Archive for July, 2015

Ambassador Rich Verma . . . Doing What He Does Best – Excelling

July 31st, 2015

Dear Friends:

Just six months ago, President Obama came to Delhi as the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, and 10 years ago this month, the United States and India launched our historic cooperation on civil nuclear technology.  Over this decade, our relationship with India has soared.  Our partnership is broader and deeper than it has ever been before.  We are working on over 80 initiatives coming out of the President’s visit, and we’ve launched or reinvigorated over 30 working groups since Prime Minister Modi visited Washington last September.

In light of this historic cooperation, I am providing you with further background on the growth of the relationship between our countries.  I recently co-wrote an op-ed with my friend, Arun Singh, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, explaining how India and the United States, working together, will be a powerful force for peace and prosperity in the 21st Century, available here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arun-k-singh-/india-and-the-us-partnering_b_7814248.html

Our Embassy team also prepared a short video blog documenting our last six months of progress and activities here in India.  It’s been a busy time, as you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1ziTGySLsc

If you want to know our stance on a wide range of issues, from climate change to defense cooperation to commercial matters, you can find a collection of speeches and remarks on our Embassy website: http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/speeches_and_remarks.html

Finally, my Embassy team and I have reflected on this decade of growth since we launched our negotiations for the landmark U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, and we collected some facts and figures that might help put in perspective how far the United States and India have come.  I would like to share a few of these highlights and illustrative facts and figures:  

Business:

  • S. investments in India have grown significantly – from a total of $7.7 billion in 2004 to $28 billion today.  Over the past few years, India has become the fourth fastest growing source of foreign direct investment into the United States.
  • Two-way trade has nearly tripled from $36 billion in 2005 to $104 billion in 2014, as we work towards $500 billion in trade.
  • Today, there are over 500 U.S. companies active in India, while the number of Indian companies operating in the United States has increased from roughly 85 companies in 2005 to over 200 companies today.
  • Travel for tourism, business, and education has skyrocketed:  We have seen a 152% increase in overall visa applications for Indians wishing to travel to the U.S. from 398,931 in fiscal year 2005 to 1,007,811 since this fiscal year started in October 2014.  Visa applications for Indian students have seen the strongest increase, of 202% (30,513 in FY 2005 to 92,156 in FY 2015).  U.S. visitors to India have nearly doubled from 611,165 visitors in 2005 to 1,123,444 in 2015.

Defense Cooperation:

  • Ten years ago, the United States and India barely conducted any defense trade.  Over the last few years, the United States has signed approximately $10 billion in defense sales to India. Our defense cooperation has helped promote India’s role as a security provider in the Indian Ocean region with direct benefit to third countries. For example, the Indian Air Force used C-130s and C-17 aircraft to evacuate Indian and third country nationals from Yemen and speed relief supplies to Nepal after a devastating earthquake.
  • S. and Indian businesses have partnered on the co-development of defense equipment, establishing a base from which to launch new Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) co-development and co-production efforts in the future and expand the Indian defense industrial base.
  • The complexity of military exercises has increased in the last 10 years.  The annual bilateral training exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ has grown from a squad and platoon-level exercise to a company/battalion-level maneuver exercise, including a brigade-level computer simulation exercise where the U.S. and Indian Armies operate together.  This year, the U.S.-India naval exercise ‘Malabar’ will welcome the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force for the second consecutive year, along with other countries.

Agriculture: 

  • In 2015, India-U.S. bilateral agricultural and food trade is on track to quintuple in value compared to 2005, exceeding $6 billion.  Due in part to sustained USDA Cooperator marketing activities and USDA programs, U.S. agricultural exports to India are poised to achieve a new record high in 2015.
  • Since 2005 USDA has sponsored 112 Indian agricultural researchers under the Borlaug Fellowship Program, and 79 fellows under the Cochran Fellowship Program.  These figures include 21 participants in the two programs for 2015.

Education: 

  • Indian students account for the second-largest group of foreign students in the United States, with approximately 102,673 students studying in the United States in 2013-14. At the same time, a growing number of Americans are choosing to study abroad in India, with over 4,000 students in India during academic year 2012-13. These students advance innovation and research in our universities and in their communities when they return home.

Fulbright Exchanges:

  • The Fulbright-Nehru program has nearly tripled in size since 2009, when the program became truly binational with joint funding for exchanges, with approximately 300 Indian and U.S. students and scholars now participating annually.  Since 1950, the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) has awarded approximately 9,962 Fulbright grants in a full range of academic disciplines.  USIEF has also administered 8,634 other awards, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays and the East-West Center grants, for a total of over 18,500 awards in the last 65 years.

Health:

  • Since 1993, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has assigned experts to World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional and country offices in India to support surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases.  Through this active collaboration, in 2014, India was certified as polio-free and the CDC continues to work with Indian researchers to strengthen the national immunization program and accelerate control of measles and rubella.
  • In 2012, the CDC, through their Global Disease Detection India Center, located at India’s National Centre for Disease Control, helped establish the India Epidemic Intelligence Service program (EIS) – a post graduate field training program modeled after the US EIS – which will help promote public health and support the necessary health workforce to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.
  • India is the second largest exporter of pharmaceuticals to the United States.  In FY 2014, India held a 13% share of the total 64,170 imported lines of pharmaceuticals.

Space:

  • Cooperation on space science has soared to new levels – from collaboration on projects that measure aspects of Earth’s oceans and global precipitation, to recent success on a mission to Mars, to working jointly on a satellite project that will help scientists understand climate change and natural disasters.  Our scientists and space organizations continue to look for new areas on which to collaborate.

You can follow us online through these sites:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/India.usembassy

Embassy and Ambassador Twitter handles:  @USAndIndia and @USAmbIndia

YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/USEmbassyNewDelhi

Instagram:  https://instagram.com/usembassynewdelhi/

Website:  https://www.embassy-worldwide.com/embassy/embassy-of-united-states-in-new-delhi-india/.                                                                                                                                                                       Thank you and best wishes

 

Rich

 

Richard R. Verma

US Ambassador

India

 

 

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The Furry Convention 2015

July 11th, 2015

The Anthropomorphic Convention is this weekend in Pittsburgh. Athrocon began in 1997 and is now the largest Furry Convention in the world. Over 5500 Furrys will attend the 2015 Conference at the Pittsburgh Convention. The Anthropomorphic organization is a not for profit corporation dedicated to holding this fun conference each year.  In the nonprofit spirit, Athrocon has raised more than $200,000 for charities since 1997. 

Included in the ranks of participants are professional sports mascots, animators, cartoonist, puppeteers, artists, illustrators, and writers as well as those who simply think that it would be great if animals could walk or talk like we do.  I wanted to know more about the people behind the masks.  My first interview was with John Cole, a.k.a., KP, a famous character and conference organizer. 

John, originally from Texas, is now living in Orlando, Florida where he says that he, “Works to live, and does not live to work.”  KP is a peasant guy with a very welcoming personality.  His real job is in the insurance industry, but his passion is as a puppeteer who performs as a sheep dog.  He volunteers his time with an organization that works with the Make a Wish Foundation in the Orlando area.  It’s an amusement park and nonprofit organization called Give Kids the World which operates in Kissimmee near the other parks.  It operates on 74 acres where children with life threatening illnesses are treated to a free weeklong vacation. KP described it as a place where children can live out their fantasy story. 

He proceeded to tell me all about Jeremiah, a little boy who kept running up to the stage to try to touch KP’s costume.  Finally, when it was his turn, KP asked the little boy why he was grabbing at him.  As it turned out, Jeremiah was blind and wanted to know what the performing animals were.  KP explained he was a large sheepdog with glasses on, and Jeremiah was confused. Why would a dog wear glasses? KP went on to explain that he was Elton John Dog and he was wearing glasses to be cool.  He also explained that there was a ferret and a fox on the stage with him. 

At the end of their skit, KP felt really bad because Jeremiah had come to the show and not known what animals were performing.  So, they decided to make a music video for him. They sent the video to his home, and in the video they said, “Now Jeremiah go to the box that came with the video and take out the glasses because these are the very same glasses that the sheepdog was wearing, and they are cool. Then KP said, “Have your mom go to the box and take out the fur.  It’s the very same fur that you were feeling behind my ear.”  “Finally,” he said, “Get the little stone from the box.” This stone is a Magic Wishing Stone. It can make our dreams come true.” “Oh, and Jeremiah, we want you to make our dreams come true, too. We want you to get better.”

He teared up a little as he told me this last part.  A year later, Jeremiah came back to the park, ran up to the stage and said, “I’ve got something to tell you. I’m cancer free.”  That’s what makes KP tick. 

In his spare time, KP also works with children with Progeria disease, the aging disease in kids.

Then I met Ned, the amazing musician, a graduate of Berkeley College of Music.  Ned, a costumed bear named Rhubarb, and a master of his trade. I could go on and on, but . . . the convention is open to the public and because it is a Cartoon animal convention, it’s fun for the kids.  There’s even a Furry Jazz Concert on Saturday. Mark it in your calendar for next year! 

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July 3rd

July 6th, 2015

It was July 3rd, an almost National Holiday, and my job that afternoon was to watch, hang out, and play with the six, seven, and eight year old girls before taking them on a boat ride that evening.   They arrived at my building at precisely 1PM, and the entertainment began.  After greeting Ron, the doorman, the two youngest cousins had a passionate discussion over who would get to push which buttons on the elevator to get to my condo.

Once the button pushing pecking order had been established, the chaos began in earnest. There was, of course, the struggle over who would insert the door key, then over who would get to ring the doorbell at least six times, and finally, who would turn and twist that key and turn the doorknob.

Once inside the condo, there was additional chaos as they discussed (for three seconds) who would get to explore the powder room and the bathroom first. They did their thing, grabbed a handful of dark chocolate, Hershey Kisses from my candy jar, and we returned to the elevator for our journey to lunch.

As we walked up the street, I thought it might be fun for them to visit the University bookstore which was only a block away.   Unfortunately, I think they were a few years too early to completely appreciate this grown-up experience. The seven -year-old ran immediately to a clothing rack, and she picked out a cute, pink T-shirt with the school logo on it.  Then she asked me how to pronounce what it said.  When I told her that it said Duquesne.  In a very loud and bellicose voice she declared, “I don’t want to wear anything with that word on cause I don’t know what it means!”

After looking at every single kid book in the store and examining every $44 Vera Bradley IPhone case, we decided that their purchase would be journals. Each girl would get a fancy notebook.  We went to the fancy notebook section of the store where the two oldest cousins selected exactly the same book. That particular selection was made because these books had secret compartments in the back. The youngest one selected hers because she liked the colors on the cover.

We then decided they should go downstairs to the office supply section and each get a pen.  This time all selections were made based on color, after which we proceeded to checkout.  As we left the bookstore, they ran to a table outside, opened their journals and begin writing.  That’s when the youngest one realized that she had purchased, not a journal, but a calendar.  She sure as heck didn’t want a calendar. So we went inside and exchanged it for a notebook.  Then she noticed that she had purchased a highlighter, but since she doesn’t write very much, it really didn’t seem to matter.

We walked another block down the street to a TGI Friday’s.   The youngest girl made a bathroom stop, then another bathroom stop, and after that, another one.  This time, though, she lingered for a long time, and we all began to worry a little, but neither of the other two girls were interested in checking on her because she had previously announced what her bathroom intentions were. This caused her cousin and sister to be fearful that they would be exposed to a potentially hazardous assault on their olfactory senses.

It was at that point that I went to the ladies room door and yelled for her to come out. She exited with a big smile on her face.  I asked her two questions, “Did you do what you said? And did you wash your hands?” She laughed and replied, “Yes, Poppa, yes, I did both, but do you know why I was in there for so long?

I was in there because I was dancin!”

Ah, the simple pleasures of youth.

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