It’s Time to Set an Indian American Agenda

It’s Time to Set an Indian American Agenda

January 15, 2013

Ever wish your opinion could have a greater impact? Now is your chance.


Last month, I urged Indian Americans to take our place on the national stage as the country inaugurates President Obama to his second term as President. The response? Overwhelming! More than 1,000 people will attend the first-ever Indiaspora Inaugural Ball on January 19 to celebrate the combined strength and synergy of our two nations. (While general tickets are sold out, a few VIP tickets remain for those still wishing to attend)


But the Ball will be more than a fantastic party. Many of Indiaspora’s leaders have called for us to raise our voices together with the aim of setting an Indian American agenda. With hundreds of influential community members in the same ballroom as local, state and national political officials, there will be no better time to start a national  conversation – and your input is greatly needed.


At the Indiaspora Forum, we identified five areas of potential action. In the following section, I’m expanding a bit on each point in hopes of gaining candid feedback and new ideas from our members in the “Reply” area below this post:


1) Expand Political Representation

Indian Americans now occupy offices at all levels of government. How can our representation be increased? We can start by looking at the ways that other ethnic communities have improved their political standing. Should a new nonprofit be established, a think tank approached or an institutional path be taken?  Or is there a new model? How can we inspire members of our community to be motivated to run for office?  What role should Indiaspora play in this effort: education, nurturing, funding?


Critics say some Indian Americans abandon the concerns of our community once they are elected to public office.  Is there a “Code of Conduct” we should create which lays out a set of values and issues of key importance to Indian Americans? Could an Indiaspora committee work to craft such a code?


2) Increase Protection of the Invisibles

The Indian American community is no different from others in terms of its wide disparity of social and economic privilege. While we are fortunate to count many national leaders in our ranks, we are challenged by domestic violence, drug abuse, divorce, poverty and crime. How can we do a better job taking care of our own? Should an umbrella organization be established as a conduit or connector for money, food, counseling, healthcare and other resources? Or would it be more effective to work with specific organizations – new or existing – to delve deep into one area of need? Can Indiaspora provide the necessary intelligence or networking to bring such aid to life?


3) Shape U.S.-India Policy Discussions

In 2010, the Indian American community praised President Obama when he called for India to receive a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Since then, however, India has received very little space on his international agenda. What are the India-U.S. policy issues that President Obama should focus on during his second term? How will Chinese foreign policy impact that of India? What will happen when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan? Should there be a defense cooperation agreement between our countries? Will the discussion of a free trade agreement with India resurface?


Domestically, the legal immigration process remains a disaster. Should Indians wait for comprehensive immigration reform or pursue India-specific modifications to the H-1B and green card processes? Should Indiaspora create its own immigration agenda and be an advocate during the policy-establishment process?


4) Push for the “Opening” of India

India has long been criticized for its closure to outside influences. Current domestic policy prevents international universities from setting up campuses in the world’s second largest educational market. Nor are foreign entities allowed to directly invest in many protected industries in India. Recent reform enables multi-brand retailers to open shop but changes have been slow and spotty, overall. Corruption and scandal also serves to scare off many potential investors. What should the Indian government do to open the country to global possibilities?  What is Indiaspora’s role in these reforms?


5) Redefine the U.S.-India Philanthropy Model

The massive flow of money and services to our home country is well intentioned but is it well spent? Experts in both nations agree there is room for improvement on traditional philanthropic models. Can Indiaspora establish a committee of thought leaders and practitioners from both nations to develop new ideas and models that would better channel money, services and time? Is there a way to audit and guarantee donations so as to reassure both donors and those in need?


This is not just about giving back money. We should look at opportunities for the 750 million Indians coming into the workforce over the next few decades. How can we provide education, basic healthcare and a sustainable livelihood?


Clearly, we have a lot to talk about! Let’s get the conversation going this week so that when we meet in DC on Saturday, we will have a good pulse on what our community is thinking.

Make your opinion known! Please post your comments in the form below. And let me know if there are other issues you feel we need to make a part of Indiaspora’s agenda for 2013.


Hope to see you at the ball!