by Manu Shah
HOUSTON – “Diplomacy, it is said, has no eternal friends, only eternal issues. That may be the case for other countries but in my 20 years of experience, the US and India share common interests and a genuine friendship,” said US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster.
Ambassador Juster was the Keynote Speaker at the IACCGH 20th anniversary gala held at the Hilton Americas on June 15th. In a brilliant address to about 850 attendees, he put a lens on the existing strong US-India ties as well as candidly acknowledged the “challenges and issues to confront” between the two nations.
Ambassador Juster pointed out four future challenges India will have to face: managing the rise of China, countering terrorism, promoting economic growth and modernizing its military. He spoke of protecting a free and open Indo Pacific and “limiting the scourge of terrorism.” The US, he stated, wants to be a major partner in India’s economic growth and has given India STA 1 status– a license given “only to our closest allies” for the sale of high technology products.
India, he noted, is projected to spend $150 billion on military modernization in the next decade. The US is keen to assist India’s efforts in building up its indigenous defense base and capabilities and major U.S. defense companies are in India producing components for complex defense systems.
Describing the relationship as one of “natural allies, he remarked that the two countries will face any challenges with the strong people-to-people relations shared between the two nations.
LyondellBasell CEO Bob Patel, who did the honors of introducing the Ambassador, described him as “eminently qualified and the right man at the right time.” He pointed out that Ambassador Juster’s appointment was unanimously confirmed in two months which is “lighting speed in Washington DC.” Prior to the introduction, Bob Patel emphasized LyondellBasell’s commitment to protecting the environment.
Master of ceremonies and Chamber Past President Sanjay Ramabhadran welcomed the gathering which included several elected officials from the Federal, State and Local level. He drew attention to the “visionary leadership of the Chamber founders” and offered interesting figures about US-India trade ties. In 1999, when the Chamber was founded, trade between the US and India was pegged at 12 and a half billion dollars and unflatteringly described as “flat as a chappati.” Today, it’s a whopping 140 billion and growing exponentially. Texas accounts for about 15% of the trade while the Houston-India trade stands at $6.6 billion.
An Executive Director who “lives and breathes” the Chamber” Jagdip Ahluwalia spoke of the Chamber’s efforts in helping Houston and India discover business opportunities but added that the Chamber is also about local job creation, investment in the local economy, connecting small & medium enterprises; professionals, and businesses to global corporations.
As a member of the trade delegation led by Mayor Turner to India in 2018, Chamber President Swapan Dhairyawan highlighted the considerable bilateral trade contacts derived from this visit and the “durable friendships and strong economic impact” the mission would have in the Mayor’s Office, Greater Houston Partnership, Houston First, NASA, Houston Airport System and Station Houston.
Brief remarks were made by David MinceBerg, Director, Houston First and Ambassador Juan Sosa, Dean of the Consular Corps. Guest of Honor Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledged the work done by the Chamber for the “vibrancy and vitality of this city,” and noted that progress can happen only “when everyone gets a seat at the table.”
Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, whose “accessibility has endeared him to the community,” appreciated the friendship between India and the US and said it was not “a transactional one but one based on trust.” Twenty years from now, India, he remarked, will be known as “a rich and powerful country, but should also be known as a kind, gentle and tolerant nation.”
Spotlighting the outstanding contributions of community members, the Chamber presented Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Dr. Durga Agrawal with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Council member Himesh Gandhi was honored with the Rising Star Award while the Business of the Year Award went to Hilton Americas, Houston. In a tribute to nurses, who form an integral part of the healthcare system, the Chamber presented the Trailblazers Award for Women in Nursing to Moani Thomas, a nurse who arrived on American shores 50 years ago and paved the way for many others and the twenty five year old Indo-American Nurses Association of Greater Houston whose President Accamma Kellel accepted on behalf of IANAGH.
President Elect Tarush Anand, who described himself as a “second generation member,” – his father and uncle are longtime Chamber members, stated that his efforts as President would be directed at bringing in the next generation in meaningful ways to ensure the continuity of the Chamber’s relevance.
The National Anthems were rendered by Serene Kaggal and Eesha Dhairyawan.
An energetic dance by Infused Performing Arts and a Mashup sung effortlessly by Ishya Kachru formed the entertainment segment.
For more information about the Chamber and its initiatives, visit www.iaccgh.com