Indo-American Friendship Association, New Delhi was formally launched at Kamal Mahal ITC Maurya on March 15th.Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs was the Chief Guest.
In his introductory remarks, Amb. Surendra Kumar, Founding President of the Assn, formerly Secretary MEA & Dean, Foreign Service Institute clarified that IAFA was not formed at the behest of the MEA nor was it funded by the Govt of India. It was his personal initiative supported by likeminded individuals who felt strongly that India and the US, the largest and the oldest democracies should have much warmer and far closer relations than they have enjoyed so far. He also dispelled emphatically any suggestion that the Assn might be looking for handouts from the American Embassy; it wasn’t. Turning to the DCM of the American Embassy, Steven white, seated on the dais Amb Kumar stressed that he could vouch for this. Kumar however added that in its endeavours, the Friendship Assn will work constructively and productively with the Govt of India and the American Embassy in Delhi.
Amb. Kumar underlined that IAFA would aspire to be a catalyst for warmer and closer relations between the peoples of India and the US and thus promote, expand, deepen and strengthen friendship between the oldest democracy and the largest democracy. To pursue this simple and laudable objective, it will harness, channelize and make use of huge reservoir of soft power resources available in the two countries. He stressed that IAFA would not duplicate what is already being done by the organisations like FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM & India-US Business Council or Govt. Depts/Agencies in the two countries.
It will provide a platform for academics, scholars, writers, poets thinkers, musicians, dancers, painters, film directors and actors, photographers, theatre and sports personalities, media reps, leading public figures and other opinion makers in the two countries to connect, interact, network, exchange views, co-operate, collaborate with each other to create greater understanding and appreciation of each other’s point of view thus generating goodwill and friendship.
Its endeavours will include organising talks, discussions, brainstorming sessions, seminars, symposiums, art exhibitions, performances by acclaimed artists from different spheres, film screening, book reading, fashion shows, sports meets lectures and conclaves and much more..........
It is a non profit, non-political, non-religious, non-sectarian and non-commercial organisation whose sole objectives is to stress on points of convergence and commonality, points which bind and connect rather than those which divide and antagonise and help enlarge horizon of friendship and understanding between India and the US.
Speaking on the same occasion, Steven J.White, DCM at the American Embassy referred to the unprecedented interaction which, at present, takes place between India and the US at official and non-official levels, especially among academics, scholars, students, scientists and businessmen. While welcoming this initiative Steven white revealed that Amb. Surendra Kumar who had founded a similar Friendship Association in Chicago while serving as India’s Consul General in 2002 has been toying with the idea for more than a year and assured all possible co-operation from his Embassy in Assn’s endeavours.
Delivering his keynote remarks MOS(EA) Dr Tharoor emphasised how multi-dimensional, multi-layered relations between India and the US have been transformed in the last one decade culminating in the signing of the Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement. He also referred to ongoing co-operation in the field of Defence and superior technologies including Space Research. He acknowledged the significance of people to contacts which such Friendship Assns can promote. These expanded contacts can be leveraged and synergised for deepening understanding and appreciation of India-American relations in the globalised world of today, he felt. He also mentioned the significant role played by the Indian Americans many of whom hold key posts in the US Govt, many MNCs and even in NASA and Indian American Community Associations like AAPI. He complimented Surendra Kumar for his initiative and expressed hope that IAFA will succeed in creating a distinct niche for itself by its activities and will have a positive impact on India-US Relations.
The event was also attended among others by Bharatnatyam and Odissi dance Exponent Dr Sonal Mansingh, Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi Dr Ashok Vajpeyi, Director of Gallery of Modern Arts Prof Rajeev Lochan, renowned English poet Keki Daruwalla, former Home Secretary K.Padmanabhaiah, Chairman of INTACH Sk Misra, popular Kathak Dancer Shovana Narayan, Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dancer Sharon Lowen, Sunit Tandon Director Indian Institute of Mass communication,sirajudin Qureshi Chairman of India Islamic culture Centre. Former UN Force Commander in Eritrea & former Dir Gen of Infantry General Rajender Singh, Poonam Muttreja Country Dir of MacArthur Foundation, and Deepak Maheshwari of Microsoft, T Basu of Ernest & Young, Col N.Kumar Chairman Winter Game’s commission & BS Suri of Sports Authority of India were also present.
Christine Matovich Singh, hailing from the family of Dilip Singh Sond of California, the only person of Indian origin to be a Congressman in the US, a well-known American Opera singer who has performed in Slumdog Millionaire enthralled the guests with her full throttled rendition of songs including one sung by Judy Garland in 1930s.Ustad Murad Ali played Sarangi. The launch was co-hosted by ITC Maurya.