Indian-Americans can contribute much to United-States -India relations in several fields, and the Government of India has made a concerted effort to bring them closer to their homeland, Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, 46, who took over one of India’s most important diplomatic posts in New York City said in an exclusive interview with Desi Talk.
Just a couple weeks into his arrival since July 19, 2020, Consul General Jaiswal has already spent his few days meeting members of the large Indian-American community, not just in the tri-state area, but digitally around the 10 states that the Indian Consulate in New York oversees.
He and his wife Abha and their two school-going daughters have overcome the jetlag, he says, but have to continue living in the new normal of COVID-19, in a city that is very different today from what it was before the pandemic hit.
Nevertheless, Consul General Jaiswal says it is “Fantastic”.
“New York is a global city. You have the best of the world represented here. Diversity in all its forms and its beauty – what else can you ask for. It is fantastic!” he told Desi Talk in an exclusive interview.
He is a man of many interests and talents. Jaiswal is passionate about sports, the environment, culture, monuments, old cities and cuisines. He waxed eloquent about the last when asked what his favorite food was. “I can tell you about Indian food, India’s diversity – every village, every state, every sub-region – from Kolhapuri to Kathiawari, people do not know the extent of the diversity of Indian food,” he said. “We would like to engage the stakeholders here and would like to promote this diversity.”
He is deeply interested in strategic, sustainable development and public policy issues, and will be highlighting India’s accomplishments in this field with the global solar initiative, as well as building stronger relations with the U.S. on this front as well. He has been part of India’s delegation at various Climate Change Conferences and was the lead negotiator for the G-77 countries at the RIO+20 Conference held in Brazil in 2012. While in New York, he said, “It will be our endeavor to showcase what India has done on climate change and how we can take the partnership with the U.S. further.”
A career diplomat who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1998, he has served in Portugal, Cuba, South Africa and at the Permanent Mission of India in New York.
In between his overseas assignments, he served in New Delhi at the Ministry of External Affairs, first as Deputy Secretary looking after India’s relations with the United States of America, and then as Joint Secretary managing India’s relations with West European countries. In the middle of 2017, he was deputed to serve the President of India as Joint Secretary managing his international relations portfolio.
That makes him supremely equipped to deal with U.S.-India relations even in his consular post. “The U.S.-India relationship is an expansive one – a world in itself with several layers in it,” he said. The economic aspect was the most important, including trade, investment, new technology, frontier technology, and on to space etc.
“Obviously, there will be issues,” he conceded when asked about contentious aspects like the pace of liberalization of India’s economy which American business and government consider slow, or on the other side, the visa and immigration issues troubling India. “But we are engaged and look forward to further strengthening relations and the partnership.
Especially during Covid times when both can help the world’s economic recovery,” he said, noting new steps New Delhi had taken on agriculture, finance, health, energy and innovation to name a few. “We are working out strategy on how to open up the economy further. Prime Minister Modi has said this is the best time to invest in India. We are very optimistic.”
Asked how he could help engage Indian-Americans who are keen to assist in strengthening bilateral relations between the world’s oldest and biggest democracy.
“We are very clear. It is our endeavor to bring communities abroad closer to India. Over the years we have reached out everywhere. In the process we have offered many opportunities to them. And they can look at opportunities in India, in education, social programs etc.,” he said. “And those are among the fields people like Dr. Sudhir Parikh could be there for.” He was referring to Padma Shri Dr. Parikh, publisher of Desi Talk, and founder of the think tank, Foundation for India’s Global Development.
“We are open to all suggestions,” Consul General Jaiswal said.
Especially in the health sector, he said, the Indian community is very strong in the U.S., and could be invested in the Indian health sector which is growing at a rate of 20 percent annually. “Medical technology, access to health, and various health services,” are areas also that the Indian-American community could be involved in, he said.
The pandemic offered even more opportunities to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship as the two countries are dealing and cooperating during the crisis.
On political and geostrategic issues like China, or Kashmir and Pakistan, Consul General Jaiswal spoke at length about India’s good governance and economic development measures in Kashmir over the last one year since abrogation of Article 370 revoking the state’s autonomy. On China, he said, “We have ongoing engagement and hopefully we can resolve several outstanding issues.”
Outreach To Community
Consul General Jaiswal speaks Hindi, English, Portuguese and Spanish and is conversant with several dialects of Bihar. In an interesting aside, he said he was born in the maternity center attached to the Vinoba Bhave ashram in Pusa Road, Samastipur district in Bihar. He is looking forward to meeting many community organizations, including the Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America, which he understands is very active here.
“We have a large diaspora here. India’s diversity permeates life and culture, a diversity handed over as a civilizational heritage. So that will be reflected in how our community organizes itself anywhere it goes,” he said. “They share with each other and engage with each other. Our diaspora has a beautiful story everywhere you go in the world, of how they’ve done well, contributed to their communities and preserved their culture.”
“We are in touch with all ten states,” over which the New York Consulate has jurisdiction – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, new Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. “And we are in touch with community leaders in all these states. Digital technology provides us with the opportunity to reach out to even rural areas,” the Consul General said.
Leaders in the Indian-American community have been meeting Consul General Jaiswal since he arrived.
“I want to welcome our new Consul General Jaiswal,” said Dr. Parikh who had an extensive meeting with him during which Dr. Parikh apprised him about his work with the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, among other things. The two exchanged many ideas on how the Consulate could guide the community to help India, especially in health care and in the U.S.-India relationship in general. “He is very friendly and accessible. I wish him good luck and he can always count on us for support and cooperation.” Dr. Parikh added.
Ankur Vaidya, chairman of the Federation of Indian Association -NYNJCT, said he looked forward to meetings with the Consul General in light of how closely his organization kept in touch with the Indian Consulate. He also broached the ideas expressed by the Consul General about wider outreach to the Indian-American community in all ten states. “We want to engage with him in a more expanded and deep way,” Vaidya said, so that more and more Indian-American youth can get interested in what the Consulate does for the community, and small and medium sized businesses of Indian origin could find more avenues for cooperation with businesses in India.