Thursday, June 09, 2016


Indian Prime Minister Modi has been in the U.S. this week.  He met with the President.  He addressed a joint session of Congress.  He has been prominent in the media.  He wants a stronger relationship with us.  He’s put India on the right side of the climate change conversation.  He has positioned himself and his country on the right side of the angels.

T’wasn’t ever thus.  As a Foreign Service Officer I went to India to live and work in 1962.  I was to be there for seven years.  Nehru was Prime Minister.  While titular head of what was called the non-aligned block, Nehru leaned in the direction of the Soviet Union.  In the U.N. his man Krishna Menon ranted against the U.S.  As the Vietnam War ramped up, more and more Indians saw us as the enemy.

But it wasn’t all negative.  The best Indian students dreamed of studying in the U.S.  During the famine in the mid-1960’s we provided millions of tons of food to people on the verge of starvation.  Indians loved John F. Kennedy and mourned his passing.  Economic and cultural ties to the west were strong.  As an American in India I was the beneficiary of warm and respectful relationships.

In the years since, we’ve had ups and downs between our two countries.  We’re clearly in an up cycle these days, and I’m glad to see it.  It is more than trite to acknowledge that India and the U.S. are the world’s two largest democracies.  I’m pleased to see that the children (and even grandchildren) of Indians who emigrated to the U.S. when I was living there are leaders in business, science, medicine, and more.  And it is satisfying that many have chosen to return to India to contribute to their home country’s success.

From the minute I arrived in New Delhi on a warm, humid August night in 1962, I felt at home in India.  That has never changed.  I’ve been fortunate to return many times over the years, and have plans to make another trip early next year.  In some ways I miss the India as it was way back then.  I arrived only 15 years after Independence was achieved.  It was an old society with a brash new outlook.  Now it is a country in the midst of maturing.  The problems are different.  In many ways the people are different.  But there is enough of what I loved still in place so that I still feel at home.

Jai Hind!


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