Economic Growth and Immigrant Influence Continue to Improve U.S.-India Relations

When India declared its independence from Great Britain in 1947, U.S. President Harry Truman dismissed the newly sovereign nation as “pretty jammed with poor people and cows wandering around streets, witch doctors, and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges.” Truman’s perception of India was, at the time, all too common. A 1958 survey of influential Americans revealed that most of them held extremely negative views of India, regarding the subcontinent as filthy, poverty-stricken, and to be pitied. This attitude prevailed for the next thirty years, as polls throughout the 1980s consistently ranked India last among countries of perceived importance to U.S. vital interests. But a lot has changed in the last few decades.

A Gallup survey conducted last year revealed that over 70 percent of the U.S. public has a positive impression of India, which has replaced Japan as Asia’s second largest economy in terms of purchasing power. Several preeminent economic experts also have touted India’s role in the new global economy. It is undeniable that India has completely reinvented her relationship with the United States in a relatively short amount of time. But how? One major factor was the launching of economic reforms in India in 1991 that opened her economy to the foreign marketplace and allowed a larger role for the private business sector. The result was breathtakingly accelerated economic growth that continues to this day. [See The Desi Factor in U.S.-India Relations, by David Karl, The Foreign Policy Group, 21.Oct.2015.]

But economic advancement is not the only asset India brings to her relationship with the U.S. Her people are arguably her greatest resource. Immigrants from India are now the third largest immigrant group in the United States and they are comprised of one one of the most well educated and highly paid demographics in the country. 77 percent of Indian immigrants to the U.S. have college degrees, often in STEM based fields, and they have transformed the U.S. tech industry into an international juggernaut. As covered in the MurthyBlog entry, Promotion of Immigrants to Top Level Positions at Tech Companies is Long Overdue (25.Aug.2015), immigrants from India are a major influence in Silicon Valley, where they established one-third of the startups there between 2006 and 2012 – far more than any other immigrant group.

While he was serving as Delhi’s ambassador in Washington, Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar observed “the India-U.S. relationship has changed dramatically. … When one thinks about the transformation of our ties, it is natural to attribute it to some good diplomacy on both sides … but to me, the basis for transformation of this relationship is the IndianAmerican community.” The relationship between India and the United States should only grow stronger with future generations. These two powerhouses are stronger together than apart.


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