall
Min( Eco, Environmental, S & T Affairs) US Embassy, TK Arun
Delhi Editor ,Economic Times, Prof Srikanth Kondalpalli, Dept
of Chinese Studies ,JNU & Ashok Malik, Columnist & Strategic
Analyst. The distinguished Panel addressed the following questions:
China's rise as a Super Power a cause to celebrate or a cause
to be concerned about?
does it impact on the economies of the US, India and the world
China's increasing military muscle and assertiveness dismay its
influence/changes it might lead to in the functioning of
Financial Institutions such as the World Bank,
IMF, Asian Development Bank etc ?
Will China facilitate greater role for BRICS & G-20 and help
ensure a more balanced, peaceful & harmonious world order?
What role China will play in addressing major challenges such
as global warming & Climate change, poverty, hunger,
international terrorism, HIV /AIDS etc?
can dispute the growing shift of the balance of economic power
to Asia, if not yet the military power. Similarly, China's
Rise as a major global power is unmistaken; her voice is increasingly
heard even if it isn't heeded at times.
emerged as the largest exporter of manufactured goods in the world
overtaking Germany and become the second largest economy overtaking
Japan ,her continuing economic progress is not only good for the
Chinese people but also in the interest of the US ,India and the
world at large. The US seems interested in continuing it's
policy of constructive engagement with China: pursue and expand
economic relations which are mutually beneficial, raise issues
of human rights, keep a close watch on China's
Defence & Military advances and ensure free access to trade
routes through South China sea.
was a general feeling that, notwithstanding her increasing assertiveness in
dealing with neighbours such as Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and
others Chinese Leadership which supposedly considers internal
& external peace as indispensable for it's
continuing progress won't like to rock the boat
by precipitating a crises with her neighbour/s.
was also felt that greater involvement of China in Global/International/Regional
organisations such the UN, IMF, World Bank etc was the biggest
guarantee against her ie she would play by the rules. Discussions
on Climate Change, Energy Security, Nuclear Disarmament, International
Terrorism etc would warrant more active engagement with China
if these were to be meaningful and productive.
all, conscious of being tipped to take over the mantle of the
next Super Power, China would want to project the image of a mature
and responsible power .This would discourage her from taking actions
which might tarnish her meticulously cultivated positive image.
has already begun taking her role in BRICS seriously. The same
is true about G 20 to a lesser degree. But everything is not hunky-
dory ; while China & India might be on the same page on the
question of NATO action against Libya and discussion on Climate
Change ,it's a different story about the expansion
of UNSC and a permanent seat for India. Many countries might see
China as a rival and a competitor in some areas and an ally and
a partner in other; this is especially true about the current
relationship of the US & India with China.
Q&A session it was suggested that to counter China's
approach on the issues of stapled visa for Indian nationals from
J&K and objection to participation of representatives from
Arunachal Pradesh, India could consider a review of her policy
on Tibet &Taiwan. In response to another question, it was
pointed out that China's budget for Internal
Defence in 2010 was higher than her budget for external Defence.
got the feeling that China's eventual Rise as
a Super Power will be hugely affected by her ability to address
the rising aspirations including freedom for expression &
political activity, of her masses, particularly the impatient
youth, in today's highly internet/social network
connected globalised world.
commemorate 150th birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore Indo-American
Friendship Association, New Delhi organized a special event: Remembering
Gurudev Tagore on Tuesday, July 12th at Nehru Memorial Museum
& Library with a multi-national Panel of eminent personalities
from India and abroad. In their own ways, they addressed the questions:
how does one pay a fitting tribute to a man larger than life itself
; a man Mahatma Gandhi had found a worthy opponent in to exchange
intelligent arguments with; an adventurist man who travelled to
32 countries, mostly by steamboat to spread his love and wisdom.
How does one capture the personality that was Tagore? What impact
Tagore's poetry and persona had on the people
of the countries he visited?
Dr Karan Singh, MP & President of the ICCR was the Chief guest,
renowned Katahk Exponent Pt Birju Maharaj was the Chairman for
the event.A dozen guest speakers which included Dr Nitish Sengupta,former
MP & Chairman for the Board for the Reconstruction of PSEs,
Jawahar Sircar, Secretary Culture, HE Ernesto Carlos Alavrez Ambassador
of Argentina, HE Marco Brandao Ambassador of Brazil, HE Akitaka
Saiki, Ambassador of Japan, HE Donald Lu,Cd'Affairs
US Embassy,Ugo Astute,DCM ,Italian Embassy,Dr Ashok Vajpeyi,Keki
Daruwalla,Saeed Naqvi, Dr Oscar Pujol Director Instituto Cervantes
de Nueva Delhi.They paid their personal tributes to Tagore in
their own ways; all the foreign participants read out Tgore poem/s
in their native languages.
second half of the programme witnessed an enchanting rendition
of Tagore songs in Bengali by well-known Bengali singer Mrs Jayati
Ghosh. Pt Birju Maharj too paid his tribute to Gurudev by singing
two of his songs in Bengali. In the end, Saswati Sen the senior
most disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj did Abhinaya on
some Tagore couplets and joined Ms Mamata Bannerjee in
presenting the inspiring Tagore song Ekla Chalo, Ekla Chalo Re
the US a Super Power in Decline?
has been buzzing for months with stories about decline in the
US economy with over 7 million unemployed at a time when not only
Greece but Spain, Portugal & Italy in Europe seem in dire
need of financial bailout. To have a serious, objective and dispassionate
analysis and assessment of decline in the US theIAFA organized
a panel discussion on: Is the US a Super Power in Decline? If
so, it's GlobalImpact? on Aug 30th at India International New
Delhi at 18.00 hrs. While the former MOS (EA) & MP DrShashiTharoor
presided, the Panel included Lord Meghnad Desai, Professor Emeritus
LSE,Shri HK Dua, MP; Amb.KanwalSibal former Foreign Secretary,Dr
Rajiv Kumar Secretary General FICCI;Prof Vijayalakshmi,Head American,Latin
& Canadian Studies, JNU &GautamRanaCounsellor (POL) at
the US Embassy in New Delhi.
his introductory remarks Amb.Surendra Kumar stressed that with
her infrastructure still intact, cutting edge technology, innovative
spirit, an environment which encouraged competition & excellence,
under inspiring leadership and with imaginative and realistic
policies, the US was likely to bounce back and remain the leading
Super Power of the world for years to come.
SG Rajiv Kumar felt that speaking of US's decline is premature;
even if it were trueit will be relative and there wasn't any clarity
on what will replace her; may be for a time, world might be under
the influence of the US & China and it would be more bound
bythe rules than dominated by a single Power.
to Professor Vijayalakshmi, the US has an amazing ability to adapt
to any situation which should not be underestimated. Referring
to Prof. Joseph Nye's idea of power diffusion and not only power
transmission, she thought world might be in for a period of power
Political Counsellor, USEmbassy in India presented the US perspective
and maintained that his country is still the superpower and quoted
the ranking of US Universities and record of innovations. Strongly
defendingthe policies of President Obama, Ranafelt that from the
political, military, economic and cultural perspective the US
was still leading the world.
Information Advisor to Prime Minister AtalBihariVajpayee, HKDua
was of the opinion that the confidence of an average American
has been shaken on account of economic down turn. He felt that
the US ought to re-invent her value system and get over an apparent
Meghnad Desai in his characteristic tongue in cheek manner said
that decline is enjoyable and advisedAmericans to learn from their
British friends who have not only coped with their country's decline
as a Super Power but have rather been enjoying the declined position!
"The Americans have been brought up to believe that they
are special so they should realize that with the affluence of
others, decline is still a relative term" he maintained.
According to him, Undersaving was the main problem in the Western
world compounded by their declining demographics. He agreed that
the center of economic power was shifting to the East.
Tharoor referredto FareedZakaria's Post-American World and felt
that it wasn't so much the fall of the West, as the rise of the
rest. He added that the US has a great capacity for renewal and
innovation; Steve Jobs and Bill Gates could only be American-
the DNA of the US system is such- the American dream, the Obama
story- it's all still alive.
maintained that the US can still feel its supreme self and remain
a serious contender for the title of a superpower, with the highest
spending on Defense in the world, and its soft power symbols being
global icons but in a much more multipolar world.