Modi in US: PM, First Lady interact with young minds
Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his Washington DC visit with an unusual event, in an unusual location, with unusual guests.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his Washington DC visit with an unusual event, in an unusual location, with unusual guests. But it was that difference which, in some ways, captured both the old strengths of the bilateral relationship and new domains of what India and America are seeking to do together.
Soon after landing at the Andrews Air Force Base and checking into Willard hotel in DC on Wednesday, Modi headed to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the premier public scientific research body in the United States (US), in Virginia’s Alexandria where First Lady Jill Biden was waiting to host him.
On the dais with the leaders were two students: Anchal Sharma of Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi who is on a Fulbright fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is working on a project to a create a model for language of graphical communication to aid learning for the visually challenged, and Williams Ochoa, a first generation student at Montgomery College in biotechnology, from a family that had immigrated from El Salvador. And joining them were Sanjay Mehrotra, chief executive officer of Micron, the semiconductor major, and Montgomery College’s president Jermaine Williams.
The unique group had come together to highlight shared priorities around education, workforce training and skilling. The First Lady is a passionate educator and champion of community colleges; she is also the first one holding her office and continuing her professional role as a college teacher. The PM has made cementing the knowledge partnership between the two countries a top priority.
And it was an event that brought every key element of the past, present and future of India-US ties together. It was the coming together of government, industry and academia. It reflects the strong connection in the sphere of education with 200,000 Indian students pursuing their education in the US. It amplified the focus on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) disciplines. It saw a semiconductor company speak about the linkages between the two countries and the role of corporates in both ensuring reliable manufacturing supply chains and training workforce, from medium and high school itself. And it was marked by the highest level of political support, indicating that this constructive agenda is what was driving the relationship.
Modi said he was very happy that as soon as he had come to DC, he got to connect with young and creative minds. He spoke about the New Education Policy’s efforts to integrate education and skilling, and said India’s aim was to make this a tech decade — “a techade”. He also laid out an agenda for collaboration that included Hackathons, mutual recognition of each other’s vocational skill qualification, and invited American academics. Modi said he dreamt of a day when a young person belonging to the Navajo nation went to Nagaland and they developed an idea and a project together.
Welcoming Modi, Biden spoke about the coming together of both democracies, families and friends, and the expansive friendship as both tackled global challenges. She praised Modi’s efforts in education, particularly women’s education. “Education is the cornerstone of the bond between India and the US, which we hope to keep strengthening with this visit.”