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The UNC Modern Indian Studies Initiative hosted its inaugural conference, “Driving Innovation: Technology and India’s Rise as a Global Power,” on October 10-11, 2019. His Excellency Harsh Vardhan Shringla, ambassador of India to the United States, gave the opening lecture to commence the conference at the FedEx Global Education Center, as part of the Krasno Distinguished Lecture Series.

“Driving Innovation” explored India’s increased role in global affairs and addressed how technology is addressing India’s development challenges while also promoting business innovation and entrepreneurship, U.S.-India trade, and the global economy.

Throughout the conference, experts from industry, government, and academia highlighted the forces behind India’s economic innovation and the dynamic relationship between India and the United States. The second day of the conference was held at the Carolina Inn and included panel discussions on the impact of technology on financial inclusion and business growth, innovations in affordable healthcare and U.S.-India technological trade flows.

Vivek Wadhwa, technological entrepreneur and distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley, provided the keynote address, “Solving the Grand Challenges of Humanity Through Technology and How India Will Lead the Way,” on Oct. 11.

“We were thrilled to have such a distinguished group of speakers from business, government, and academia at our inaugural conference. As the title ‘Driving Innovation: Technology and India’s Rise as a Global Power’ suggests, the panel discussions used technology as a lens to focus on solutions for the development challenges that India faces and how technology has served as a cornerstone of the relationship between India and the United States and India and North Carolina in particular,” said Anusha Chari, professor of economics and finance, with joint appointments in UNC College of Arts and Sciences and the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Chari is also faculty chair of the Modern Indian Studies initiative and an organizer of the conference.

Ambassador Shringla on US-India Relations

Ambassador Shringla delivered remarks before joining Klaus Larres, Richard M. Krasno Distinguished Professor of History and International Affairs, for an armchair discussion on the strategic partnership between India and the United States.

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall provided remarks and introduced Ambassador Shringla. “Our economic partnership with India has been gaining steam with tremendous impact,” stated Secretary Marshall, emphasizing the timeliness of his visit.

Following Secretary Marshall’s introduction, Ambassador Shringla discussed the rapid development of the India-U.S. relationship, mentioning the turning point in 2008 under the Bush Administration as a contributing factor to this change. Ambassador Shringla touched on important facets of the partnership, including defense and security, trade and investment exchanges and the increasing collaboration between these two countries.

Ambassador Shringla highlighted that another main channel of the connection between the countries lies within the people. With an Indian American population of over 4 million and 200,000 Indian students studying in the United States, Ambassador Shringla cited this migration as the living linkage between the United States and India.

In reference to the future of the relationship, Ambassador Shringla stated, “We would like to see this relationship 50 years down the line. To help shape our priorities, we hope to look beyond our respective democratic agendas to find a level of stability and prospective planning and to look toward evolving the relationship.”

Ambassador Shringla is a career diplomat and has been a member of the Indian Foreign Service since 1984. He previously held a variety of positions in New Delhi and abroad, serving as high commissioner of India to Bangladesh and ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand. Ambassador Shringla graduated from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. He has published papers on conflict prevention, economic diplomacy, the Indian diaspora and India-Bangladesh relations.

The conference was organized by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Modern Indian Studies Initiative, a program of the Carolina Asia Center in the College of Arts & Sciences, and UNC Global, with support from the Indian American Community of the Triangle. Additional support was provided by RTI International.

About the Modern Indian Studies Initiative

The UNC Modern Indian Studies initiative has developed through a partnership with leaders from the North Carolina Indian American community. The initiative aspires to develop a range of programming on issues related to modern India and its rapid rise on the global stage. Swadesh Chatterjee serves as chair of the steering committee and has had a fundamental role in the initiative’s conception, design, and implementation.

By Mia Hodge ’21

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