Throughout the course of the last 16 years, I have forged an unlikely and accidental relationship with India. And over the course of these many years, both world events and life experience have helped to shed light on the importance of India’s relationship, not just with the United States, but with all nations.
Today, as the map of the world is being redrawn in terms of the importance of nations, the growth of nations, and the shifting influence of nations in the new globalized world, there is a lot of talk with regard to both India & China. While I have briefly visited China and would like to spend more time there in the future, the road I’ve traveled has wound through the villages and urban centers of India.
When I first visited India in 1992, it was a very different country. It was still diverse and a pure saturation of all the five senses. As a 16 year old, visiting for only a couple of weeks, I was unable to make any grand assessments; however, the visuals are what stand out in my mind. I remember a sea of white automobiles, with two major brands, the Ambassador and the Fiat. There were no major advertising or media billboards strewn all over the city and rural areas. Train travel was the major choice for long destination travel.
Modern 21st Century India is very much one of shopping malls, multiplexes, Blackberries, hi speed internet, an enormous variety of automobiles, much easier access to affordable domestic airfares, a boom in international schools, a growth in trade and exports, and ‘Bollywood’ branding. And of course no globalized culture would be complete without the American icons of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Pepsi, among others. There is even a mass infrastructure development with super highways being constructed, though good road travel in India is still many years away!
India is a rapidly changing nation and a growing world power, yet much of the world, especially the United States, has limited experience with India, its culture and its people. India has 1/6th of the world’s population and is a home to all religious faiths. It is a stable democratic nation which has always defended itself, yet never been the aggressor. India has very much been a victim of terrorism over the years, acts of terrorism which have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives.
Taj Global Understanding’s India office is located in Ahmedabad, a city of 5 million in the western state of Gujarat. Gujarat was the home to Mahatma Gandhi, an individual who led India to Independence from England through his weapons of non-violence. One of the fundamental reasons behind the development of exchange programs is to serve as a catalyst for world peace and understanding. The more we have people from different backgrounds from across the globe interact and build relationships, and then they ultimately influence mindsets and foreign policy. Exchange Programs are in essence a tool for peace and a tool for non-violence. Through Taj Global Understanding’s partnerships with government and other non profit organizations, it is my hope that we can contribute to foster a growth and understanding between India and the United States.